Excerpt for Purple Pup by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Story and Cover Art

By: Karl Steam

Interior Illustrations

By: Joshua Lagman

To the Reader:

May you find a place where you belong.

To the Students That Voted:

Thanks for helping to choose the cover for this book.

You all have a great sense of style.

(Anyone who would like to vote in the future

should ask their teacher to subscribe to my mailing list.)

To Seth Godin:

I could have made Lav any color,

but chose purple as a tribute to Purple Cow.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Text and illustrations © 2016 Karl Steam

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any other information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.

ISBN: 978-163578-0001-7

Printed and bound in the United States

First Edition

Current contact information for Karl Steam can be found at www.karlsteam.com

Part 1

The Escape

Chapter 1

Lav rolled in the shredded newspaper. A piece stuck to the fur on his back. He stretched his neck and tried to nip it off. Something ran past him. He saw a blur of green fur, then the paper was gone.

Lav sat up. Kama stood near him, wagging her tail, the paper in her mouth.

“Too slow,” she said, before running further away.

Lav yelped and chased after Kama. She ran past the rest of the puppies, lying in a pile. That’s all the others seemed to do these days, sleep.

Kama ran around the pen three times before he trapped her in a corner.

“You’re in trouble now,” Lav said. He pounced on Kama and bit her neck. Not a hard bite, a playful one, the kind dogs give when they’re wrestling with a friend.

Kama nipped him back. She forgot about the paper, which fell from her mouth back to the floor. The two pulled at each other’s ears and tumbled beside the metal bars that imprisoned them.

Kama stopped. She sat up and stared at the door.

“What is it?” Lav asked.

Kama held her ears higher than normal. “Someone’s coming.”

Lav listened. He couldn’t hear anything, but he did see Cryp lift his head from the top of the puppy pile. Cryp always slept on top.

“Food,” Kama said.

Cryp must have heard it too. He hopped off the other sleeping puppies, ran to the empty bowls lying by the front of the cage, and barked. Kama and Lav also ran to the front.

Cryp and Kama were always the first to know if someone was coming to the room. They had a lot of other things in common too. They were colored the same, each having patches of green, black, and brown on their fur. They were the only dogs in the room with more than one color on their coat. The others were solid colors. Two were blue, two were green, two red, two orange, two yellow, and Lav was a purple dog along with Violetta.

Chapter 2

Sometimes the humans with white coats took Cryp and Kama out of the pen. They even brought them outside. Lav didn’t understand what it meant to be outside. He only knew that Kama wagged her tail every time the humans came to get her. Sometimes, she even yelped and ran to the front of the cage to greet them.

While outside, the humans played games with her and Cryp. The humans liked to hide things. If Cryp or Kama could smell where something was hidden and sit next to it, they would get a treat.

It made Lav jealous. He wanted the humans with white coats to play games with him too. They usually ignored him. Whenever someone did pick him up, it was to poke him with a needle. Lav learned to growl and bark if they came close. He used to bite too. He still tried to bite, but they had learned to hold his mouth shut while forcing him onto the table.

Lav turned his head to the side. He could finally hear wheels rolling down the hallway. Eventually, a man, pushing a supply cart, came through the door. He had dark hair, except for a few areas of gray near the temples. The man seemed to wear the same dark blue clothes each day. A large ring of keys hung from his belt, jingling as he worked.

The others woke up. Soon all fourteen puppies were barking and pawing at the pen’s bars. Lav smelled the bucket of dog food on the cart. It made his tail wag harder.

“Hello little ones,” the man said. “You have so much energy today!”

This man usually talked to the puppies, something the people in white coats never did. Lav couldn’t tell what he was saying, but knew his

words were gentle. This human was also the only one who fed them, cleaned, and sprinkled fresh paper around the pen. He was the only person that Lav was fond of: the only human he trusted.

Chapter 3

The man dumped food into the first bowl. Most of the puppies pushed and shoved to get a spot to eat. Some of the more aggressive puppies, growled and bit anyone who got in their way.

Lav and Kama had learned that it was better to wait for one of the last bowls to be filled. They got just as much food without the hassle of a crowd.

At least, that’s usually how feedings worked. After emptying food into the first two bowls, the man’s phone rang.

“Hello...How big of a mess?”

“Come on, just pour us some food,” Kama said.

The man set the food down. The handle clanked against the side of the bucket. He pulled a mop from his cart and left the room. Kama and Lav barked, hoping he would come back. Then they waited and waited. Finally, the other puppies finished the food in the bowls and barked too. When the man did return, he gave the dogs the rest of the food, but there was only enough left to fill the same two bowls he had filled earlier.

All the puppies tried to squeeze around the bowls. This time, Lav struggled to get a spot too. He swallowed each mouthful quickly, so he could take another bite before it was gone.

Pain shot through his leg. “Ouch,” Lav yelped.

“Out of the way,” Cryp said, “or I’ll bite you even harder.”

“Knock it off. I’ve hardly eaten anything,” Lav barked. “Besides, you already had a lot.”

Wrinkles formed on Cryp’s nose as he flashed his teeth and growled.

“Lav, give him your spot,” Kama said.

She was the only puppy that bothered to lift her head from the bowls. The rest were too busy eating the dwindling supply of food.

“But, I was here first,” Lav whined.

Cryp lunged forward. This time he sank his teeth deep into Lav’s front leg.

Lav shrieked. The sound finally caught the attention of the man cleaning the pen.

The man rushed over. “That’s enough you two.”Lav limped away from the other puppies. Blood matted the fur on his front leg, which throbbed every time he put too much weight on that paw. He didn’t focus on the pain for long though. The man not only picked Lav up, but cradled him in his arms before stepping outside the pen.

Lav was thrilled to finally leave the pen, but that changed as the man carried him out of the puppy room. Florescent lights brightened the ceiling panels. The floor and walls of the hallway were unnaturally white. Lav’s body grew tense as he realized the world is a lot bigger than he ever imagined.

