Tess was staring out of the window deep in thought one rainy day resisting the temptation to munch a rather fat meat fly.
Of course Tess was more likely to save the fly, re-home it, save all of its children from a dangling sticky thing then go on to reunite it with its estranged fly wife.
Tess was a shaggy mongrel in the habit of doing very extraordinary things.
Today she didn’t feel extraordinary at all. She hadn’t seen Owl and Fox recently her friends from the forest and was missing them both so much.
On top of that she hadn’t seen or even heard of her best friend and soul mate Jack the boat dog for so long! She just missed the feeling of closeness you only get from having real friends around you.
The truth was that Tess wasn’t enjoying home life at the moment as well. Billy was living away at university, predictably his relationship with Tess had changed. He still loved her Tess knew this, but his he was growing up, getting older becoming a Man.
Of course at the same time Tess had got older as well. She understood why the games she used to play with Billy had turned into walks and sitting outside cafes as Billy met his friends at the weekends. They were nice times and Tess had lots of fuss from all Billy's new friends. She was loyal and knew how to make Billy look good when he showed her off .
As Tess got older Billy’s Dad had taken an unusual interest in her. He would often take her for a walk usually early in the evening. The truth was the atmosphere in the only home Tess had ever known was far from happy, this was the theme for all of the early evening walks for Tess.
Tess sensed the emotional change of feeling Billy’s parents had for each long before they had. A lot longer before Billy had.
It was then the happiest time of Tess’s life officially ended.
Tess had became an escape tool for an unhappy recently qualified unsuccessful man.
Tess began to dread the evenings. She was put on a lead she’d never had to wear before. Billy’s Dad was often very physical with her, yanking the lead and shouting. Very often (always) the walk would just be a visit to the Red Lion, the local pub in the centre of the village.
Tess would have to sit below the stool Billy’s Dad chose to get drunk on. She was tied to the stool so sometimes when she really needed to wee she couldn’t because she was too proud.
The landlord of the pub's wife was the only friend Tess really had at this moment. Not just in the pub, but in her life!
She would always put put a bowl of water down for her, very much needed after tasting the huge handfuls of peanuts and crisps that were thrust her way. (this was why she had put weight on)
Cheryl the landlord’s wife wasn’t aware that the few minutes of sincere affection she gave was a lifeline for a dog with the intelligence and emotional depth that Tess had.
Tess had also lost a lot of her instincts. That instant contact with her emotions she felt when feelings took over, when she was fulfilling a purpose.
One evening when things appeared to follow the usual norm, a normal evening. That meant sadness for Tess, tugged and pulled towards and into the Red Lion for an evening tied to a stool below a drunken man.
Did Tess feel an instinct tonight as she lay on the dirty Lino floor? It was enough of a feeling to make her sit up. She even pulled at her lead and whined which was pointless.
Tess’s instincts were now on overload, then the smell, she always smelt things before they happened, then they happened.
The pub doors opened, Tess was soon faced with 2 ferocious Pit Bull Terriers before anyone could speak. She was a curled position, frightened, she thought she might die.
Men were shouting!
As both dogs closed in on Tess, she had time to look into the eyes of the dogs as the whole pub tried to restrain them. Tess had time to bear her teeth knowing it was a useless gesture.
The first dog was upon her and she waited for pain. The dog paused as it met her eye then was dragged away. The second dog was snarling, Tess waited for the death grip saw the teeth then saw the dog had looked her in the eye as it too had paused and was dragged away.
Billy’s Dad had picked her up by now and was making light of the whole episode. She was petted and praised, but she was thinking, she was thinking why had she not been savaged by these 2 dogs that had time enough to kill her. Why was she still alive?
Tess was alone in the garden the next morning still completely in shock from the night before. She considered herself an experienced dog, along in years able to handle most situations but she was in deep shock.
She walked through the life long familiar field at the back of the house and continued on into and through the dark wood.
She looked up and saw the face of the wisest creature she had ever known, looking older but in a way looking wiser.
Owl saw a Tess she hadn’t seen before, a Tess that had escaped death, a Tess that had literally looked death in the teeth.
Owl knew what had happened of course, we don’t know how but she knew what had happened alright.
She let Tess tell the tale because she knew it was good for her to tell the tale and talking helps.
Owl listened as Tess told her about the 2 dogs in the pub, she listened as Tess told her how she had looked death in the face.
Then Owl stopped her.
You have a job to do now, a job just as important as anything you’ve done before.
But this is for someone you’ve never met before. Tess Badger is in grave danger. He’s such a private being yet he’s known you since the day you wandered into the dark wood as a puppy. He knew you got your wag back he knows you saved fox. He always wanted to meet you and now he is in so much danger the only one in the world that can help him is you.
