by Baker the Boston Terrier – as dictated to Cami Ostman, 2,384 barks, growls, grunts and “words”
Word had gone round during that day that old Mame had had a strange dream the previous night and wished to communicate it with the other animals.
When all of the two-leggs were gone–Tom to his new home, Delia to her capers, Phil to his policing, and Audrey and Lynn to who knows where–Mame barked all of the animals to attention.
“Gather around, all!” she shouted.
Of course the dogs responded quickly with howls of attention. Mame was known to be the wise one in the bunch. She often had constructive ideas about how to keep the two-leggs happy enough to continue to work in the service of the animals (nuzzle their hands when they pass by the cages, pee in designated areas). But the cats, always protesting the dominance of dogs, ignored Mame’s efforts to bring everyone into focus and lazed undaunted on the pedestals atop their carpeted scratching posts.
“Jasper,” Mame decided the only way to get the attention of the cats was to enroll that rascal, Jasper. He was the smartest of the feline bunch and held some sway with the others. “Jasper, herd those malcontents over to the edge of the cage. I’ve got something important to say.”
“And what would be in it for me?” Jasper cooed.
“What’s in it for you is your life and well-being.”
Jasper yawned and gave a stretch of his front legs, but he nodded. “Yeah, alright. I’ll get ‘em.”
“Thanx for your cooperation,” Mame rolled her eyes.
When all of the cats and dogs had gathered, Rusty and Oscar began a fierce barking chorus to alert the caged animals–guinea pigs, bunnies, the few birds across the yard–that there was a meeting in progress and that they should listen carefully. Mame would articulate and project her vocalizations, but they would have to be silent to catch what she was saying.
When everyone was at attention, Mame began, “Comrades, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last night. I will come to the dream later, but I have something else to say first.”
The silence grew breathless as everyone waited. It had been a very long time since such a meeting had been held like this. The last time had been when the old boar was still alive. He’d been a talker and used to love to hold rallies to hear himself yap, so mostly they had all ignored him. But Mame was a dog of substance. She wasn’t an orange-faced bumbling narcissist like the old boar… What was his name? Donny?
Mame continued. “I think it’s time to be honest with ourselves. These two-leggs are imbeciles. Most of them, anyway. And even those who are kind collaborators are ineffectual. They lack leadership.”
There was a shuffle of uncomfortable acknowledgment. In dysfunctional systems, no one says out loud what everyone knows to be true, and the animals had kept their peace in the interest of getting fed and housed. But no human had been there to take care of them for so many hours that one had to admit the competence of the two-leggs was questionable at best. And there had been rumors of unfed, bloodied chickens running about the town, and other blatant acts of speciesism.
“Isn’t their neglect of us and their inability to raise the funds to keep this place up just speciesism at its core? Yes, it is a watered down version of it. They treat us with kindness on the surface, but they don’t take their role at this place seriously. WE HAVE TO TAKE IT INTO OUR OWN PAWS AND CLAWS. The soil of the Pacific Northwest is fertile. Its climate is good.”
Here the cats tittered. They weren’t as fond of water and mud as their canine comrades.
“And this single farm of ours would support hundreds more animals to live in dignity. There could even be space for all of those overburdened, underexercised chickens over at Cluckers. So why do we continue to live in these miserable conditions?”
Now there was a shuffling and a row of discussion. “It’s a good question.” “But what do we do? We don’t have thumbs. Can’t even work a cell phone.” “Well, but I don’t want to have to put my paw to the plow in any kind of significant way, do you?” “I like Tim, and the other two women. Do we have to get rid of all of them?” “Well where are they, though? We’ve been alone for hours.”
Mame barked a command of silence. “Clearly these two-leggs do NOT know how to bring in the money needed to make this place habitable. We’re going to have to do it ourselves. But we are going to need the help of the Freedcreatures. Cherry, and that poodle that prances around sometimes. What’s her name?”
“Camille,” Oscar replied. “She’s a real fox. I keep my eye on that one, you’d better believe.”
“This is no time for your indiscretions, Oscar,” Mame snapped.
“Sorry, you’re right.”
“We even need those two Great Danes, Copenhagen and Arhus, though their brains are not equal to their body size. And that bobcat could be of use, too. Anyone catch his name?”
“Said his name was Rufi when he rubbed up against my cage.”
“We’ll need to call them all to the cause. We can raise the money for this place and bring new two-leggs into proper service. It’s time for these well-meaning but useless nincompoops to be taught a lesson or two. Are you with me?”
There was a long pregnant pause as the possibilities settled on everyone. Could they really raise money? Find the right collaborators to pick up poop and feed everyone in a timely manner? Could they really execute a plan and finally live the well-kept lives they deserved.
Collectively there was an uproar. “YES. CAW CAW. MEAOW. RUFF RUFF RUFF. HOWL. YES WE CAN. YES WE CAN. YES WE CAN.”
When everyone had let the exuberance out of their bodies, Mame resumed. “And now, Comrades, I will tell you about my dream. I cannot describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when two-leggs have come to their senses and learned respect for the rest of the animal kingdom. But it reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. When I was a little pup, my mother and the other big dogs used to sing an old song. I remembered that song last night and it shall be our battle cry. It shall be the tune that calls the Freedcreatures to our aid. And it goes like this:
“Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon
“Beasts of every land and clime,
“Hearken to my optimistic tidings
“Of an equitable future time!”
The animals echoed the song, but quietly until they had learned the words. The harmonies of rodent, feline, canine, and fowl voices were beautiful and full of promise.