Chapter 4

The man walked down the hallway. New smells tickled Lav’s nostrils. The strongest odors were from chemicals the humans used to keep the laboratory clean. The rest of the odors were musty, the way soggy paper on the floor of the puppy pen smells by the end of the day.

The man eventually carried him into another room. A sign above the door read, “Mini Room.” Against one side of the Mini Room was a long countertop, covered with cages. The opposite wall had fish tanks, stacked three aquariums high.

Two humans were there, the ones that stuck him with needles. The first, a woman, with light brown hair pulled back into a ponytail; the other, a bald man with dark skin.

“They’re mini alright, but wild as ever,” the bald human said. “Too wild to be pets.”

The woman poked a measuring stick into the cage. “Maybe there’s a way to tame them down a notch or two. I’ll run few scenarios through the computer model.”

The humans jumped backward as something inside hit the measuring stick and snarled.

“Dr. Bray, there was a bit of an accident,” the man holding Lav said. “A couple pups got into a fight.”

“Let’s take a look,” the bald human replied. He put some rubber gloves on and leaned over Lav, reaching out to touch the injured leg.

Lav growled. Dr. Bray didn’t stop. Lav tried to jump to the floor, but the man holding him tightened his grip. Lav squirmed and yelped. The only human he had ever trusted was trapping him.

Dr. Bray touched Lav’s leg and bent his ankle back and forth. A jolt of pain shot through his body. Lav shrieked.

“He’s alright,” Dr. Bray said, “but he’ll limp for a few days.”

The woman leaned over, peering into another cage. “Jim, don’t let this happen again. Those dogs are a lot harder to replace than you are.”

“Yes, ma’am, it won’t,” the man holding Lav said.

Lav glanced at the cages on top of the counter. The cages didn’t contain dogs, but animals he had never seen before.

“Hey, what are you staring at,” one of the creatures said. “What? Haven’t you seen a mini lion before?”

The creature looked like an adult lion, but was about the same size as Lav. The Lion paced back and forth in his cage.

“Relax Daniel,” a gorilla in the cage next to him said. The gorilla sat near the front of the cage and was as small as the lion. “He’s just a puppy. You know he’s never seen miniatures before.”

“You’re lucky these bars are between the two of us. Otherwise, I’d make sure you were limping on your other three legs too,” Daniel said.

The gorilla shook his head. “Don’t mind him. He acts like this with everyone.”

Chapter 5

Lav was relieved when Jim finished talking. He carried Lav back to the puppy room, and set him in the pen. A few minutes later, Jim carried cages into the room, fourteen cages to be exact. He stacked them one on top of the other, until there were two rows of seven. Then Jim began to put a puppy in each one.

Lav noticed that Jim left the pen’s door open just a crack as he carried two more puppies to the cages. His hands were too full to close it all the way.

“Let’s go,” Lav said. He limped toward the open door.

“What are you doing?” Kama asked.

“He’s going to lock us in cages, just like the animals I saw in the other room. We have to go now.” Lav glanced at Jim to make sure he wasn’t watching. “We can find someplace else to live,” he said.

Kama tilted her head to the side. “Where else would we live?”

“I don’t know,” Lav admitted. “The hallway...or maybe we can go outside, where the humans take you.”

“You can’t live out there,” Cryp said, as Jim returned to the pen and picked up two more puppies. “How will you eat if you don’t have humans to give you food?”

“I don’t know. I’ll worry about that later,” Lav said. “Come on, we have to go.”

Kama’s tail wagged. She ran in front of Lav and used her paw to pull the pen’s door open. She waited for Lav to get out before dashing into the hallway.

Lav hobbled as fast as he could. Just as he was leaving the room, he heard barking.

“Hey, human! Human,” Cryp shouted at Jim, who was setting another puppy into a cage. “They’re getting away. Over there.”

At first, Jim looked around the pen to see what was wrong. A moment later, he spotted Lav and Kama. “Oh no you don’t,” he said, and rushed after them.

Kama’s tail no longer wagged. “Hurry Lav.”

Lav quickened his pace, but his leg throbbed with pain. It felt like it would take him hours to make it down the long hallway.

“I can’t. Just go.”

Kama sprinted ahead, but stopped when the woman Lav had seen earlier walked out of a room in front of her. Kama turned around, but Jim blocked her retreat.

“Lav,” Kama whimpered. She crouched low to the floor. Her body shook. “We’re trapped.”

“Is there a problem?” the woman asked. She bent over, scooped Kama into her arms, and handed her to Jim.

“No ma’am. I was just putting the puppies into cages.” Jim carried Kama back toward the puppy room. “I’ll be back for you,” he muttered to Lav, as he passed by.

Lav would have made one more desperate attempt to get away, if it weren’t for the woman standing there. She crossed her arms, held her lips tight together, and waited.

Dr. Bray poked his head out of a room and called down the hallway. “Shannon, I want to know what you think of this.”

“Just a moment,” the woman said. Shannon glared at Lav with her intense, dark eyes. Finally, Jim returned.

“Thank you,” Jim said. He picked Lav off the floor and carried him to an empty cage.

Lav barked at Jim as he locked the metal door. First, Jim would not let him go and let the bald man touch his leg. Now, Jim was putting him in a cage, with hardly any room to play.

“I hate humans!” Lav shouted. “I hate them, hate them, hate them.”

“It’s alright,” Jim said, after hearing the tone of Lav’s bark. “Now you don’t have to worry about fighting. You’ll be safe in there.”

Chapter 6

Lav spun in circles. He nibbled on the cage bars. He jumped up and down, over and over again. He even barked at the fire alarm above the doorway, because it had a little red light that blinked on and off. He did just about anything he could think of to have fun inside of his cage. The problem was he wasn’t having fun. These were the only things he could do to keep himself from going crazy with boredom.

The other puppies were already used to their tiny cages. Even when they lived in the pen, they had slept most of the day. They didn’t care whether they had a lot of room to sleep or not.

Kama was still the only puppy that would play with Lav. Since Jim cleaned their cages every day and never seemed to remember which cage belonged to which puppy, they were always given a new neighbor. Some days, Lav and Kama were put right next to each other. Then, they would race from the front of their cage to the back, jump against the wall that they shared, and stick their paws into each other’s cages.

