It was two years since Tess arrived as quite possibly the most wanted puppy ever. She’d been a present for Billy but both Billy’s Mum and Dad had a real soft spot for the mother of this puppy. When they found out that ‘Jess’ was having pups it was only a matter of time before they succumbed to Billy’s pleading.
Billy had asked for a dog before, but this time all the pre puppy promises had been met. He had fulfilled his part of the bargain, got his puppy and Tess as she was named had grown into a fine healthy dog.
At every opportunity Tess would be playing with Billy, mostly in the garden but as Billy grew older they sometimes ventured into the field which was through the garden gate and beyond. This was an adventure for Tess but she knew it quite well by now often visiting her friends Owl and Fox when Billy was at school.
Tess had also made new friends, discovered new things when she was off exploring. It was on one of these afternoon adventures 2 or 3 miles from home, when Tess came across a strange house in the middle of what looked like a rubbish tip. It had caravans inside the big wire fence that surrounded it, caravans, lorries, Tess found it all a bit frightening. She was just about to turn away when she heard 1 then 2 tiny yelps. She walked around the fence a little way towards the source of the sound and stopped. There were two puppies chained around an old kennel surrounded by rubbish. They were large puppies, nearly the size of Tess already but Tess saw the young years in their eyes.
Tess inched her nose closer to the fence trying to gain the trust of the 2 pups. They starting inching slowly forward but unable to make that last step.
“Hello, I’m Tess, I live near here, well it’s quite a way I suppose. Are you ok?”
The two pups were extremely cautious at first but it wasn’t long before they began to trust their instincts about Tess. Soon they were nose to nose through the fence better still Tess saw a slight movement in what should have been 2 of the waggiest of tails.
The pups looked so sad, really thin. Over the next few weeks Tess visited them as often as she could. Always with a tasty treat she had saved from her own dinner.
Gradually over time Tess began to learn more about them. They were called Spike 1 and Spike 2 by the men who should have been looking after them. Tess learned other things about them as well, apparently they were ‘Pit Bull Terriers’ although Tess didn’t know what that meant. She found out the 2 Spikes never had a Mum they could remember. Tess remembered well her cuddles and snuggles with her Mum and Sisters. She sometimes wondered if she could be Mum to the two Spikes.
As the weeks went on Tess visited the 2 Spikes more and more. Now they would be waiting for her, waiting for her to push her nose through the fence so they could nuzzle and get as close to her as they could.
Sometimes when she visited she saw that the 2 Spikes had been beaten. This is when Tess cried as she tried to sleep thinking of her 2 young friends.
One day when Tess went to visit the 2 spikes they were gone.
She always thought that they had left home because they were sad. She missed them so much thought about them all the time. She didn't know they’d been taken away to a life so horrible it was hard to think about.
A few days after the 2 Spikes had gone, one morning after Billy had gone to school. Tess was alone in the house and decided it was time to pay another visit to her friends Owl and Fox beyond the field.
She wanted to talk to Owl in particular about the 2 Spikes, but couldn’t have known something just as tragic lay ahead.
Tess lapped her water then finished breakfast before setting off through the garden and on beyond the field into the dark wood.
Tess knew the route to Owls tree very well. She used a special path, not for directions for racing home before she was missed! Each time she got quicker, shaving seconds off the time it took to get home. She didn’t get home earlier just stayed longer with her friends!
Fox said she was probably faster than hare on that route, he was always threatening to set up a race. Tess was slightly confident, she had all the tricks but she’d seen hare run - fast! Blimey!
When Tess got to the pond she sensed something wrong immediately. looking up into the tall tree Tess saw Owl although she was up on a lot higher branch up that usual?
“Hello Owl.” shouted Tess. “Why are you so high? My neck will ache!”
“Hello Tess.” Replied Owl flying down to a more sociable branch.
“What a day you have chosen to visit, the hunt as come through, Fox is hiding she’s in terrible trouble. They chased her for hours I’m terrified they’ll find her Tess, if they do they’ll kill her!
Tess was very puzzled. Who could possibly want to hurt fox?
“In fear of her life?” said Tess. “Who wants to kill her?”
