The Dog Tales #6, You're Always Welcome Here - By Lillow Mi

   Tadfast Chop, herself a Dog of the Chihuahua persuasion, could not help but view the antics of Spike and his gang with mild trepidation. They were all denizens of Gladstar Farm but with different duties requiring different skills which gave a higher status to some, within the manor at least, or so Tadfast liked to believe. As head chef, in charge of a constantly bustling kitchen and a staff of hundreds, possibly millions, depending on the season, she was of clear importance, while Spike and that scruffy gang of his, well, not so much. Little of value that she could see, she mused, shaking her head, and smiling wryly. She thought of Rover, a ne'er-do-well living in Holly's Palatial Estate next door to Jack Ass, the meadow's keeper. Now Jack's doing a skillful job deserving of merit, she thought with a smile. But that Rover? Just a gangly brown-haired hound with big floppy ears and a serious expression. Vacant was how she saw it but everyone else called it serious, so whatever. She shrugged both mentally and physically. And how about that dandy Fido? She smiled as she began chopping a large pile of vegetables. Good looking guy who doesn't seem as disreputable as the others but still, a rather cavalier sort. And Alley! Do they even know he's not a Dog? They make so much racket with their howling who could tell? Why the Witches had to put up a magic noise blocker that sent their howls into outer space, but she doubted the Dogs knew about that. Tadfast had to laugh thinking of it. Despite everything, she loved that gang. 

   While Tadfast was ruminating about the Bulldog gang's indiscretions, Spike was himself embarking on a new mission with his friend Rover. He'd promised to show Fido their magical kitchen or cornucopia as Spike liked to think of it and Rover was glad to join him. Alley had been poking about and now surreptitiously joined them. Neither would have been surprised had they noticed. 

   They were about halfway across the meadow, the usual arrival point of Fido who normally came bounding across from wherever he came bounding from to here, right here usually, except that today, Fido, in fact, did not come bounding. Spike stopped abruptly while Rover continued, glancing back curiously before slowly coming to a stop. He did not turn around but rather twisted his head around to watch Spike. 

   “Where's Fido?” Spike asked, looking around. He assumed no one knew when no one answered and sat down to think about it. “So which way does he come bounding from?” he finally asked Rover but included Alley by glancing at him. 

   Rover looked around, then turned around and sat, facing Spike. “Seems like off thataway,” he said, waving with his nose to the east. 

   “Yeah thataway,” Alley said with uncertainty. “Pretty sure,” he added. 

   Spike growled low like he does and looked to the east. There was a broad expanse of meadow and beyond that were trees that marked the beginning of the forest where the eastern perimeter trail ran. Probably where Fido would be coming from, hopefully anyway, because beyond that was the Glamoury Wall, which he remembered vaguely from when he'd first arrived on the farm, having passed  through it, but since then he'd heard terrible things, things he believed despite having passed easily through it before. “Thataway, huh?” he asked. 

   “Pretty sure,” Rover answered. 

   They were stopped on their quest to visit Tadfast Chop who, perhaps for that very reason, had been thinking of them. Spike and Rover had hopes of fresh baked Dog biscuits while Alley hoped for a bowl of cream. Now, however, their plans had gone awry, all because today was also the day that Spike had promised to show Fido their treasure producing kitchen, only Fido was not here. 

   Spike continued to growl low and glance nervously to the east. “Well, there's nothing for it then. Let's go pick him up,” Spike snarled, starting to walk resolutely eastward. 

   Rover looked askance at this and said, “You know, now 'at I think on it, seems like he comes from thataway.” He nodded his nose toward Tadfast's kitchen to the west.   

   Spike stopped and looked back. “Thataway?” he asked. 

   “Seems like it,” Rover said, looking at the ground. 

   Alley, who had gone trotting ahead of Spike, turned back, and yelled, “No, you said this away!” 

   Spike looked back and forth between them with a darker look each time. Then, as he sat fuming, Alley sat waiting and Rover sat sitting, a figure appeared from the north, leaving the main drive by the Golly Orchard, and bounding their way. It was, of course, Fido. 

   “Hey guys!” he called as he neared. “Thanks for waiting for me. Gosh, running late today and I'm so excited to meet Tadfast and her magical kitchen that, well, things came up! Wouldn't you know it?” 

   “You would,” Alley agreed, strolling over. Then with a wink at Rover, “We didn't mind waiting though. Gooda see you!” 

   “Righto then,” Rover barked, “Let's do it!” He turned and led the way to Tadfast's kitchen with a bemused Spike following. 

   Spike felt a lot better when Tadfast, smiling indulgently, presented them with a large bowl of freshly baked biscuits and Alley with a large saucer of cream. 

   “Wow, this is even better than Sweet Loretta's,” Fido enthused. “Thanks Tadfast!” 

   “You can call me Taddy like the others do Fido. You're always welcome here.” 

   Rover and Spike beamed at their friend as Alley lapped up cream.

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