The problem was all the other days. When they weren’t close to each other, Kama stopped playing. She would lay in a corner for hours with her head resting on the floor. Sometimes, she fell asleep, but usually she just laid there.

Kama’s energy seemed to be disappearing. She began to act like the rest of the puppies. Lav felt like he was losing his only friend.

Chapter 7

It was just another boring day, when Kama lifted her head. Her ears turned forward.

“Someone’s coming,” she said. Kama stood up and poked her nose through the cage bars. Her nostrils flared with each sniff. “It’s the people in white coats, but...,” Kama listened. “There’s another human with them. I don’t recognize his voice.”

Soon, Lav could hear them too. When the humans entered the room, their muffled voices became a loud conversation.

The other puppies woke up and barked. Once they saw that the people did not bring food, they laid back down.

“Right over here Lieutenant,” Dr. Bray said.

Beside him stood Shannon and a man Lav did not recognize. Shannon and Dr. Bray wore white lab coats, like normal. The third person wore light green clothes with dark patches on the shoulders. He walked to Cryp’s cage and peered inside. Then he moved to Kama’s, always keeping his back abnormally strait.

“They were designed to be hunting dogs,” Shannon said, “but I think you’ll find their abilities to be useful for the military too.”

Kama backed away from the human. Her tail pulled between her legs and she pressed her body against the far corner of the cage.

“We’ve enhanced their sense of smell with DNA from rats and bears,” Dr. Bray said. “Cat traits and a few owl genes have helped with their hearing too.”

“Cats,” the man in green repeated.

Dr. Bray nodded. “Cats can hear a wider range of frequencies.”

“But it’s their sense of smell that we’ve improved the most,” Shannon said, “and their camouflaged fur is an extra bonus.”

“Lav, why are they looking at me?” Kama asked.

The stiff looking man leaned close to Kama’s cage and peered inside. “Hi girl. It’s O.K. I just want to see what you can do.”

At first Lav was scared, but then the man poked a finger into Kama’s cage and whistled. Lav ran forward. “Hey! Leave her alone,” he barked.

The man opened the door to her cage and reached in.

Help!” Kama screamed.

Chapter 8

Lav jumped against the front of his cage. He barked as viciously as he could. “Let go of her,” he shouted, as the man picked Kama up and held her in his arms.

Kama’s whole body shook. “Put me down! I don’t know you!”

Dr. Bray opened Cryp’s cage and took him out too.

“Shall we,” Shannon said, leading the others to the hallway.

“What are you going to do to us,” Kama whined.

“Run away,” Lav shouted.

Kama tried to wiggle out of the man’s arms, but couldn’t. “Help,” she cried, one last time.

“Kama! Bring her back!” Lav barked. He threw himself against the front of his cage over and over again.

“That dog has completely lost it,” one of the other puppies said.

“He’s going to hurt himself,” said another.

Lav didn’t care though. He didn’t trust humans, not the ones in white coats, and especially not the human with shoulder patches.

What if they hurt her, he thought. What if they never bring her back?

Lav was so angry he didn’t notice his cage sliding forward each time he lunged at the bars. Eventually, his cage slipped off the one underneath. It crashed against the floor, forcing the door to pop open.

Lav slowly sat up. His head ached. He could smell the blood seeping beneath the fur on his forehead. Realizing that he was free, Lav stepped out of the cage and ran into the hallway.

Chapter 9

Lav could hardly smell Kama’s scent and had no idea which direction she had gone. The only place he recognized was the room Jim had carried him into, the Mini Room.

He trotted down the hall and peeked around the doorframe. No humans were there.

“Hey, look who we have here,” Daniel said.

The gorilla was hunched over his food bowl, eating a thin slice of banana. He straightened his back when he noticed Lav. “How did you get out?” the gorilla asked, rushing to the front of his cage.

Lav stepped further into the room. “Did the humans come here with two puppies? One is named Kama. I think they’re taking her outside.”

“They walked past the door a few minutes ago,” the gorilla replied.

“Which way did they go?”

“Let us out, and we’ll show you,” the gorilla said. “We’ll go outside with you.”

Lav hesitated. He didn’t trust the creature.

“How can we help if we’re locked up?” the gorilla asked.

“Yea, let us out,” Daniel said.

Lav turned to the lion. “Why should I let you out? Last time I was here, you wanted to hurt me.”

“Don’t worry about him,” the gorilla interrupted. “Besides, you always seem to be hurt anyway.”

Lav lifted his front paw and wiped some of the blood off his forehead. He could hear humans talking in the hallway.

“Dog, listen to me.” the gorilla said quietly. “Soon the humans will see you and try to catch you. You’ll need all the help you can get.”

Lav stared at the gorilla. “Alright,” he finally said, stand back. I’m gonna knock your cage down. That’s how mine opened.”

The gorilla crawled to the back of his cage and gripped the bars.

Lav jumped off the ground and tried to grab the cage with his teeth. They just slipped across the front of the bars. Lav fell back to the ground.

“Try again dog.” the gorilla said.

Lav tried many times. Eventually, his teeth caught the bars enough to pull the cage forward. A few tries later, he pushed the cage further onto the counter by accident. Finally, his teeth locked onto one of the corners. As Lav fell back down, the cage was yanked off the counter. It smashed to the ground, but the door didn’t open.

“What was that,” a human’s voice said from the hallway.

“Congo? Are you O.K.,” Daniel whispered.

“I’m fine,” the gorilla said. He climbed to the front of his cage, which was now the ceiling, and grabbed the door. He shook the door as hard as he could. The whole cage rattled.

Daniel glared at Lav. “You’re a lousy liar,” he growled.

“No, it worked for my cage,” Lav insisted. “I swear. That’s how my door opened.”

Congo stopped shaking his cage and looked toward the doorway. “Hide. Someone’s coming. Go! Quick!”

Lav rushed to the far side of the room. He crouched beside an aquarium just as Jim appeared in the doorway.