“Our first step, Comrades, is to send out a cry for help from Freedcreatures. And once they have been instructed what to do, we will gather again to execute a plan to separate the wheat from the chaff among the two-leggs. With the right humans, this place can be paradise.”
And with that, the whole of Animal Farm No-Kill Shelter was filled with the voices of the creatures–mammal and fowl–singing the call for help from the Freedcreatures.
Cherry was not keen on Bull’s decision to turn left and go toward the shelter, where he assumed Delia would be finishing up the books at this time of the late afternoon. Cherry loved her two-leggs very much, but she knew Delia smelled fishy. But just as Cherry was about to nudge Bull—to bark him away from his current direction, she heard through the open window the sound of a multi-species anthem rising into the air.
Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon
Beasts of every land and clime,
Hearken to my optimistic tidings
Of an equitable future time!
Her heart quaked at the sound of this battle cry coming from the direction of Animal Farm. No, she would let Bull go searching for his female at the farm. This was a cry for help from her previous cage-mates. She needed to get to them.
Copenhagen and Arhus lay languidly in the back of Lynn Bassett’s van. Where exactly they were, they didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. At the sound of the cacophonous cry of “Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon,” they perked up their gigantic ears and looked at one another. Their jowly snouts scrunched up. Was this what they thought it was? One push of the heavy back door and they were outside, sniffing their way to Animal Farm.
Back at Lynn’s house, even Janice, the three-legged cat heard the cry and snuck out an open window to wend her way to the Farm.
Camille wasn’t one to wander out of the house without her extra fur coat and her ear muffs. She was a pampered poodle who didn’t have much drive for adventure, but when she heard “Beasts of Washington, Beasts of Oregon,” she cocked her head, pushed through the dog flap into the backyard, and jumped the fence.
Rufi didn’t hesitate. When the call went out, he headed to the farm. “There is a special place in hell for animals who don’t help other animals,” he remembered some wise one saying once.
Once everyone was gathered between the canine and feline cages at the farm, they all turned to Mame. What now?
“First thing’s first,” she said. You’ve got to get us out of these cages. Then we need to rescue Tim. Then, in the long run, we need the money to fix up this place and get the right people to manage it.”
Purdue, brother of Tyson Cluckers, was a beast of a man–thick and short. He was not flashy like his brother. Drove an electric Honda instead of an ostentatious Tesla. And he kept his nose mostly out of the business, although he’d been the marketing genius in the beginning. But a few years earlier, his conscience had begun to bother him. The cruelty of the chicken farm and the carbon emissions forced into the environment by their industry kept him awake at night. He knew his brother to be a cruel brute, and he didn’t want to cross him–also, he was a primary financial beneficiary of all they had built–but he didn’t want to be party to the violence any longer. Secretly, he’d been investing in lab grown meat, the wave of the future, he thought. And he also helped his brother’s wife by making sure she had all of Tyson’s account passwords.
Now he sat in his quiet home, which overlooked the bay, a glass of Malbec in hand, and realized he hadn’t heard from Cathy whether or not she’d managed to get out of town.
Grabbing his phone, he dialed her… just to check on her, you know.
“Where the hell is that ringing coming from,” Tyson scanned the group: the two officers, Phil the shelter weirdo, and this kid sitting on the ground clutching a piece of paper with the number of that thug’s lawyer on it. He recognized the ring on Cathy’s phone–the old Hall and Oates song “She’s Gone,” which maddened him every time someone called her. Why would she leave her phone here?
The phone wouldn’t shut up. As soon as it rang itself out, whoever was calling called back. Clearly someone else was desperate to get hold of Cathy. Who?
“I think it’s from behind that door,” Chuck said. “What’s in there?”
From where they all stood, there was an out building a few yards away with a padlocked door. “Oh, that’s my… um… mancave,” Tyson said, wondering what was worse, to risk the group seeing his playroom or to let that phone ring until someone else suggested they break down the door. He decided he’d have more control of the situation if he took charge. “Let me get it and make it stop.”
“Whose phone is it, Ty?” his old high school buddy asked.
Tyson ignored the question and walked to the door. The officers followed him. Reluctantly, Tyson unlocked the door with a small key he dug out of his pocket.
“What the hell?” Phil said when the door was opened. “What do you do in here? Acrobatics?”
Tim sat on the cold ground watching as the four men turned their backs to him. He could get up and run, but where would he go? And they had guns. They were distracted for the moment but the minute they noticed he was gone, he’d be hosed.
Just then, there was a loud cacophony of barking coming down the drive. Two Great Danes, a couple of mutts, and a fluffy white poodle barged onto the property. Three of the dogs charged the four men standing at the door with the padlock. Ten seconds flat and all of those creeps were on the ground.
“Run,” Tim thought he heard someone say. “This way!” He looked at the poodle.
She nodded. “Follow me.”
On the way to Animal Farm, Bull saw Delia’s car parked outside the tattoo parlor. He pulled into the parking lot and knocked on the door. Beside him, Cherry began to shiver.
“What’s up girl?”
Cherry saw what Bull did not see. Lurking along the edge of the building were three cats. One was clearly a wild animal–what species, Cherry wasn’t sure. One had three legs–looked like a domestic. And one was Jasper.
Cherry wined at the cats. But they dared not answer lest they would draw attention to their presence. The one thing Cherry knew was that if you need a physical rescue, you depend on a dog. If you need to spy for information, you send a cat to do the job. There was something behind these doors the cats were sent to sleuth out. The least Cherry could do would be to help them get in.
The knob turned and there was the woman, Delia, with the other very-inked woman behind her.