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Barkwell Wanders

Barkwell had found his true love. Golden Lassie was a golden scottie, who won a blue ribbon at the dog show. And Barkwell -- he was whatever kind of dog he wanted to be. For he had a strange power to change his shape whenever he willed it.

In the shape of a retriever, Barkwell had saved Golden Lassie's young mistress from drowning. The child's parents were so grateful that they took the strange dog into their home.

The first days of his new life in Golden Lassie's home were heaven for Barkwell. When the golden scottie looked at him with her warm brown eyes, he thought he would never want anything more from life. He did not mind being taken to the vet for shots. He even wore a collar for the first time in his life.

When Barkwell and Golden Lassie were alone, he kept her laughing and crying with stories of his adventures. He changed his shape again and again. Often he turned himself into a handsome black scottie -- the shape Golden Lassie liked best. But he was careful to turn quickly back into a retriever whenever people came near. For a strange talent like Barkwell's is best kept secret.

But Barkwell was used to a life of freedom. Soon he began to grow bored. So each day, when Golden Lassie was taking her noonday nap, he would trot out the gate and down the road, looking for adventure. One day he heard a wail of sirens in the distance. He quickly changed into a swift greyhound and sped down the road, following the sound. Soon he reached a row of apartment houses. Flames were bursting from some of the windows. On the street, a woman was sobbing, "My son! He's still in there! I couldn't get to him!"

Quickly Barkwell hid behind a parked car and changed into a bloodhound. He walked up to the woman and sniffed at her. Then, following her scent, he raced into the burning building. Soon he found her apartment. Inside, he could hear the cries of the frightened child. But a wall of flame was barring his way.

Barkwell spotted a tiny space beneath the flames. He changed into a tiny chihuahua and darted through, into the bedroom. The boy was standing at the window, looking out onto a balcony. Far below, firemen were struggling to raise a ladder to the window. But the ladder was too short to reach. A fireman climbed up to the top and stretched his arms upward. But he could not touch the balcony.

Barkwell had an idea. He turned himself into a dachshund, the longest dachshund that ever lived. Grasping the child's shirt in his teeth, he pulled the surprised boy out the window and over the railing of the balcony. Carefully he stretched out his long body and lowered the boy into the arms of the waiting fireman.

Barkwell scrambled down the ladder after the fireman. He paused for a minute to watch the joyful mother join her son. Then he disappeared into the crowd.

When Barkwell got home, Golden Lassie barked in horror, "What happened to you? You're all dirty, and ...your fur is burnt!" She dashed about him, licking him tenderly.

Barkwell told her all about his latest adventure. When Golden Lassie heard about the danger he had been in, she almost fainted. "You must promise me you won't wander any more!" she begged. "I couldn't bear to think that you might be killed one day." With a sigh, Barkwell promised.

The next morning, when the paper boy tossed the day's paper up onto the porch, Barkwell noticed a headline:


He trotted over to look at the article. He had just reached the line, "The boy is being treated for burns at Central Hospital," when the Master picked up the paper, gave the dog an absent-minded pat, and went into the house.

"Just one little visit wouldn't hurt," thought Barkwell. So when Golden Lassie lay down for her noonday nap, he trotted off to the hospital to cheer up the boy he had saved. He slipped into the hospital in the shape of a tiny chihuahua, so small that no one noticed him.

When he reached the boy's room, he heard a nurse saying, "You mustn't mope like that. Eat up your lunch now, so you can get well and strong again." She walked out of the room, leaving the lunch tray.

Barkwell quickly changed back into a dachshund shape. The boy burst into smiles and hugged the dog. Eagerly he fed Barkwell scraps of his lunch while he gobbled down the rest. "If only you could stay and keep me company!" he said.

Barkwell hid under the bed when the nurse came in. While she and the boy were not looking, he slipped out of the room and out of the hospital. All the way home he was thinking. When he reached the gates of Golden Lassie's estate, he knew what he had to tell her. He tried not to see the tears in her eyes, as he said, "I have a duty. A talent like mine was made to be used. I must be free." He touched his nose to hers, then turned and trotted away down the road.




©1973, 2013 The Silversteins