Standing atop a grassy hill, I look eastward. The sky is still dark and the day is just beginning. By my side, loyal Ozzie watches the terrain around us, warily. Suddenly, the first rays of light break over the horizon. The sun is finally rising. I look to Ozzie and nod. Instantly, we both explode from a standstill and race down the hill.
“CHAAAAARGE!” I howl, and my soldiers waiting at the bottom jump to their feet. As Ozzie and I pass them, they fall into step beside and run with us. Today is the day. With a rousing war cry, I lead my troops into battle.
The enemy lies dead ahead, armed to the teeth. But so are we. Our line rushes forward towards the great oak tree — the enemy’s base. Suddenly, we’re within shooting range and the missiles begin to rain down. One by one, I see my brave comrades fall. Down they go until only one is left at my side. Faithful Ozzie — I can always rely on him.
Finally, together we reach the tree. “ATTACK!” I growl and we both leap into the air . . .
A missile whizzes past my ear and I falter for a split second. But that’s all it takes. Away the enemies dart through the trees in retreat. Disgusted, I drop back down to all fours. Beside me, Ozzie still stands, staring intently at the tree.
“Forget it, Oz. They’re gone.” With a sigh, my partner turns away and drops down. “Hey, are you guys all right?” I bark to my fallen troops. They respond with groans and growls.
“Man, those acorns hurt!” Marley yelps, rolling over. “I swear their aim is getting better every day.” The others huff in agreement.
Walter pads over, totally covered in mud and looking a bit sheepish. “Sorry, Rex, I guess I didn’t make it past the first ditch . . .”
I sigh. “Commander Rex, and it’s fine, Walter.” I survey my rag-tag group of soldiers. From a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, we are the core of the Anti-Squirrel Association (or ASA for short).
I, the only purebred German Shepherd of the organization, am also the only dog with real battle knowledge, thus being leader to my troops. War has been declared and it’s up to us dogs to see that the squirrels are defeated!
“Great job out there, soldiers,” I compliment them gruffly. “Now the enemy knows for sure not to mess with us. We’ll get them next time.” Despite my emotionless tone, tails are still wagging like mad. “You all may go home for now, but I’ll be expecting you at headquarters at four tonight. Got it?”
“Good. Now you’re dismissed.” The meeting disperses and my dogs head back to their homes or humans. Still on high alert, I watch the park carefully for any signs of the enemy.
“Rex, come here, boy. Come on!” My ears prick up and I dash to my own human. His hands are rough but gentle as they massage my ears. “Chasing those squirrels again? Don’t worry, you’ll catch one someday.” I wag my tail. Oh, I’m gonna do more than just catch one. “Ready to go home?”
Together, my human and I head back to our house. Out of the corner of my eye, I see each of my comrades finding their people and doing the same. I bark once more. “Four o’clock! Don’t be late!” I wonder if any of them heard me.
Five o’clock and still no sign of my troops, they should’ve been here an hour ago! And by here, I mean our headquarters. As of now, located underneath my porch, but we’re still looking for a more suitable base for our cause.
Finally at 5:13, Walter stumbles in. “Hey, Chief,” he mumbles sleepily.
“Hello Walter, you’re late. And it’s Commander. Wait, hey! Watch out for the-” THUMP. “-post.” Another problem with your current location, it’s a bit small for our larger breeds like the Great Dane, Walter.
“Sorry, Boss,” he says, laying down. “Wake me when the others get here.”
“Commander,” I sigh. This is what I have to deal with. Over the next hour, the rest of my soldiers filter in. Finally, everyone is present. I assign Digory to guard duty and then assemble the rest of my dogs in our headquarters.
“This meeting is now in session,” I bark loudly, getting everyone’s attention. Right then, Walter lets out a snore. I try not to roll my eyes. “Will somebody please wake up the Dane?” It takes Jelly, Remi, and Penny to finally get Walter up.
“Oh, sorry sir,” he apologizes and I don’t feel like correcting him.
“Anyways,” I continue, “there have been reports that squirrel attacks are becoming more frequent. Some civilians have even requested our assistance in clearing out colonies if the invasive vermin.” A few of my soldiers nod. “Now I’ve decided that a surprise attack would be the best counter. So-” I’m suddenly interrupted by alarmed barking.
“WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!” Digory howls, zooming into the already cramped headquarters. The Chihuahua is moving so fast his feet are a blur. A few acorns whizz in after him.
Caught off guard, my troops mill around in confusion. “Everybody out!” I bark above the calamity, bravely leading the dogs out into the open. There, amidst the whistling missiles, I survey our situation in a split second.
The squirrels have launched a formidable attack. They’ve somehow assembled a large number of soldiers and have amassed huge amounts of ammunition. Unfortunately for us, all the squirrels have really good aim . . .
