IT'S A DOG'S LIFE

Something new made it's way into his life. Something in his short span of breathing that he hadn't known even existed before. Light. And sound. Both were new as he finally opened his eyes, 15 days after his birth. His ear canals had drained during the night.

A human with blonde hair, bound tightly behind her head in a bun was the first face he saw. He grinned a doggie-grin and yelped at her in greeting.

She smiles back at him and his world feels right. She is joined by another face looking down at him, a very different face. She has no hair on top of her head and her muzzle is much longer. But there is kindness and love in her canine eyes that he responds to immediately.

"He's opened his eyes, Mistress Ellen. Have you selected a name for him yet?" the second face, that of a mutant dog-girl asked her human supervisor.

"Peanuts. If he shows promise, we'll try getting him into a fine dog-pack. He seems energetic enough already. Look at him wag that cute little tail," Mistress Ellen replied as she chucked him under his chin, making Ruffy's puppy leg thump the side of the infant box.

"Will we put him with the others tomorrow? Start him into the dog-boy program?" the dog-girl asked.

"Yes. I think he'll be ready by then, Wanda. Why don't you keep him entertained until then?" She asked.

Mistress Ellen winked and went to examine the litter that was born a day later than Peanut's own. He would never know it, but somewhere in the nursery there was a brother of his. The Coalition stamped out all traces of family and replaced it with loyalty to the human masters of the Coalition.

Wanda grinned at the rare treat Mistress Ellen had given her and sat down to tickle and pat Peanut. She had never gotten to keep a litter of her own, although she knew that she had undoubtably raised several with all the others in the nursery. Getting to spend some time with just one infant was frowned upon, but used as a reward to loyal dog-girls.

"You know, I don't think the name Peanut suits you at all. I think I'll call you Ruffy. At least when the others aren't listening."

Ruffy smiled at that.

1 Year Later:

Ruffy sprinted with his classmates to the dining hall. Bingo and Hopper were ahead of him, but with them both being from Greyhound stock, that was only to be expected. It was a fact they brought up every time they raced. They had Ruffy hopelessly outmatched with his short legs, but he refused to give up without a fight.

They might be faster, but, as he had proved time and time again, HE was smarter.

His chance came when Bingo and Hopper stopped to open the heavy mess hall doors. The doors opened outward and the dog boys had to stop to open them before they could dash through.

Ruffy, being of a Miniature Schnauzer/Terrier Mix heritage had a thick coat of hair. He intended to put it to use.

As Bingo and Hopper started pulling on the doors, Ruffy did his best "slide" into first base, his ruffled fur making for excellent sliding material with the highly polished floor.

As the doors opened, Ruffy slid through between the startled dog-boys with a howl of triumph. A howl that turned into a yip of surprise followed by another yip of surprise and a loud crash and clattering.

Bingo and Hopper peeked in around the doors to see what had happened.

Ruffy lay in a tangled heap with a dog-girl of about the same age, her tray of food splattered all over the floor and both of them. Several other dog-boys and girls were snickering as he looked up at Mistress Ellen with sorrowful eyes.

Mistress Ellen shook her head, but didn't have the heart to punish Peanut. Dog-boys would be dog-boys, after all. And dog-boys were energetic balls of fluff. Still, she couldn't encourage this behavior.

"Peanut. Please get a broom and a mop and clean this mess up. And please help Ginger up. You're both a sight." she said.

"Yes, Mistress Ellen," Ruffy said as he hurried to get to his feet, inadvertently tripping Ginger back into the messy pile of food on the floor.

"Oops! Sorry about that, Miss Ginger." Ruffy said while holding out a hand to help her up.

Ginger looked down her nose at his offered paw and, with great dignity, rose to her feet on her own power.

"Mistress Ellen? May I go clean up and change?" she asked as if Ruffy wasn't even there.

"Yes, Ginger, but report back soon. You haven't much time before your next class."

"Thank you." she said and left, casting a scornful look over Bingo and Hopper as well as Ruffy as she said, "Dog-BOYS!"

Ruffy looked a bit sheepish, but still grinned. He DID win, after all.

Ginger growled softly to herself as she made her way back to the dog-girl's dormitory. Leave it up to some show-off Dog-Boy to ruin her new uniform.

Ginger closed the door to her room that she shared with 3 other dog-girls and quickly stripped and tossed her soiled uniform into the hamper. She jumped into the shower and quickly washed the food from her thick fur. She removed as much as she could using her paws and a quick doggie shake, then went to stand in front of the area dryer as she picked out another set of clothes. Unlike a hair dryer that only dried a small amount of hair, the area dryer sent warm air over a large area, helping to dry Ginger's fur much quicker.

As she was putting her belt back on, her room mates, Heather and Mopsey came in, giggling. No doubt over some Dog-Boy or another. She could only guess who it was this week.

"Hey, Ginger! Did you hear? Some dog-boys were playing around outside the mess hall and totally wiped out some dweeb just inside the door." Heather said in her "Valley Girl" twang. She had picked it up last week from a holo-movie she had seen and seemed to be developing a taste for it.

"Ginger? Why are you holding your breath and counting to 10?" Mopsey answered with wide, innocent eyes.

"Never mind," Ginger growled and left her dorm room in a huff.

Heather and Meggy looked at each other and shrugged. Their room mate was always getting stressed over what they considered nothing.