“What’s going on in here?” Jim asked.


Lav looked into the aquarium. A miniature whale was swimming closer. A second whale rose to the surface. “Pssst” was the only sound the whale made as it blew air from its body. The air made water droplets spray from its back, but the droplets were not much larger than the fizz that rises from a can of soda.

“How did you get down there?” Jim asked, as he walked closer to Congo. He picked up the cage and set it back on the counter. After peering at the gorilla to make sure it was alright, Jim left the room.

Lav crept away from the aquarium. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. I need to find my friend.”

Congo’s head bowed, as if he were heartbroken. “I understand dog. Thanks for trying.”

“Thanks for trying? How about thanks for nothing,” Daniel said. “You could have killed him.”

Lav ran to the door. He peeked into the hallway. Jim was still walking away from the Mini Room. When Jim rounded a corner, Lav ran in the other direction.

“Wrong way,” Congo shouted. “Good luck,” he added, as Lav trotted past the Mini Room’s door, in the same direction Jim had gone.

Chapter 10

Kama and Cryp were carried outside. Shannon squirted a piece of cloth with a spray bottle, and held the cloth out for Cryp to smell.

“This is TNT powder mixed with water,” she explained. “Your average bomb sniffing dog can detect the scent when the solution is diluted at a one to three thousand ratio.” She could no longer hold back a smile. “This solution is a one-to-ten-thousand ratio.”

Cryp was set down after he finished smelling the cloth. He kept his nose close to the ground and slowly wandered away. When he found the scent trail, he followed it at a faster pace. It led him to a dozen overturned buckets. He sniffed them one at a time, until he knew which bucket had the strongest odor. Then he sat down next to it.

Shannon, who had been following Cryp, kicked the bucket over. Underneath was another piece of cloth.

“Good boy,” she said.

The Lieutenant raised his eyebrows. “Very impressive,” he said, while petting the fur on Kama’s back. “Can she smell as good as that one?”

“Yes, but we’ve been training her differently,” Shannon explained. “As you saw, Cryp has been taught to detect a variety of explosive chemicals. Kama on the other hand, is being trained as a search dog. We wanted to prove that our canines can be used for many different purposes.”

“How many more like this do you have?”

Right now, just these two,” Shannon said, “but if you give us enough time and money, the army can have more, a lot more.”

The Lieutenant nodded. “I’m going to assign two of my top dog handlers to this facility. Give them the freedom to change the training schedules

however they see fit.”

“No problem,” Shannon said.

“Good. They’ll be here tomorrow morning.”

Chapter 11

Lav looked in every room he passed by. The Kitten, Rabbit, Hamster, Bird, Plant, Mega, Glow, and Venomless rooms did not have Kama or any humans in them. When he reached the end of one hall, he walked down another. Eventually, Lav smelled something he recognized. It wasn’t Kama’s scent, but food.

The scent grew stronger as he trotted across the tiled floor. Finally, he found the room the food smell was coming from. Inside, there were dozens of brown cardboard boxes. Some kind of machine was running too. It filled the room with a continuous, rumbling noise.

Lav walked in and sniffed the boxes. They each seemed to be full of food. Some he recognized as the food the puppies were given and others seemed to be filled with foods he had never tried before. He ran from box to box, curious to smell what was in each one. The room seemed like the perfect place for him and Kama to live. No cages and plenty to eat.

“That’s all of it,” a human’s voice said.

Jim entered the room. A woman in a brown uniform was with him. Lav would have probably heard them coming sooner, but the loud noise had muffled their voices.

Lav ran to the far side of the room, through a giant doorway, and into what seemed to be a smaller, darker room. Inside, more boxes were stacked to the ceiling. The noise was a lot louder in there too. Lav darted behind one of the boxes. He wiggled as close to the cardboard as he could and flattened his body against the floor, which was cold and vibrated with the noise.

The humans walked up to the giant doorway.

“So, what are you guys hiding here anyways?” the woman asked, as she swung one large door closed.

The room grew darker.

“What makes you think we have something to hide?” Jim asked.

“Every time I make a delivery here, someone escorts me through the building.”

Jim paused as if he was going to lie, but knew she wouldn’t believe him. “Hopefully, in a few years we can tell people. For now, it’s top secret though.”

“Fair enough,” the woman said, and slammed the second door shut.

The room became completely dark. A while later, the constant noise grew louder. Lav felt the floor move more than before too. His body rocked back and forth. His side bumped into the box. Lav didn’t like the darkness. He didn’t like the moving floor. He wanted to leave the room. He had to leave

the room. Lav yelped and barked for help, but the doors did not open.

The delivery truck left the laboratory, which was a small building compared to the ones under construction nearby. Fenced in cows, sheep, and other animals watched the truck drive away. It sped along a road that wound through experimental gardens, fields, and orchards. Finally, the truck passed under an archway and entered the mountain forest that surrounded the valley.

Chapter 12

Dr. Bray pointed at the empty cage lying on the floor. “Look at that,” he said, as they were returning Kama and Cryp to the Puppy Room.

Shannon locked Kama in her cage and dashed into the hallway. “One of the puppies is out,” she shouted. “Start searching rooms!”

“Where’s Lav?” Kama asked when she realized what the commotion was about.

The other puppies had moved to the front of their cages to see why the humans were yelling. Their tails wagged due to the rare excitement.

“I think he ran away,” Violetta said.

“What do you mean, ran away?”

“He starting acting nuts, then knocked his cage over and left. He didn’t come back after that.

Kama sat down. “Lav wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t leave, not without telling me. I bet he’ll be back any minute.”

Kama listen for his footsteps. She sniffed the air, hoping he was still nearby. Only old scent remained.

Kama heard something. People were coming to the puppy room. They were coming faster than normal. She backed further into her cage.

“Let’s really test these puppies out,” Dr. Bray said. He rushed into the room and went straight for Cryp’s cage. Shannon was not far behind and swung Kama’s door open.

“What now?” Kama asked.

“I don’t know. I thought we were done,” Cryp replied.

