By Rachel H Grant
In their favourite corner of the room, Billy and Teddy slept in the sun chasing mice through a daisy-dotted meadow. Life was good.
They had forgotten their previous adventures, the notion of time travel a muted memory in a dream from afar. They had no time to think about it anyway. Their lives had awoken in to something new, every day an adventure, and all because of their new house companion Marty the Golden Labrador. Through his young and curious eyes they saw the world afresh. And it had become a better, a more exciting place.
Billy yawned in his sleep, then stirred, immediately alert. Teddy raised his head.
“I wondered when you two would wake up.” It was Ambrose, the large ginger cat from their previous adventures. What did he want now?
“I have never met two so reluctant heroes,” admonished Ambrose. “But it’s not just you two I need today, it’s Marty too!”
Marty ran in to the room, and barked nervously. “Tell him to stop that!” shrieked Ambrose. “My ears are so sensitive. A drawback of time travel, I fear.”
Marty sniffed Ambrose, and barked again. “It’s okay, we know this cat,” reassured Billy. “But life does get more interesting when he is around! What do you want us to do now?”
“It’s very simple. Marty is a Labrador, the classic guide dog. The instinct to help is strong in him. We need him to help America’s first guide dog! He must convince her to make the relationship work, to try her hardest to be a good assistance dog. Because she has doubts you see. But she is so important. Buddy the German Shepherd will be the first of many; the future depends on her! Your task: to take Marty to meet her, and to impart his Labrador wisdom to her. He instinctively knows how to guide: he needs to help her. If he succeeds, history proceeds as it should. If not, history, the history we know, may be rewritten.”
Teddy looked dubious. “How can you possibly know this?”
Ambrose arched his spine aggressively. “Do not doubt me! When I first recruited you two, I knew you were special, reluctant heroes as you are. So I did a bit of research, looked at articles from across time in the ancient cat library of the cosmos. But more of that on a later adventure. As A Cat Elder, I am allowed access to this library, which spans time, and all times. I have searched for traces of you two throughout history. I am happy – or is that afraid? – to say that the mentions are innumerable. You appear so many times I almost wonder whether there is another cat duo, somewhere. You achieve an unbelievable amount of success. But history is fluid, it can change course. It is my job to keep you on track! I will make sure that the important missions do indeed take place. Nurturing the first American guide dog is one of those missions.”
Teddy and Billy look at each other, resignation burning a hole through their eyes. “I guess it’s our time to shine once more,” muttered Teddy sarcastically.
“Let me tell you about Morris Frank and his guide dog Buddy, the first guide dog in the United States and one of the most memorable and acclaimed dogs in history! Marty has a major task: to teach her Labrador empathy and service.”
A half hour later, Billy and Teddy had convinced Marty to join them in the tiny time capsule. It was a squeeze, but the journey did not take long. The joys of 21st century time travel! “By the way,” asked Billy. “When are our humans going to try time travel?”
“They won’t,” said Teddy. “It’s not been invented yet.”
Then they were there, in a Swiss village in the year 1928 confronting a beautiful female German Shepherd. Marty fell slightly in love straight away.
“Hello Buddy. You are important,” he whispered. “That’s why we are here.”
“My name is Kiss,” she replied.
“But you are to become Buddy. A pioneer, fate has chosen you to leave a great legacy to be remembered forever. Seeing dogs. You will be the first in the US.”
“Me? How can I become such a pioneer? I am just an ordinary dog!”
“Let me teach you.”
Billy and Teddy stared in disbelief. How had young mischievous Marty turned in to this master teacher?
“You and Morris Frank are the pioneers at the heart of guide dog history. Blind persons all over the world will thank you, your legacy lasts forever.”
“I want to see the future! I want to see what we achieve!”
Marty looked at Billy and Teddy for help.
“Time to see Ambrose!” they cried in unison.
So it was back to their house. “What are you doing?” shrieked Ambrose. “Why is Buddy here? She has no place in the future, she is a dog of her own time!”
“She wants to see proof of her legacy.”
“Ah.” Ambrose nodded thoughtfully. “A clever dog. Let’s show her the statue of Morris Frank and Buddy in Morristown, New Jersey, USA. Billy and Teddy – you are going to the land of the free, the continent of big dreams and even bigger dreams come true.”