“This is the hunting season,” said Owl.
“They chased Fox all over yesterday, she’s exhausted, I don’t know, If she’ll survive.”
“But why are they hunting her?” said Tess. “Are they hungry haven’t they got enough food?”
“It’s not about food Tess, they hunt Fox for sport they enjoy chasing her. The last time I saw her she was so exhausted she could hardly stand.”
“I must find her,” said Tess. “ I must help her, do you know where she Is hiding?”
“Oh, I can’t tell you Tess. If the hounds pick up your scent they might follow, you might lead them straight to her.”
“Hounds?? You mean Fox is being chased by dogs like me?”
“Not like you, Tess, these dogs are bred to chase Foxes they don’t know any better they’re trained to hunt and this time I fear they will get her. Tess I don’t think fox can run any more.”
Tess was crying, she had to do something to help Fox.
“Tell me where she is Owl, I must help her.”
Owl saw the tears on Tess’s face and fell quiet for a minute.
“If you want to help her Tess I might have a plan but it will be very dangerous and you’ll be risking your life as well as Fox’s!
“Tell me what to do Owl,” said Tess with a determination in her voice that told Owl that she would not be talked out of helping Fox!
Owl flew down to an even lower branch and began to tell Tess the details of her plan to save Fox. Tess listened with complete concentration to everything that Owl said. Pausing for a second after she’d finished Tess looked Owl in the eyes before setting running faster than she had ever run before with her heart pounding.
Fox was so well hid It took Tess three attempts to find her hiding place in the cave at the bottom of the valley far beyond the pond.
As Tess walked slowly through the mouth of the cave she heard Fox inside literally shaking with fear.
“It’s me Fox, Tess! I’ve come to help you.”
As the brave dogs eyes became more accustomed to the dark what a sight she saw.
“Oh Fox, you poor thing!”
Fox looked terrible, trembling with fear and exhaustion she looked ragged crouching low in the far corner of the cave.
“Hello Tess.” said Fox. “I think this time they’ve got me. I tried to outrun them, just managed to hide in my old cave but it won’t be long before they trace my smell. I’m too tired Tess, I can’t run any more.”
“Listen Fox said Tess. “Don’t give up, Owl has told me what to do in detail, I’ve remembered it exactly. It’s dangerous but we stand a good chance now listen…”
Soon Tess had told Fox exactly what Owl had said, then started the first part of the plan because the hounds would soon be on the trail.
Tess went over to fox and started rubbing herself against her exhausted body. She did it so hard that Fox moaned as Tess touched her bruises!
“Sorry, Fox, but I have to get as much of your scent on me as possible for the plan to work. Owl said this is the key to the whole plan.”
After a few minutes when Tess was satisfied that she smelt like Fox, she turned to her friend touching noses looking with love into her eyes.
“Wait for me here Fox, don’t try to run! Just wait here for me to return do you promise?”
“I promise Tess, but please don’t take any risks, if anything happens to you I will never forgive myself. Please take care!”
Tess had her confident cheeky face on for her reply.
“Don’t worry about me Fox, don’t worry about me.”
As soon as the words had left her mouth Tess disappeared out of the cave at double high speed. She was careful not to leave any scent near the cave and made her way back towards the pond.
As she got nearer the pond the noise she heard was terrifying. It sounded like a hundred dogs all heading towards her. Tess knew she had to remain calm as she started the next part of owls plan.
Tess rubbed herself all over the trees near the edge of the pond. When she was satisfied she’d put enough of fox’s scent around for the hounds to smell she raced off at high speed.
She had to get around the pond as fast as she could because by the time she was at the opposite side she knew the hounds would be arriving.
Tess finished a circuit of the pond in record time, she was in time to see the back of the horses following the screaming hounds who were already chasing her down. She was careful not to be seen.
“You can’t let them see you Tess!” Owls words were repeating in her head.
Tess was sure she hadn’t been seen, the plan seemed to be working now she faced the biggest challenge of her life.
This challenge however was one she’d been unwittingly training for without knowing! She had to race back through the wood using her special route, relying on knowledge of the path to give her vital extra seconds because the hounds were fast. Maybe faster than her!