To their amazement, the humans set them on the floor near Lav’s cage. Shannon pushed Kama forward, forcing her head inside.

“Get a good sniff,” Shannon said. “This is important.”

Dr. Bray pulled a cloth out of his pocket and wiped all around the bottom of Lav’s cage. “Here, let’s try this.” he said, and held the cloth out for Kama and Cryp to smell.

“They want us to find Lav,” Kama said.

“Is that what they’re freaking out about?” Cryp asked. “We already know his scent.” Cryp put his nose to the ground and followed Lav’s scent trail.

“Thata boy,” Dr. Bray said.

Kama sniffed too, following the same path as Cryp out of the room.

Chapter 13

In the darkness, Lav lost all sense of time. The cold floor made him shiver. The chilly air seeped through his fur. Everything seemed to shake, rock, and bounce. He felt sick. Just when it seemed like he would be trapped forever, the shaking stopped. The loud noise softened. A minute later, one of the giant doors opened. The brightest light Lav had ever seen flooded into the room. He squeezed his eyes shut.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Lav peaked around the box. The woman in brown uniform had climbed into the room and was walking closer. Lav wanted to run, but his body felt stiff. He waited for the woman to pick him up. Instead, she bent down, lifted a nearby box, and walked out the giant doors.

Lav sat up and waited. He crept toward the giant doors. Countless new scents overwhelmed his nose. For the first time, he saw the sky. He saw grass and trees too. There was even a bee flying from one dandelion to the next.

Lav peered outside. The delivery woman was knocking on the front of a house. He leaped to the ground and was startled by the way dirt felt beneath his feet. Lav looked for a new place to hide. A large building was not far away. He ran.

In some ways, the building reminded Lav of the laboratory. There were hundreds of animals inside, everything was white, and smelled sterilized.

Although Lav wasn’t eager to go back inside of a building, he was happy to be someplace that felt familiar. Anywhere outside of the moving

room and away from humans seemed like a good place to be.

Chapter 14

The closer Lav trotted to the animals the more he realized just how large they were. He sat and watched. They took turns walking into cages just large enough to fit a single creature. A machine slowly moved their cages so an empty cage would appear for the next creature to walk into.

“Look at that,” a cow said, and began to laugh.

Lav stood, realizing the cow was laughing at him.

“What happened to you?” a different cow asked.

“Looks like he ate a few too many grapes,” said another.

“Naw, that’s just what happens when they roll around in manure too long.”

“What do you mean?” Lav asked.

“Your fur,” a cow began, but could hardly stop chuckling. “It’s purple.”

After realizing that these creatures must not be that smart, Lav decided to look for a place to hide. The problem was, wherever he went in the building, there were cows there to laugh at him. Soon, he found himself in the center of the machine that was slowly making the creatures’ cages move. Their cages spun in a circle around him and they were teasing him from all different directions.

“Is that what happens to animals when they eat too much people food?”

“No, that’s what anyone looks like after whiffing one of Buttercup’s farts.”

The cows stomped their feet, threw their heads into the air, and laughed.

“What’s your guys’ problem?” Lav barked. “Haven’t you seen a purple dog before?”

This just made them laugh even louder.

“Come on dog, stop it. My udders are full,” a cow giggled, then stopped to catch its breath. “It hurts too much to laugh.”

“Seriously dog, what happened to you? Did you fall in paint or something?”


“Lick your fur! Prove it,” another bellowed.

Lav licked the fur on the front of his leg.

“Holy human!” one shouted. “It’s dried on already.”

“What a freak,” another said. “There’s something seriously wrong with you.”

Lav looked at his fur, then back at the cows. Starting to feel hurt by their comments he hurried out of the building.

Chapter 15

Kama and Cryp led the humans to the door of the Mini Room. They didn’t go in. It was clear that Lav’s scent also led right back out. They continued down the hallway and into the truck loading station.

“That food sure smells good,” Cryp said, referring to all the boxes in the room.

Kama sniffed the floor, and then sniffed the boxes. “He must have walked all over the room,” she said. “It’s like he was smelling every single box. I can’t tell which trail is the freshest.”

Cryp and Kama wandered from box to box trying to figure out where Lav had last walked. At one point, Kama followed his trail to where the delivery truck had been parked, but since the large garage door was closed, she thought it was a wall and that her nose was mistaken.

“Stupid dogs,” Shannon said. “They’re just attracted to the food inside the boxes. There’s nothing in here.”

Shannon and Dr. Bray picked the puppies up and brought them back to their cages.

Chapter 16

Lav ran across the countryside the rest of the day. All the other animals stared and snickered at him, just like the cows had. He found red chickens that had yellow chicks. He saw ducks with green on their heads. There were blue jays and blue birds. He found an orange cat and pink pigs, but none of the animals he saw were purple. Maybe the others were right. Maybe he was a freak.

The outside world was a harsher place than he had imagined. He not only wanted to go back to the Puppy Room, but would have gladly gone back inside of a cage. The problem was, he didn’t know where the Puppy Room was anymore. He was lost.

Lav slowly walked into a barn as the first stars appeared for the night. There were other animals there too. They whispered to one another.

“Who is that?”

“What is that?”

“I’ve never seen a dog that color before.”

“Are you sure it’s a dog?”

Lav began to cry. He was overwhelmed with the whispering and everything else that had happened. The hay Lav walked across felt soft under his feet. It reminded him of the paper shreds that used to cover the floor of the puppy pen. It was the only comforting thing he had experienced all day.

Lav stuck out his tongue and yawned. He was tired of the laughing, tired from running, tired from the small room he had been trapped in, tired of worrying about Kama, and tired of not knowing where he was. Lav snuggled into the hay, curled his body, and cried himself to sleep.

Chapter 17

“They’re still looking for him,” Congo said, as humans searched the Mini Room a ninth time.

Daniel continued to lay on his side. He didn’t bother to lift his head. “Just go to sleep already.”

“You don’t get it,” Congo said. “If they’re still looking, it means the purple dog got away.”

“Yea and we’re still here,” Daniel groaned.

