MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
I was snoozing on the porch when it all started. My friends Newton, Trevor, and Maia were there, too. Curled up in a patch of winter sunshine, we were dreaming dreams of our puppyhood days, long, long ago.
Snore. Snuffle. Snore.
Snore. Snuffle … RUMBLE.
I pricked up one ear. The rumble grew louder. Was it my stomach telling me it was hungry? It usually is. I can’t help it; I’m a Labrador retriever. But this particular rumble was coming from across the yard. An old van was backing out of the barn. When it stopped, two humans hopped down from the cab and walked back inside.
I wagged my tail. Everything normal. Just Lucy and her grandma moving a van.
Then the van changed into a tree.
That was not normal. My fur stood on end.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand. But one thing I do know. Vans are vans. Trees are trees. They’re not supposed to turn into each other. “Hey, Newt!” I hissed. “Wake up!” Newton is a border collie. That means he’s mega-smart. He’d soon figure it out. He’s also getting a little deaf. I leaned down and yelled in his ear. “NEW-TON!”
Newton jumped up with a start. “No need to shout.”
I waved a paw at the tree. “Look!”
“A tree? Baxter! You woke me to look at a tree? I was having a great dream, too. I was rounding up a runaway sheep and…” Newton tilted his head to one side. He always does that when he’s thinking. “But now that you mention it, I don’t remember a tree in that spot…”
We had to investigate, of course. I stretched the creaks out of my back legs and picked up my tennis ball. Then we set off to give the tree a sniff. Metal. Rubber. Gasoline. Roads. Those were not tree smells. “Hmm,” murmured Newton. “That is most suspicious.”
Trevor ran to join us. Or rather, waddled. He’s a Jack Russell terrier and shaped like a small barrel on legs. He nosed at the tree. “What’s all this commotion about? Rat trouble, is it? I’ll soon track ’em down.”
There was a sudden soft pop and the tree turned back into a van.
A crow took off from a disappearing branch with a croak of surprise. It had started to snow, and a few fluffy snowflakes drifted down onto my pale gold fur. I wanted to run away, too. But I had a job to do. I may be getting old and slow, but the farm is still my territory. I have to investigate any Suspicious Goings-On. I’m the only one of us who lives at Happy Paws. Newton, Trevor, and Maia stay here when their humans are busy. And as for Titch—the big black dog who had just lumbered into the yard—she’s a stray. She comes and goes as she pleases.
The back doors of the van were open. I peeped inside. It was fitted out like a little house, with a table, closets and shelves, a small refrigerator, and even a bed. But up front, near the steering wheel, was a shiny box covered with dials and flashing lights.
Beep! Beepety-beep! BEEEEP!
I yelped in fright. The tennis ball fell from my mouth, rolled across the floor, and disappeared under the driver’s seat. I really did not want to go inside the van. Flashing lights and beeping noises are at the top of my Things I’m Most Scared Of list. But that was my favorite ball. I’d chewed it to the perfect level of fuzziness. I had to get it back!
I climbed into the van and padded to the front. Inside it smelled like thunderstorms.
I’m scared of thunderstorms, too. They make my fur go all prickly. I shook it out, scattering snowflakes over the shiny box. Suddenly the van lurched to one side. Quivering with fear, I crawled to the back doors and peered out.
The van—with me inside it—was slowly rising off the ground.
REMEMBER THE PACK MOTTO
The van rose until it was hovering level with Newton’s ears.
“Baxter,” he shouted. “Jump down!”
But it was no good. My legs wouldn’t move.
“Don’t panic!” barked Trevor. “We’ll rescue you.” He leaped for the van doors. They were too high. He missed, bouncing off a tire. He tried again. And missed again. He took a run up and finally made it, with a push from Newton, who scrambled up after him. “Come on, Maia!” Trevor shouted. “Remember the pack motto: Never Leave a Dog Behind.”
I peeked out through my paws. Since when did we have a pack motto?