"What'll we do now?" Heather asked.

"Well, we could always fold clothes." Meggy suggested.

"Cool," Heather said as they made their way to the laundry hamper to discover why their remarks had made their room mate mad.

1 Year Later:

Ruffy dodged to the left as Hopper threw him the basketball. Ruffy tried to drive the ball quickly to the goal, but found himself being blocked again by Bruticus, the wild eyed Pit Bull breed and the largest of all Ruffy's litter-mates. It was no problem to figure out why the coach had put them up against one another. Ruffy was the only one of the litter-mates that wouldn't back down from Bruticus. (Some would also argue that this should be ample proof of brain damage on Ruffy's part.)

Bruticus towered over Ruffy's 5 feet in height with his heavily muscled 7 feet of bulk.

Bruticus rumbled to Ruffy in a voice that sounded like someone dropping rocks in an iron kettle, "Why don't you just hand over the ball and I'll go easy on you?"

Ruffy looked thought ful for a second and then smiled his best doggie-smile as he answered, "Okay!"

Ruffy swivelled and turned to face Bruticus. He threw the ball with all his might, but not into Bruticus' hands. The ball landed on the floor between Bruticus' feet and pistioned upward, between Bruticus' legs.

Ruffy caught the ball as it bounced back off the floor and Bruticus' eyes crossed, he covered the vulnerable area between his legs with both hands and fell to his knees, his voice reaching a high keening whine as Ruffy threw his shot, unimpeded.

The spectators exploded into cat calls and cheering or hissing and booing, depending on which side of the gymnasium they were seated on.

The coach called a time out while Ruffy retreated with slaps on the back from Hopper and Bingo. Bruticus just lay in the middle of the floor while the coach came out to check on him.

The Coach leaned down to check on Bruticus, asking him, "Are you okay, boy?"

"I...I think I...I can t-taste my nuts." Bruticus whimpered.

The Coach rolled his eyes and motioned for the stretcher.

On the side-lines, Heather and Meggy shook their pom-poms and cheered, "Peanuts, Peanuts, he's our man! If he can't nut 'em, no one can!"

From the control booth, Ginger rolled her eyes and groaned. Only THOSE two.

The scorekeeper pointed at the controls in front of Ginger and said in a patronizing voice reserved for small children, "Now you add a 2 to make the score 9. Can you do that?"

Ginger looked down her muzzle at the supervisor and replied, "Yes. I can also break it down into it's prime numbers of 3 and 1 and I can multiply it far past the amount on your paycheck."

Ginger hit the control that added two to the score and sat back with a sigh. It was going to be a long night.

1 Year Later

Ruffy waited in line with the other Dog-Boys of his class as the new Lieutenant examined his troops. It didn't take an expert to tell that he wasn't impressed with what he saw.

Ruffy's Dog-Boy Pack were all wearing a variety of the Vibro-Blade Vambraces. They were the favorite weapons of dog-boys. Most of the time anyway. Ruffy had to admit that he didn't have much fondness for the sharp weapons and preferred to use his newly issued Neural Mace in their place, but still, he had been trained in their use. Ruffy's Dog Pack also sported C-18 laser pistols at their sides. The laser handguns were wonderful weapons and although not nearly as powerful as the Coalition Grunts' standard sidearm, the C-12 Assault Laser, Ruffy wore his proudly along with the other Dog-Boys. They were badges of trust from their human masters. Ruffy was sure he'd grow comfortable with it's weight on his hip. Eventually.

Ruffy stood at attention as his new commander, Lieutenant Barnum, visually inspected him in his turn. Ruffy stood stock still, just as he had been taught, with his eyes facing straight forward. His chest out, stomach in, and head straight. He still only earned a sneer.

Lieutenant Barnum turned to face the assembled troops and announced, "You must all be, collectively, the sorriest excuse for recruits that I have ever been given command of. But since I am stuck with you sorry lot, I am going to make use of you. Do you understand me?" he shouted.

"YES SIR!" was the Dog Pack's shouted response in unison.

"In 2 days time you will be accompanying a squad of Grunts into the sewers beneath Lone Star station. Your job is to hunt down escaped mutant rats in said tunnels. Where they are found, they will be terminated on the spot. There will be NO MERCY for these damned vermin infesting our base.

"Our forces will also be supplemented by a pair of special recruits. You are to treat them with the upmost of respect and as members of your own pack by orders of the base commander, Desmond Bradford. Those are HIS orders. Personally I will view you all equally.

"Equally WORTHLESS!"

Finishing his announcement, Lieutenant Barnum promptly about-faced and marched back to his quarters, leaving the Sergeants to dismiss the troops and ready them.

Sergeant Morgan, a Psi-Stalker, stepped forward and addressed the Pack that he lead. To the pack of Dog-Boys, he was their alpha male. And he was a strong leader indeed.

"Okay, you buck privates! I know he didn't say it nice, but orders are orders. I want everyone to put together their survival packs and be ready for personal weapons inspection in an hour. Let's move it, Pack!"

Eager to please, the Dog-Boys ran off to their dorms to do as the Sergeant commanded.

Ruffy couldn't help but wonder, however, why he thought the new commander was a bit of a jerk. He was human, after all, and that made him automatically superior. That's what they said in training, anyway.

Still, Ruffy wondered. He didn't seem to like Dog-Boys at all.