Congo grasped the bars on his cage. “But if he got away, that means it really is possible.”

“What’s possible?”

“It means there’s a way out of here.”

Shannon was on her hands and knees in the Mini Room. She was looking under every chair and table, when Dr. Bray came in.

“We checked the surveillance tapes,” he said.


“The hunting pups were right. The last footage we have of him was going into the loading station.”

“Then why wasn’t he there,” Shannon ask.

“Don’t know. We did receive a delivery around that time, but nobody saw him. We even called the truck driver, asked if she saw anything unusual during her route. She said, ‘It was a normal day.’”

Shannon rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. “If anyone sees that dog, our secret is blown. We’re not ready for that yet. Not even close.”

Chapter 18

Johnny followed his grandmother into the barn. A basket swung by his side. “When I grow up I’m going to be a farmer,” he said. “and I want to live here with you.”

“You wouldn’t want to be a farmer here,” his grandmother replied.

“Why? You have a barn and animals.”

“Yea, but this is just a hobby farm.”

“What do you mean?” Johnny asked.

“There’s only one cow in the barn and I don’t even milk her.”

“But we could get more cows in here.”

“Only forty or so,” the woman said, as they came to the chicken nests. She stopped to look around the barn and remembered many years past. “There was a time when your grandpa and I made a living on this place, but that time is long gone. Farming is different now.”

“Why is it different?” Johnny asked, as he checked for eggs.

“It might be hard for you to understand but you’re growing up in a very different world than the one I’ve lived in,” the woman said. She watched the boy put an egg into the basket. “To make it as a farmer these days, you need to have huge herds of cattle or massive fields to plant, and then you need fancy machines to help you do the work. Farming is just different.”

“So this farm is too small to be a farm anymore,” Johnny asked.

“I’m afraid so,” the woman said. She watched the boy pick up a second egg, but instead of putting it in the basket he rotated it in his fingers a while. “But yes, you may live here when you grow up,” she added. “That is, if you’ll still want to.”

“I’ll want to,” Johnny said, without hesitation. He finally put the second egg into the basket.

The grandmother smiled. “For the time being though, the animals and I are sure glad that you are able to visit on the weekends like you do.”

Johnny tried to peer under a hen that was on its nest. “I don’t like how things change.” he said.

“Are you still talking about farming, or your mother’s contract in Ecuador?” the grandmother asked.

“Both,” he admitted.

“Change is scary. Isn’t it?”

Johnny didn’t answer.

“Sometimes, it feels like the world is changing faster and faster,” the grandmother said. “It used to scare me too, but I’ve found that it’s impossible to keep things as they are. Our time is best spent making sure that when things do change, they change for the better.”

Chapter 19

Lav realized he was not dreaming. The human scent he smelled was real, and close by. Lav quickly sat up. As he did, the straw beneath him rustled.

“Oh my!”

Lav jumped to his feet at the sound of the woman’s voice. She was near the chickens and she was not alone. Beside her was the smallest human Lav had ever seen.

“Well aren’t you cute,” the woman said. She forced her stiff body to lean over. Her hair was gray and wavy. She lowered a wrinkled hand close to the ground for Lav to smell, but he backed away.

The little human set down the basket he was holding. He crouched down and also wanted his hand to be smelled.

“Shy, are you?” the woman asked. She stood up again.

Johnny glanced at his grandmother. “Is that a dog?”

“Sure looks like it,” she said. “You stay and watch. I’ll get some food.” She picked up the egg basket and hurried out of the barn.

Lav listened as the screen door on the farmhouse slammed shut. He wanted to run away but Johnny was between him and the door. He didn’t dare go closer.

The screen door slammed again. The grandmother walked back into the barn. She carried a bowl in one hand and a plate that had leftover chicken roast in the other. She laid the bowl on the ground and set a small piece of chicken in the middle of it.

Lav tilted his head to the side. He looked at the chicken. Then, he looked at the humans.

“Have it your way,” the woman said. She took a couple steps away from the bowl and motioned for Johnny to do the same.

Lav slowly walked closer. He hadn’t eaten since breaking out of his cage. With each step, the wonderful smell of food grew stronger. He gobbled the piece of meat as soon as he reached the bowl. He backed away when he was finished.

The humans came forward again and set more meat in the bowl. Although they backed away from the food again, they stayed a little closer. This process was repeated many times until the humans practically stood next to the bowl and dropped new pieces of meat into it. Finally, when the woman was setting yet another chunk of meat down, Johnny crouched to pet the puppy.

Lav instinctively bit the little hand, like he had done to the humans in white coats so many times.

The woman shrieked and Johnny pulled his hand away. “Are you alright?” she asked.

Johnny rubbed his hand. “There’s no blood,” he said, but his arm remained close to his body.

“I know. We shouldn’t have tricked you,” the grandmother said. Lav backed away as the woman dumped the remaining chicken into the bowl. “Go ahead and eat,” she said. “We’ll leave you be.”

The woman turned around and put an arm around Johnny. The humans left the barn.

Chapter 20

A cat leapt down from a dusty tractor tire. “Biting the hand that feeds you, what gratitude.”

“The little human tried to touch me,” Lav said.

“Oh no! He’s going to pet me to death,” the cat teased. It walked to the bowl and started eating too. “My name’s Lexie. What’s yours?”

“Lav,” he said, between bites.

“You sure cried a lot last night Lav. If your fur wasn’t so purple, I would think you were blue.”

“Ha, hilarious. Are you just going to tease me too?”

“Give me a break,” Lexie said. “I’m just trying to talk.”

“Don’t take it personally,” a tall animal in one of the barn stalls said. “Nobody on the farm had seen a llama before I came here. At first, they wouldn’t stop calling me ‘Goose Neck,’ but then they got to know me.”

“Yea, it also helps that your real name is ‘Spit-Shot,’” Lexie said. She gave Lav a wink. “Trust me, it’s a bad idea to make fun of an animal with a name like that.”

“How come?” Lav asked.

“Do you see that bucket?” Spit-Shot asked.


