SCHOOL OF MIXED BREEDS 1: MEETING THE MISFITS

Once there was a parallel world, which was lived in and dominated by dogs. The dogs served many roles like those they would have trained to do in the human world, but they also had some jobs that were a little more human-like, like politics, religion, free thought, science, and teaching. And it is at one of these puppy schools that this story takes place.

The little puppies stood or sat around at their classes, the happy ones wagging their tails, and the sad ones putting their tails between their legs. The teachers were good hearted and effective at their job, and many of them believed in the rhyme, "Rubber balls are cool, rubbers balls are fun, they get you playing out in the sun!" This was particularly the motto of Mr. Shepherd, a very nice teacher who tried to make his class have as much fun as possible, especially on field trips.

On this particular day, as the puppies went out to recess, where they played with doggy toys and generally roughhoused with each other, three puppies stood in a corner of the recess yard, feeling like the odd ones out. This was because they were mixed breeds, and they didn't feel very confident in front of the other puppies. One was a male Puggle (Pug/Beagle) named Lucky, another one was a male Chug (Chihuahua/Pug) named Chad, and the third was a female Cheagle (Chihuahua/Beagle) named Ruby, due to the slight reddish tint of her fur.

Lucky was a cute little Puggle in his parents' opinion, but he had an embarrassing problem; he was allergic to the outdoors, meaning that if he breathed in too much fresh air, he would have a sneezing fit. It made him a little afraid of outdoor recess! Chad, in turn, always needed to fit in, but he also preferred his solitude, meaning that he needed to be free to be by himself as often as he could. Sometimes he got himself in trouble in class on purpose, so that he would have some quiet time to recharge while cleaning the cafeteria dishes. And Ruby was a Cheagle whose Chihuahua traits were stronger than her Beagle traits; she enjoyed sniffing things out like a Beagle, but she preferred to stay out of danger and live an easy life like a Chihuahua. When danger or reality threatened to disrupt her peace, she'd whimper like a puppy separated from her entire family, which was how she often felt when away from her mother.

Some of the other puppies noticed them keeping away from the other dogs and laughed at them. One Bulldog said to Lucky, "Hey, Pugsley! Must be fun to watch us purebreds play around here, huh!"

"Yeah," shouted a smart Rottweiler puppy, "You guys are odder than the worst bet-hedging theories! Why don't you go back to where you came from and pee in your fur 'till your mommies coddle you like the babies you are?"

Chad looked very uncomfortable. Ruby whimpered nervously. Lucky got angry and started to yell a reply, "Why don't you purity hogs go back where you came from inst-" He was cut off by a sneeze, followed by another, and then another.

The bullies laughed mockingly. A female Doberman named Emerald, the runt of her litter, trotted into the circle of bullies and made a little snarl. "Leave them alone, you bullies! My goodness, you really are the parasites of Millennia Elementary Dog School, always throwing your weight around like you're kings of the recess field!"

The bullies growled at her, but more mockingly than threateningly. "You're one to talk, Emerald!" they said, "Look at you, you puny little runt! You're small enough to be the parasite yourself. Get lost!"

But Emerald wouldn't be swayed. So finally, the bully puppies gave up and went on their way. One of them muttered, "Yeah, let's see the runt defend the silly nincompoops. That'll be a sight to see!"

Emerald walked over to Lucky, Chad, and Ruby. "Hey, sorry about the way they treated you guys," she said, "I get it all the time, too."

Ruby looked unhappy. "Maybe, but just look at us, Emerald. We're a bunch of mixed breed misfits, no good at the kinds of things dogs are good for, and while you're a runt, you're an incredibly brave runt."

"Yeah," said Chad, "You can stand up to those bullies without a problem. But we're too weak to deal with this! What can we do about this?"

Emerald looked at them with interest. "Hey, look, just because I'm a purebred doesn't mean I have everything easy. Purebreds and mixed breeds alike can have things hard or easy. Plenty of other purebreds have problems too, you know. I'll bet some of them even wish they were more like you guys, misfits or not!"

Lucky blinked and sneezed. "Really? I find that hard to believe. Nobody wants to be our friend around here, nobody at all. How will we three weaklings deal with the pressures of school? You tell us."

Emerald said, "Stop calling yourselves weaklings! You're not that weak! If I can get through the first several days of this school year, so can you. You're stronger than you think, and I hope you learn that someday. But as for having no friends, that's no problem for me. I was going to say that I'd like to be friends with you guys."

Lucky, Chad, and Ruby looked at him in surprise. "You do?" they said in succession.

"You bet I do, yeah!" said Emerald, offering an enthusiastic "Woof!" and tackling Lucky playfully to prove her point.

"Hey, get off me!" said Lucky, unprepared for this sudden show of affection.

"Aw, party pooper!" Emerald barked in laughter, "Come one, let's have some fun together, the four of us! And who knows, you just might make another friend or two today!"

Overjoyed to have a friend who cared, the three mixed breed puppies ran with Emerald to play on the equipment and chase each other from one end of the yard to the other. Lucky couldn't altogether stop his sneezing, but he still enjoyed his runs, especially since he had brief breaks from the fresh air in one of the tunnels. Chad and Ruby jumped through hoops happily, and Emerald showed them how to dangle from tree branches without falling. When the recess bell finally rang, they were tuckered out, but felt like they had achieved their first milestone in grade school.

"What do you think, Chad?" asked Ruby as they approached the doors.

"I think Emerald's going to be the best friend we can have," he said.

Lucky was about to speak his own praises of Emerald, but he sneezed yet again. "Gotta get out of this fresh air before my nose explodes!" he muttered like the mutt he was.