Chesterton, the Corgi, was a happy dog. He spent days lounging in the cool grass with his very short legs lifted to the sun. Nothing in his life required those said legs to travel at any speed other than padding from dinner bowl, yard, and back to dinner bowl. That is, until Kelly, his most favorite person, slammed the front door and ran outside.
Kelly was short, also. Her fur, she called it hair, was reddish-brown like his. She’d call Chesterton! and they’d frolic short frolics in the yard. Except when a yellow bus apprehended her in the morning, and then spewed her back out when sunshine reached the top of the wooden fence pickets.
One day a van inscribed with large red letters arrived in the driveway. That afternoon there had been no frolicking in the grass and no Kelly. When she finally appeared, she sat on the porch and waited until Chesterton presented his belly to her tiny fingers for a very short belly rub. When the sun reached the top of the willow tree, she said, “Bye, Chesterton. I wuv you.”
For some reason, her legs weren’t working. Her parents rolled her to the van in a contraption with two shiny silver wheels and a seat that hugged Kelly’s behind. Two men helped her inside and the van drove away. Kelly’s parents followed in their car, close behind.
Where had his red-headed friend gone? Who would fill his dog bowl with food? And frolic in the grass? Chesterton sighed, put his head between his front paws and went to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed a Corgi dream, full of games with Kelly and lots and lots of dog bowls, all filled to the brim with his favorite food. But when he woke up, the grass wasn’t cool on his back, and the sun was too hot on his belly.
He thought about barking, but his bark was odd – more like a croak. After all, he was a dog, not a frog. And besides, he hadn’t had much use for it. Kelly had taken good care of him. What else had he ever needed?
But now, Chesterton lifted his voice and howled. And howled and howled some more. He howled so loud, so long that shutters opened, faces appeared in closed windows and front doors cracked open.
Did it matter than his howl was only an extended croak? Would it matter that he howled at all? Still, out of his heart, his cry continued. Wasn’t that what real dogs did? Especially, the kind who got things done, like Maximillian, the mighty German shepherd next door who protected the neighborhood from unknown, potential evils.
As a matter of fact, at that very moment Maximillian woofed in response. Matilda, the Pomeranian across the street, yipped. And Frederick, the Schnauzer down the street, barked in short, military commands. All over the neighborhood canine alarms sounded. Something was wrong and they would alert their friends.
Penelope, the mouse who lived under the porch. charged out and squeaked. “Shut up all the racket, will ya?”
Chesterton was sorry she was annoyed. But he didn’t stop. He loved Kelly. The other dogs loved their families, too. An alarm had been placed inside them and now was the time to sound it. And so, they did. Believing it mattered, believing that they were doing what they were truly created to do. At least for times like these.
One morning, after a very long bark, a car arrived in the driveway. Chesterton had traded his leisurely padding to a hurried, if limited gallop. After all, now that Kelly was gone, he must take his place as guard over the family and their property. He peered into the windows of the small car, because of course, he was too short to see inside otherwise. There in the window, red curls on a familiar head and a smile he’d missed more than his daily dog food appeared.
Chesterton jumped, he hopped, he leaped as high as his stubby legs could manage. They were short leaps, but they mattered. Kelly was home!
That night, as they cuddled on the porch in light of a full moon, Chesterton tried out another howl. All was right, and the world should know. He lifted his voice and croaked – beautiful croaks to the heavens who had heard. And had waited for his voice to sound.