Something shot out of the llama’s mouth. It was a glob of spit that not only landed in the bucket, but had enough force to knock it over.

“That’s disgusting,” Lav said.

Lexie shuddered at the sight of the spit. “So Lav, let’s start over,” she said. “I’ve never met anyone like you before. Where are you from?”

Since Lav was lost, he couldn’t really tell the animals where he came from. He described the Puppy Room, the hallway, and the Mini Room the best he could. Then, he explained how he became lost while looking for Kama. As he told his story, the other animals listened and sometimes asked questions about his strange home.

“Well, I want to apologize for how those cows treated you,” Daisy said. She was the last milk cow living on the farm, and stood in a stall neighboring Spit-Shot’s. “What a bunch of disrespectful cattle.”

“Thanks Daisy,” Lav said.

“Those humans too,” Spit-Shot added, “the green one and ones in white jackets sound awful.”

“Yea, you should stay here and serve these humans,” Lexie said.

“Why would I serve the humans?”

“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Lexie said.

Lav tilted his head to the side, “Says who?”

“The creator,” Lexie said. “He gave every animal a job. Ours is to serve humans.”

“Cows give the humans milk,” Daisy explained, “and the hens give the humans eggs.”

“And dogs and cats are companions for the humans,” Lexie added. “We give them friendship.”

“But why should animals do all of these things for humans?” Lav asked.

“Because the humans were given a job too,” Daisy said. “The most important one. They were made to care for all plants and animals.”

“Well, they do a lousy job,” Lav said.

“Not all humans are good at their job, but some animals aren’t good at their job either,” Daisy said.

“Like a dog that bites humans for no reason,” Lexie pointed out.

Chapter 21

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” Dr. Bray asked. “Modifying animals is one thing, but human modifications...you could be thrown into prison.”

Shannon stuffed a laptop and some papers into her brief case. For once, she wasn’t wearing a lab coat over her business casual clothes. “Not if I do it in Greece or dozens of other open-minded countries,” she said, “It’s only illegal here.”

Dr. Bray rubbed the back of his bald head. “I know, but with everything going on: Lav missing and the army monitoring us.”

“I agree, it’s not the ideal time for me to be away, but I won’t push this back. I’ve been planning too long,” Shannon said. “Just make sure to update me at least twice a day. I’ll probably be calling more times than that anyway.”

Dr. Bray nodded.

Shannon took a deep breath and looked around her office one last time. “Alright, I’ll be back in about nine months.”

Chapter 22

Lav jumped when he heard the screen door slam again. The sound of running feet was getting closer. Johnny darted into the barn. The old woman was not far behind.

“Good, you’re still here,” the boy said, when he saw Lav. “We brought you more food. You want some?”

Johnny scrapped leftover spaghetti into the bowl and backed away as he had before.

“You don’t need to be afraid,” Lexie said. She walked to the bowl and started eating. “These humans are nice.”

“Why is this human so small?” Lav asked.

“He’s a child,” Daisy said.

“A child,” Lav repeated.

“A young dog is a puppy. A young human is a child,” Daisy explained.

“And most children are harmless,” Lexie added. She ran to the boy’s feet and purred. She leaned against him and let her fur glide against the side of his leg.

Johnny bent over and slid his hand along Lexie’s back.

“Look out,” Lav barked.

“Relax, will you. He’s just petting me.”

Lav watched Lexie roll onto her back, so the boy could scratch her stomach too. “It feels great,” she said. “Come over here.”

Lav thought about it and decided to trust the cat. He took a few cautious steps toward the human, and then stopped.

When Johnny saw the puppy moving closer, he held his hand out so it could be smelled. “It’s alright. Come here puppy. Here Purple Pup.”

“That’s a good name for him,” the grandmother said.

“What’s he doing now?” Lav asked, when the boy began to whistle and make clicking sounds with his tongue.

“I don’t know,” Lexie said. “For some reason, humans do that when they want you to come closer to them.”

“It’s alright Lav. Go on,” Spit-Shot said. “I’ve got you covered. If he tries anything funny, I’ll spit at him. I promise.”

“He’s not going to do anything,” Lexie said. “Now, get over here.”

Lav crept toward Johnny and smelt his fingers. Johnny slowly moved closer and lowered his hand to Lav’s back. Lav crouched lower and lower so that the hand would not touch him. When his body was against the ground he could not move any lower. The hand touched his fur. The boy was petting him.

“See, I told you it feels good,” Lexie said.

Lav had to wait a while to decide what he thought of this new feeling. “It’s not bad,” he admitted.

The woman came closer and petted Lav too. “Why, I’ve never felt such soft fur,” she said. “You really are something special. Aren’t you?”

Lav could tell her words were kind. He could sense their love. His tail began to sway back and forth.

It swung so hard that it sometimes slapped against the side of his body, and it didn’t stop wagging the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter 23

“Hey girl, I’m Dana, your new trainer,” a woman said, “We’ll be doing things a little different today.”

“These people are weird,” Kama said, as Dana held a shoe in front of Kama’s nose. “Mine just has human scent on it.”

A young man held a cloth out for Cryp to smell.

“Mine smells the same,” Cryp said, referring to the familiar odor of C4.

“Maybe they lost someone,” Kama said. “I think they want me to help find them.”

Kama sniffed the ground and soon found a trail where the human had been walking. Since there was a leash around her neck, she could only follow the trail as fast as her trainer could jog.

She led her trainer across a mud puddle, up some stairs, but stopped when she came to a narrow board that went from the top of the stairs to another platform.

“Keep going, girl,” Dana said. “You can do it.”

Kama carefully stepped onto the board and walked across to the other side. She hopped off the platform and followed the scent trail to a garbage bin. She sniffed the bin. The human she was looking for was definitely in there.

Kama sat down and barked.

“Good girl,” Dana said, while reaching for a dog treat. “Come out,” Dana yelled. “She found you.”

A moment later, the lid to the garbage can lifted and a man climbed out.

Chapter 24

“You’re supposed to let go,” Johnny said, as he tried to pull a tennis ball out of Lav’s mouth.