“Cool,” said Teddy. “When will this assignment be over?”
“Don’t be so impatient!” scolded Ambrose. “Perhaps I should show you your future statue too?”
“We have a statue!” breathed Billy.
So it was off to the US. Buddy was overjoyed. “It is me! In stone!” If dogs could cry, this is when the tears would fall. But Buddy only barked lightly, joy and disbelief forming a ribbon in her eyes and a knot in her heart that would never now be broken.
“I must get back! There is a mission to get on with!”
“And remember every day,” said Marty. “Remember these words. They will echo through canine eternity, and will sound – silently – to so many blind persons. And in your eyes, are my eyes. And in your legs, is my strength. Man’s best friend, a soldier by my side.”
“And in your eyes, are my eyes,” repeated Buddy.
“What about our statue?” whined Billy.
Back in their house, Ambrose was waiting. “Is Buddy returned to her time?”
“Yes and ready for her destiny. History will never forget her.”
“Excellent! So I suppose you want to see your statue now? I can’t tell what you do to deserve it. Spoilers! Suffice it to say, there are many adventures still ahead of you. I will programme the capsule to the year 2163, to a safe corner of the British Museum no less!”
“Yes! You are heroes! Please don’t let it go to your heads.”
Then they were there, overwhelmed and overjoyed in equal measure. The British Museum was alive with action, people like blood pulsing through its veins, a non-ending stream of noise and energy. Billy, Teddy and Marty hid behind a statue as they stared in astonishment. Then they cautiously approached the statue further down the hall, two cats and a dog staring down at them in brilliant bronze.
Children stopped and stared. “It’s them!” They pointed at the statue in excitement. “It’s them!”
The time travelling trio reached the statue, disbelief dimming their vision. Two small cats and a Labrador, larger than life. Could it really be them? As they could not read, they did not know what the plaque at the statue’s foot proclaimed. Perhaps it was better that way. Spoilers!
People continued to stare. “Let’s go,” muttered Billy nervously.
They raced back to their time travel pod. But when they arrived behind the large statue where it was hidden, there were two black cats and a chocolate Labrador there, staring at them in what looked like awe.
“We knew we would find you!” squealed one of the cats. “We knew there were another us!”
“Who … who are you?” muttered Teddy dumbly. A strange day had turned even stranger.
“We are time travellers, just like you! From the stories in the cosmic cat library, we suspected we weren’t the only ones. It is recorded that on this day a cat duo and dog are seen in the British Museum. We came to find out – is it us. Or you!”
“I am Leo,” said the other cat. “This is my brother, Bruno. We live in the year 2068 but have travelled all over time. There is a large Egyptian spotted cat, Ramses, who directs all our adventures. He is one of the cat elders.”
“We have a cat elder too, his name is Ambrose,” said Billy. “Hey, why don’t we do an adventure together!”
“Why not indeed!” laughed Leo. “Where and when do you live?”
They entered the time capsule and Billy showed them their home coordinates. “We will be sure to get you when we know our next adventure!”
Meanwhile Marty sniffed the new Labrador in excitement, as friendship ignited in his heart. “This is Smartie,” said Leo. “Labradors are great companions, whether at home or travelling through time, as I am sure you have found out!”
Then it was goodbyes in cat style, head butts and purrs. Soon, the intrepid trio were back home. But something had changed in their hearts, forever.
There was another time-travelling trio. Future adventures lit their eyes with inner fire. Where would these adventures end?
But for now, as the sun shone, it was time for another nap. After all, time travel was an exhausting business. They did not tell Ambrose about their encounter. Spoilers! One day he would find out.
As they slept in the sun, the future changed around them. But they did not notice. It was time to sleep.
Far away, in the US, a new statue to Morris Frank and Buddy was erected. In another dimension, in a far off heaven, Morris Frank looked down on Earth, as tears formed in his unearthly eyes. Buddy sat beside him, a friend to the end.
The words beneath the statue read:
“And in your eyes, are my eyes. And in your legs, is my strength. Man’s best friend, a soldier by my side.” Words that would echo through eternity, and bring light to the dark of blindness. For dogs are man’s best friend forever.