“Spread out!” I growl the warning to my troops as they stumble out into the open and into the nut-fire. “Digory, Remi — take the left side. Jelly, Penny — you get the right. Marley — watch our backs. Walter, Ozzie — you guys are with me heading straight ahead. NOW GO!”
My brave team leaps forward to their stations. The closer we get to the enemy line, the more nuts come flying — and the harder it is to dodge them. All at once my troops and I are at the squirrel-infested trees, barking, jumping, and snapping. Despite our valiant efforts, we’re losing ground and the squirrels have us outnumbered twenty to one.
Finally, I give in. “Retreat!” I command, calling back my dogs. “Back to the hill!” Hoping to save my troops from the onslaught of missiles, I lead them away. Thankfully, the squirrels don’t follow.
“Everyone all right?” I ask my squad, checking in on each of them. One by one, they all nod.
“Man!” Our Vizsla, Penny, yips. “That was crazy!” Jelly the husky-mix nods vigorously in agreement.
I have to agree, too. Who knew those squirrels could be so organized? Then the German Shepherd-mix turns to me. “Got any payback plans, Commander?” Remi cocks her head.
I nod, holding back an unprofessional smirk. “Yes, yes I do.”
This is it. The final battle.
It’s all-out war. Nut-missiles rain down and loud barking fills the airy thr scaredy-cat-cat squirrels stay in their trees, just out of our reach. Still, my dogs and I leap at the trunks and shout insults to them. One by one, the squirrels are taking flight through the trees.
Finally, we have them cornered in a triplicate of strong oaks, but the squirrels won’t give up that easily. They hurl anything and everything they’ve got at us. Poor Walter — he’s such a big target — even gets hit by a tennis shoe. My smaller soldiers are faring a bit better. Tiny and fast, Digory is almost untouchable. I think I see Penny, one of my most energetic and crazy dogs, even manage to climb one of the trees back there.
“Ugh.” I wince as a walnut whacks me on the head. Pure German Shepherd, I’m a pretty big target myself.
“Ozzie! Watch your left!” I yell, warning him off a few squirrels trying to slip away. Ferociously, the Labradoodle barks and charges at the squirrels, forcing them back into the trees.
Oh no. Marley’s down. “Jelly, cover me!” I bark, dashing through the chaos. I grab Marley’s collar with my teeth and gently tug her to safety behind a bush. Thankfully she’s part Chihuahua, so not a very big dog, although she could do to lay off the treats.
“Thanks Rex,” Marley pants. “I’ll be back out there in a minute, just need to catch my breath.” I nod and race back into the fray. Things are crazy, what with things flying through the air, missiles and dogs alike.
I just got hit with a large tree branch for the third time when I see a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. Instinctively, I stop mid-growl and spring. Moments later, I’ve pinned something under my paws. It’s a squirrel. It’s their leader. Lord Nutcase, as we like to call him.
Abruptly, silence falls over the clearing. Everyone stops and watches us — leader to leader. Finally I can end this war. Finally dogs will be victorious. With only a little bit of pressure or a swift shake, we can win.
But I hesitate. Idiotically, I look down into Lord Nutcase’s shining black eyes, and suddenly, I can’t do it. It’s one thing to talk about taking out the enemy, but a whole different thing to actually do it.
I am a dog of war. I am the commander of the ASA. So why can’t I do this? Am I really all bark and no bite?
Solemnly, I lift my paw and Nutcase flashes away. But he pauses a moment before disappearing in the trees, and our eyes meet,
My comrades all start talking at once.
“Uh… Rex?” Remi asks me, confused.
“What happened?” Penny barked, somewhat accusingly.
“He was right there,” Marley said, stating the obvious.
“What’d you do that for?” Jelly cocks her head, staring at me funny.
“Yeah, bro, you had him!” Digory yips, hopping up and down.
“Are you ok?” Caring Walter puts in.
Ozzie just looks at me, his gaze puzzled.
Finally, I growl a warning tone and they fall silent. “I did what I needed to do.” My dogs just look at me blankly, trying but failing to understand. I don’t blame them. To be honest, I don’t even know what happened.
“And besides,” I continue, “we can still win the war. Us dogs aren’t going to give up, not now, not ever!” The soldiers lift their heads up and howl their agreement, and I join them.
Then I turn away and head up the park’s grassy hill. Thankfully, good ol’ Walter stops anyone from following. I just need some time to myself.
I sit, silent, looking up at the full moon. I raise my head and howl again, letting the squirrels know, the world know, that the dogs aren’t done yet. As the sound dies away, I lower my head to look at the ground before me. I see the bright reflection of the moon shining in the lake.
As long as the moon still rises, my dogs and I will fight. I look back at my troops — my friends — and smile. They all look back at me expectantly. Not for the first time, I wonder how I managed to find such great friends. And also not for the first time, I don’t have an answer. Tail wagging, I trot down to my pack.
Watch out squirrels, ‘cause you’re going down.
Ready or not, here we come.