Tess was soon dodging branches jumping logs like she had wings. She knew the path so well even though the hounds might have gained ground they never caught sight of her. Tess kept remembered Owl saying,
“They mustn’t see you Tess, They mustn’t see you!”
Soon Tess was in the field at the back of her house, she made it across safely and dashed into the garden. She was safe!
Tess climbed through her dog flap into the kitchen to find Billy’s father eating his door step sized cheese and pickle sandwich. He was home for lunch today, did Owl know?
Tess remembered Owl saying act frightened when you see Billy’s Dad! I could have won the doggy Oscar she later joked but it wasn’t acting!
“Hello Tess,” said a surprised Billy’s Dad, “You look in a panic what on earth is wrong?”
He soon found out. A few minutes later the garden was full of hounds, they’d burst right through the gate and were barking screaming for blood! If this wasn’t bad enough not far behind them were of course the horses and riders.
Billy’s dad was furious! He was double furious!
He marched out into the garden with a rage he’d hadn’t felt for years.
“Is this your idea of sport?” he shouted, he yelled!
“Chasing my son’s dog around the countryside! I shall be reporting this to the police! Get your dogs out of my garden! I will be sending you a bill for the damage it’s outrageous!”
Tess poked her pretty nose through the gap in the door and saw the men on the horses with their embarrassed faces. She wondered why they did it, she wondered if they were just stupid?
For now though fox was safe. Owls plan had so worked so far and Tess heard the riders mumble an apology but what she heard next was best:
“Come on, let’s get these dogs back home.”
That meant that they wouldn’t try and find Fox again today, that meant that she’d be able to put the final part of Owl’s plan into operation!
After some fuss and a few strokes from Billy’s father, Tess slipped out of the flap in the door with a fine juicy bone in her mouth which wasn’t for her.
Soon she was underneath the tree where owl lived.
“It worked, Owl, it worked!!”
“Tess go to Fox now!” Screeched Owl, before Tess had even finished speaking!
“Remember all I said Tess!”
Tess remembered all right, she was soon in the cave relieved to find Fox who was so happy to see Tess! After all she’d endured she was just happy and relieved her friend was safe. Fox heard the hounds from inside the cave knowing Tess was trying to outwit them. In someways this was harder for her to endure than being chased, having to wait not knowing what was happening whether Tess was OK?
“Come on Fox we have to go.”
Fox didn’t reply just had a couple of licks on the bone Tess had brought her stirred her tired bruised body and followed Tess out of the cave.
Owl was overjoyed to see Fox, they had a very special friendship every animal in the wood knew that. Seeing Fox looking so ragged Owl began to get emotional, too emotional and she put on her strong face as she spoke to her friend.
“Go with Tess Fox, you must do all of the plan for it to work.”
After quick goodbyes Fox followed Tess along her path towards the field near the house.
She shuddered as she smelt the scent left behind by the pack of hounds but they were soon in the garden where Tess showed Fox into the old shed. Billy’s Dad never went into the shed it had been unused once in all the time they’d lived there although how Owl knew this Tess couldn’t even guess.
“They will never come back here Fox they wouldn’t dare. Not after Billy’s Dad shouted at them like he did, you can rest here for as long as you like. I’m going to get you some water and bring you some of my food, Billy’s Dad has gone back to work.”
Tess dragged the container of water from underneath the hose pipe over to the shed and Fox drank away only pausing to look at Tess with a tear in her eye, she couldn’t believe what she’d done for her.
“We’ll always be friends Tess, always!”
“I know,” said Tess. “I know.”
Tess felt she had to tell Owl Fox was safe. Saying bye to Fox she walked wearily back along her path to Owl’s tree.
“It worked Owl! It all worked, you did it!”
Owl was looking slightly glazed when she turned to reply.
“We did it Tess, we did it!”
Tess was curled up in her basket when Billy came home. He was expecting her to be fussing following jumping around him, but she was fast asleep.
Billy saw Tess’s legs twitching in dreamland, stroked her gently and wondered thoughtfully what she was dreaming about? If he only knew!