Lav shook his head, playfully trying to keep the ball for himself.

The farmhouse door slammed shut.

“He’ll fetch, but won’t give it back,” Johnny hollered to his grandmother, as she walked down the steps.

“You’ll have to finish teaching him next weekend,” she called back. “Your mother just called. She’s almost here.”

Johnny stopped tugging on the ball and ran to the house to get his things. Lav pounced beside him, but stopped as the boy ran up the steps and into the house. Lav realized that children are not only small, like puppies are, but they enjoy playing as much as puppies do too. Although Lav was no longer afraid of the grandmother, he enjoyed spending most of his time with Johnny.

Johnny rushed outside as a car pulled into the farmyard. He set the luggage bag he carried on the ground and picked Lav up.

“Look Mom,” he shouted. “You have to feel his fur.”

A woman wearing a gray business suit stepped out of the car. “What did you do to that poor thing?”
“I didn’t do anything. He’s just purple. We named him Purple Pup. He had blood on his head when we found him, but Grandma helped me clean it off.”

Johnny’s mother came and scratched behind Lav’s ears. It seemed that all of the humans around the farm were nice to him. Lav could hardly believe that he had hated humans just a day ago.

After giving Lav a gentle hug, Johnny said, “Goodbye.”

“What’s he doing?” Lav asked, as Johnny climbed into his mother’s car.

“I told you he doesn’t always live here like the old woman. He just stays at the farm every once in a while,” Lexie said. “Don’t worry. He’ll come back again.”

Johnny rolled down the car window and shouted to Lav, “Be good for grandma boy, and don’t chase the chickens.”

There was something in Johnny’s voice that let Lav know that the boy loved him. He could feel it in his heart.

Lav had a doggy grin on his face as the car backed out of the driveway. For the first time in his life, Lav felt like he had a home; like he belonged somewhere. The only thing that was missing was Kama. She would like playing in the huge yard. Lav knew she would love the boy too. The three of them playing together was the only thing Lav could think of that would have turned this great day into a perfect one.

Part 2

The Return

Chapter 25

The screen door slammed behind Johnny and Lav. They ran across the yard. A few moments later, Johnny’s grandmother also left the farmhouse. She stopped at the bottom of the steps, but continued to hold onto the railing.

Johnny picked up a tattered tennis ball from the grass. When Lav caught glimpse of it he barked and leaped into the air.

“Go get it boy,” Johnny shouted.

Lav dashed after the ball. He caught it in his jaws while it was still rolling. Lav was full grown, fast, and strong. He had been on the farm so long now he seemed to fit right in with the rest of the animals. It was hard for him to remember living anywhere else. Kama and the Puppy Room almost felt like a dream. His purple fur was the only proof that they weren’t just dreams, but memories.

Lav rushed back to Johnny and dropped the ball by his feet.

“Good job,” Johnny said, and scratched behind Lav’s ears.

Growing impatient, Lav nudged the ball closer to Johnny.

“Alright. One more time,” Johnny said, and threw the ball again.

Lav didn’t chase after it. He ran to the old woman who was bending forward. She leaned one hand on her knee. The other still held onto the railing for balance. By the time Lav reached her, the woman had lowered herself to the ground.

“Grandma,” Johnny shouted, and soon he was kneeling in the grass beside her. He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 9-1-1. He stayed on the phone with the dispatcher until the ambulance arrived. After that he called his father.

Lexie came into the yard and sat next to Lav. The old woman was loaded into the back of the ambulance and driven away. When Johnny’s father arrived, he parked the car just long enough for Johnny to hop in, and then they drove away too.

Chapter 26

“We live together for a reason,” Cryp barked.

Kama growled and showed her teeth, but it didn’t scare Cryp. It never did. “Just leave me alone,” Kama snarled.

“Why do you have to make everything so difficult?” Cryp asked, before lunging at her.

The other dogs barked. Having long since outgrown their cages, the dogs now gathered at the front of their kennels for a better view of the fight.

“Down! Down!... Hey, can I get some help in here,” Dana yelled. She opened the chain link door and tried to separate the two dogs.

Shannon rushed into the room. She held Cryp’s collar while Kama was moved to a separate kennel.

Dana stroked Kama’s fur and whispered in her ear until her body stopped trembling. “They can’t be left alone like that,” Dana said. “It’s not safe for her.”

Shannon shook her head. “We need puppies. They were supposed to have a litter while I was gone,” she said. “The army wants proof that a naturally breeding population is possible before we’ll get full funding for the program.”

“Just let us bring them on a real mission,” Dana said. “If others see what these dogs can do, you’ll have way more investors than...”

“No, that means going public. We’re not ready for that,” Shannon said. “Competitors will copy our innovations once they know what we’re doing.” Shannon’s face had turned red. “They have more money and resources,” she continued. “Genetic Valley will have to be fully established in order to compete. We need to take the market by surprise.”

“These dogs could be helping a lot of people,” Dana muttered. “It’s a waste not to let them do something meaningful.”

Chapter 27

Earlier in the day, barking and shouts had made Shannon rush out of the Mini Room. In fact, she left in such a hurry that she forgot to latch the door to Congo’s cage all the way.

Now it was dark in the laboratory. Congo shimmied up another doorframe and reached for the handle.

Daniel looked down the hallway. “Hurry.”

“It’s stiffer than the last one,” Congo said, dangling from the handle. Congo bounced his body up and down. Each time the lever turned, but never enough for the door to unlatch.

“We’re trapped,” Daniel said. “It’s useless!”

Congo swung his body back and forth as he bounced. The extra momentum made the lever turn a little further. The latch finally clicked. “I think I have it,” Congo said. “Pull it open before I slip off.”

Daniel put his claws into the crack between the door and the frame. Finally, he felt a groove in the metal. He pulled at the door and it opened. As it did, a security alarm rang throughout the laboratory.

Startled, Congo dropped to the ground. Daniel opened the door far enough for both of them to leave the building. The piercing sound of the alarm faded as the door closed behind them.

“Freedom,” Congo said, and they slipped away into the darkness.

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