Owl went on to explain to Tess about the horrible sports.This time making Badger’s fight dogs. Making them fight each other! For money! For men to make money!
Tess wasn’t shocked, she’d heard of this madness before but had a moment of pure sadness as Owl explained that badger baiting was planned locally, and soon.
The well trodden path used by Tess on many an adventure felt very heavy as Tess started out for home. She promised to return the next day but even after talking to Owl one of her closest friends Tess felt as lonely as she’d ever felt before. She curled up in her basket and slept with only a feeling of dread separating her from the morning, and as we all know the morning arrives way too soon. This time for Tess though, not soon enough!
As Tess opened her eyes that morning she had to close them again in disbelief. A dream she thought surely, but in all of her life her nose was true and as she opened her sleepy eyes again she smelt the beautiful smell of her friend. It was like a dream but it had come true.
"Jack! What! How?"
Jack the boat dog had sat patiently by Tess's bed for more than over an hour.
"Oh Tess I told you one of these days I'd call round!"
They snuggled noses with incredible affection then walked through into the garden. Jack explained about the canal mooring and how ‘Owl’ who by the way,
"Seemed to know all about me?" Had told him where to find his lovely friend.
After a lot of catching up Jack sensing something was wrong insisted Tess tell him about the worry and as Tess got to the edge of the garden she stopped and cried. As Jack snuggled up to her she told him about all that had happened. The killer dogs, the badgers. Jack didn't talk he just listened letting his lovely friend talk, and talk.
"I still can’t believe you’re here Jack." Said Tess as they walked through the wood and onward to meet Owl."
It was then something happened to stop Jack dead in his tracks. "What said Tess?"
"Something's wrong Tess." said Jack and something was wrong.
From the wood at the side of the path appeared the snarling faces of the fiercest dogs you’ve ever imagined. The two pit bulls Tess had faced in the pub were loose in the woods.
Jack stood by Tess's side, they’d stood side by side together before and faced danger. But this looked grave.
"Missed you Jack.” Jack licked Tess's ear as the two snarling pit bulls closed in.
"You'll have to kill me before you harm Tess!" Jack snarled out ready to fight for his friends life!
The two ferrocious dogs inched forward and as they did the snarling stopped.
"No!" Said the first snarling dog, "You"ll have to kill us first before anyone hurts Tess!"
Tess and Jack were taken aback as the two fierce fighting pit bulls inched towards Tess and when their bowed heads were close enough licked her face as if she’d known them all her life.
Of course she had!
Tess had moved forward, "Wait Tess!” Said Jack.
But now Tess knew. As she moved towards the Two Dogs she nuzzled them in a way that only she could know. The way she’d nuzzled 2 frightened lonely puppies all those years ago.
The outpouring of emotion between Tess and the Two Spikes was off the scale. Tess had known the two Spikes as puppy's and would visit them often as they grew up but always with a fence between them. They had a special nuzzle and Tess loved them. Then one day they were gone.
Spike 1 moved towards Jack the boat dog and licked his brave face.
"With you looking after our lovely Tess we have nothing to fear, you are brave and we’re your friend."
It was too much for Tess, she cried and her emotion rang through the wood, soon Owl, Fox and rabbit were witnessing the reunion of Tess and the Two Spikes.
The two Spikes sat in front of Tess and told her how the men wanted them to fight a badger. They told Tess how they’d escaped to find her, after seeing her in the pub.
"You have done the bravest thing by escaping!" Said Tess "And you're certainly not going back!"
For a while things settled down, plans were being made and unmade, then all the wild animals fell silent.
Jack Tess and the two Spikes were confused. Tess felt him first.
"Hello Tess." He said and as Tess turned around she saw her friend from afar the friend that was Badger.
"Heard a lot about you Tess."
Tess walked forward and licked Badger because both of them knew they were special friends.
Tess turned towards the two Spikes as she spoke to Badger.
"Do you know my two friends called Spike Badger?"
Badger looked at the two Spikes who bowed their heads out of respect.
"I do now Tess, your friends are my friends we all share a trust that can mean life or death. "
After Badger had gone it was Jack who came up with a plan.
"Come live with me on the boat he exclaimed, dogs are loved and if my owner see's you getting on with me he's sure to adopt you.
Tess was worried.
"See how it go's Jack, the main thing is to keep the two Spikes away from those horrible Men.
Soon all the animals agreed to watch out for trouble, the two Spikes found it hard to stay away from Tess and their special nuzzle.
Tess listened to the story of their hard life and made it clear to everyone she ever knew that owed her a favour, from the woods to the city far beyond and back.
One way or another the Two Spikes would be happy for as long as they lived.
Tess would see to that!