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
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
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:
MYSTERY DOG SAVES BOY FROM FLAMES.
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.
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.
2013 The Silversteins