Hey, everyone, and welcome to a new story of mine called The Church Dog. This idea came to me while I was thinking of new story ideas. At first, I thought one with only cats would be good...but I've liked dogs longer, so I thought this would do as well. Below is the summary of The Church Dog.

"Lupo is a wolf-dog living in the Smoky Mountains. Having been raised by cats nearly all his life, he spends his days roaming the town and forest with his best friend Daryl, an orange tabby tom. But even if he likes his life in the mountains, he feels like he doesn't have much of a purpose except being the cats' guard dog.

"But one day, Lupo heads into a church for a dare when he stumbles across a preacher. In the church, the preacher teaches him about the basics of Christianity, and he becomes inspired. Finding his new purpose in life, he travels with Daryl all around town, trying to teach other dogs and cats about Christianity. But Lupo and Daryl see threats from a turf war between dogs and cats, a boss dog who's determined to keep Christianity away, and a ghostly black dog haunting their pawsteps.

"Can Lupo succeed in his mission to teach other dogs about Christianity? Or will he fall to the paws of the unbelievers?"

I hope you like it. If there's anything wrong with this story, please let me know, and I'll fix it. Constructive criticism is always welcome as long as you're polite about it.

Publishing Date: October 23, 2017

Enjoy!

...

Chapter 1

Fall had descended upon the valley in the Smoky Mountains. The mountains were alive with tree leaves, sprouting many colors of red, orange, and yellow. Even the weather had gotten cooler, a little cooler than it normally would be. After the long and harsh summer that had its tight grip on the mountains, autumn was like taking a breath of fresh air.

In the woods, two animals were walking toward town. One of these animals was larger, a stray wolf dog hybrid with black-and-tan fur. Even humans would mistake him for a purebred German shepherd if it wasn't for the fact that his eyes were a bright amber. The other was smaller, a stray tomcat with orange tabby fur the color of some autumn leaves.

As they walked along the forest trail, the orange cat looked up at the wolf dog. "Lupo, I hope you know that storytime's boring. There's gotta be a better way to start a weekend than listening to some nuts talking about how 'good and grand' things used to be."

At this, Lupo gave him a stern look. "Oh really?" he asked. "Daryl, I wouldn't be talking like that if I were you. You remember the trouble you caused at the last few storytimes?"

"Name one thing I did something wrong," Daryl snapped.

"Let's see...how about I give you a short list? First, you almost ate that human girl's rabbit when it escaped from its cage," Lupo began.

"It's not my fault they fed it too much!" Daryl retorted.

Lupo continued on as if he didn't listen, "Second, you kept marking your scent on wherever the boss cat marked his territory."

Daryl rolled his eyes. "Come on, you know I'm too obvious. I paid another cat some food to do that for me," he said.

"But that was still you," retorted Lupo. "And finally, you told all the toms that there were plenty of females on the other side of the valley. You did that just to hog the rest of the females for yourself."

"You know how much the ladies love me," purred Daryl, swishing his striped tabby tail.

Lupo rolled his eyes. "Sometimes, you can be one big hairball," he muttered.

Daryl grinned. "But ya love me anyway," he said.

It was true. They were like brothers, and despite their species differences and arguments, Lupo still loved Daryl like a brother.

They had reached the edge of the trees, where they came to an empty parking lot. Several cats were gathered there, and Lupo smiled a bit. When he was a five-month-old puppy, he had escaped from an abusive owner and was adopted by these stray cats. Even though he slowly became one of them, they could not teach him to be a cat, and he learned to be a dog by watching and observing other dogs in town.

One of the cats, a calico, looked up and purred. "Hello there, Lupo," she called out to him. "I'm afraid you've missed the story, but I hope you can hear us talk about the story."

Daryl was about to object when Lupo gently held a large paw to his cat friend's mouth. "Sure," he said, wagging his tail. "That is, if Daryl doesn't mind and behave himself."

At this, Daryl rolled his eyes, but he didn't make any fuss. So Lupo sat in the middle of the crowd of cats, looking rather odd sitting among them, and Daryl stuck near his best friend. They heard cats chattering and meowing all around them, but when the calico molly got to the front again, they all began to quiet down.

"Now that storytime is over, can someone remind our missing guests what this story had been about?" the calico molly asked.

At first, no one spoke, and Lupo guessed that they wanted to be the ones to tell it. Then one cat finally spoke up, a young silver tabby.

"Dogs and cats used to live together," said the young molly. "They ate the same food and shared the same territory. But then the dogs started going more to the humans' side, while cats remained independent. So while dogs remain loyal to humans, cats would see them as inferior."

"And the great cat spirit, Felidae, granted all cats nine lives," added a black tomcat, standing tall. "He had the power to communicate with ancient felines of the past. So that's how cats got to live longer than dogs."

Despite the arrogant tone this cat had, Lupo knew that it wasn't a jab at him. Nevertheless, he joined the applause at his words, for this cat seemed to have a way with words. Though he wagged his tail and accidentally whacked a few cats in the face, that did not stop them.

The silver tabby molly purred to the black tom, "You're so smart and tough, Cassius. I wouldn't be surprised if you became boss cat one day."

Cassius puffed his chest out. "Thanks, Julie," he said with an arrogant mew.

Daryl snorted softly beside him. "He doesn't look that tough to me," he mumbled.

But Cassius glared around at him for that comment. Out loud, he declared rather pompously, "Hard to believe that Daryl here is considered part of us when he is foolish. Felidae was a great and powerful being, while Daryl is nothing but an idiot. With an attitude like his, he would have got us caught by animal control. Daryl is a disgrace to all cats."

Almost all of the cats started laughing, and though Daryl glared at them, he lowered his eyes and ears in shame. Even if Lupo felt that Daryl could have stayed quiet, this bullying was too much to bear. Suddenly, unable to take it anymore, Lupo let out a loud bark, bringing all the laughter and purring to a startled halt.

"That's enough, all of you," he barked, looking around at the cats. "Is this bullying and name-calling what Felidae and the feline ancestors want to see? This shows none of the dignity and honor that the cats of old times would want to see. And what's wrong with being different?" His gaze hardened as he continued, "Look at me: I'm part wolf and part dog. So if you want to pick on anyone, pick on me, not on Daryl."

Nobody spoke, and even though Cassius looked defiant, he said nothing either. He did hear one cat mutter "Trust a wolf dog to stick up for that nutjob", but that cat was quieted by the calico molly telling the story. And for the rest of the nightly gathering, no one talked to either the orange tabby or the wolf-dog.

Once the gathering was over, the cats started splitting up. Some went back to their owners' homes, while others returned to their alleys or the forest. Lupo waited sat by Daryl's side, keeping watch for any bullies who would go after his friend. The others soon were gone, and Lupo was about to leave with Daryl when the calico molly telling the stories approached him.

"Good job on calming the rest of these cats down," the calico molly told him. "Things would've gotten worse if you hadn't stepped in like you did. You really are one of us."

"What about Daryl?" Lupo asked. "Isn't he one of you as well?"

The calico molly looked over at Daryl, who was walking away. "He is, but he can be rather boastful and arrogant," she said. "But with you helping him out, he may prove to be a good cat."

Lupo couldn't help but smile from affection for his best friend. "Oh, he is a good cat," he said. "But I guess you're right...how can I help him?"

"You're his friend, right?" the calico cat replied. "Talk it out with him."

With that, she followed the other cats back to their resting places.

Lupo figured that she had a point. He would have to talk to Daryl about how to improve himself, but tonight was not the night; they were both sleeping. Yawning, the wolf-dog and the cat headed off to the edge of the forest to sleep.

To be continued...