Maia trotted across the yard and sprang into the van, her pink ribbons fluttering from her fluffy ears. She’s a papillon, and an old lady now, but in her younger days, she won medals in agility competitions and talent shows, and she still likes to show off.
Titch turned away. “Enjoy the ride! I wouldn’t get in that freaky flying machine if it was giving out free pretzels. Look After Number One. That’s my motto.”
There was a yell from the barn. “Baxter! Stay away from the van! It’s not safe.” I didn’t understand all the human words, of course. But I could tell from Grandma’s voice that I was in trouble.
“Uh-oh,” groaned Titch. “I’m not hanging around to get the blame for this. Hold on to your fur, I’m coming aboard.” With that, she hauled herself up into the van, clinging on with every tooth and claw—the ones she had left, that is. Titch had been in a lot of fights. She was missing most of her teeth, half an ear, and a whole back leg.
She made it just in time.
The doors slammed shut.
The van spun around and around.
Then we shot straight up into the sky.
NO ORDINARY VAN
Newton jumped into the driver’s seat and placed his front paws on the steering wheel. I climbed up next to him. I wasn’t so scared now that I had my friends with me. And I was seriously impressed. “Wow, Newt! I didn’t know dogs could drive.”
“I’m not driving. The van is driving itself. Or rather, flying itself.” Newton’s ears were tucked down flat with worry. “This is no ordinary van.”
Titch shoved her head between the seats. “I think we’d all figured that one out, Brainbox!”
Newton didn’t hear her. “It must be an invention,” he said.
I’d never really understood what inventions were. But I knew that my girl, Lucy, and her grandma spent a lot of time making them in the barn. It’s the only place on the farm I’m not allowed to go.
Newton wrinkled his nose. “It has a very suspicious smell.”
I sniffed. Rotting hamburger, pigeon poop, pond slime. But that was just Titch. She always smelled that way. Newton tapped his paw on the shiny box. “I reckon this is a control panel of some kind.”
I pretended I knew what a control panel was and gazed out the window. Swarms of tiny sparkles rushed past in the darkness. It was nighttime already. “How did that happen?” I wondered out loud. “We haven’t even had dinner yet.”
“Dinner?” said Titch. “Now you’re talking, buddy. Where are the snacks in this machine?” She charged at the door of the small refrigerator. Clang! Titch glared at the door, which now had a head-shaped dent in the middle. “Why do humans make these things so hard to open?” She flopped down under the table. “I’m taking a nap. Wake me when we get to Miami.”
“Miami?” I asked.
“Yup! That’s where I ended up last time I hitched a ride. I was on the run from the dog pound. Hid in the back of a taco truck…”
My stomach rumbled for real this time. “Will there be tacos in Miami?”
“Tacos, burgers, pizzas…” Titch drooled as she spoke. “You name it. I know all the best trash cans in the city. Then we’ll go to the beach for ice cream.”
“Would you two pleeeease quit talking about food?” wailed Maia. “I don’t feel so good.” She was curled up on the little bed, her puffball ears flopped over her face. “I need my travel sickness pills. And I have to get home. I’m going to a pamper party with Ayesha tonight.”
Ayesha is Maia’s human lady. My tail didn’t know whether to wag or droop. Miami sounded fun. But I needed to get home, too. Who was going to play Frisbee with Lucy if I wasn’t there?
“I don’t have time to go gallivanting off to Miami!” grumbled Trevor from under the bed, where he was checking for rats. “Old Jim lives on his own. I have to fetch his newspaper and take him for a walk…”
All of a sudden, the van began to shake and bounce. Pots and tools crashed from the shelves. Drawers popped open. Clothes and boots flew out. “Take cover!” Trevor yelled. “We’re under attack!”
There was a boom and a snap of metal. The doors rattled. A crack shot across the windshield.
“Newt!” I shouted. “Do something!”
“I’m trying!” Newton jabbed at the buttons on the shiny box. The lights flashed like crazy. “Nothing’s working!”
Text copyright © 2019 by Helen Moss
Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Misa Saburi