Spring had always been Lady's favorite time of year. The sun was just coming out, and the neighborhood kids were beginning their day-to-day activities outside. Even at the earliest time of the day, her large cocker spaniel ears picked up the sounds of children laughing and the birds singing their songs back and forth between the trees.
Lady was a small little thing, but could she run fast. As Jim Dear and Darling were rising from their bed, she was well ahead of them at the bottom of the stairs. She barked a few times, and when they acknowledged that they were right behind her, she trotted quickly to her bowl, eagerly awaiting her breakfast.
It was routine for Jim Dear and Darling to brew coffee, slip a few pieces of bread into the toaster, and then sit down in the kitchen with the daily paper. And quite the welcome sight it was, for the sun was coming in the windows in individual rays through the curtains. Lady didn't even have to beg to Jim Dear; he was already at the windows, pulling aside the curtains, and letting the bright spring day show itself to the content family.
In less than a minute, Lady sped from the laundry room, where she had her breakfast, and popped nose-first through the dog flap in the back door. The spring air bombarded her nose like a fist, and instantly, Lady's heart swelled. The sunlight was warm, and the flowers in Darling's garden were positively glowing. And the second that Lady felt her paws bounce into the grass, she felt like she could fly.
And when she heard the bell of the paper boy's bike, she leapt on all fours and sped for the front yard, her tongue hanging from the side of her mouth. Just as she bounded across the grass, she watched in joyful anticipation while the paper boy turned his bike to Lady's side of the street, and flung a newspaper high into the air. It twirled clumsily in the sky, just like Lady while she backed up to catch the paper. In a few fumbled bounds, she jumped up again, and snatched the paper between her teeth, not pausing to take a breath. She was already running back to the house, scattering a group of lingering sparrows in the process.
Here came the hard part.
Lady bounded for the dog door in the backyard, but the newspaper sticking from her mouth was difficult to get through. It crumpled and squeezed in several awkward places, and the only progress Lady made was only producing a few tears in the pages.
She spit it out and looked at it on the porch. Lady knew she was keen on tearing it sometimes, but the newspaper was looking pretty damaged now. So she looked between it, and the closed dog door, giving the newspaper a cocky-eyed look.
"Say, Pigeon, need help?"
Lady jumped, and with a quick draw-in of breath, turned her head. Behind her, standing between the porch and the tulips in the garden, was another dog. He looked about as old as she was, but like no particular dog. His fur was wiry and grey, with pricked-up ears of the same color. He had a scruffy tail behind him, which wagged as if he was content enough standing there. Overall, he looked not the kind of dog that a fine breed like Lady would ever be seen with.
But, then again, he was asking her if she needed help.
"No," Lady answered instead. "I think I can do it just fine, thank you."
The dog shook his head, laughing. "Oh, of course," he said. "I can see you were just pushing the newspaper through the door, and letting it get destroyed. I don't know if your humans will appreciate that very much."
"Excuse me," said Lady. "I can do this just as well without your help."
"Well then, no one can say I didn't try to help," said the dog. He took a few steps closer to Lady, and although she looked uncomfortable in the slightest, he took no notice. "The name's Tramp."
"Lady," she said discreetly.
Tramp gave Lady a long look, and then he chuckled. "I think I'd prefer to call you Pidge."
Lady didn't know whether to laugh or to be shocked. "What sort of a name is that?" she wanted to know.
Tramp winked. "Just the sort of name for the argent vieux brand. Of course, they're all over the place in this town. Although, I've never seen one of your kind so excited about getting the morning paper for their humans."
"Well, of course," said Lady. "I do it every morning."
"Just why you aren't exactly a lady, as your humans call you," said Tramp.
Lady looked at Tramp with a confused frown, as if she wasn't sure whether to tell him off and make him go away, or to ask what else he thought about her. If apparently she wasn't a lady, then just what was she to this scruffy mutt sitting between her and the tulips?
"Well…what about you?" Lady said instead. "Don't you have a home? With humans who gave you your name?"
Tramp scoffed, but with humor. "Say, Pidge, do I look the kind of dog who sleeps on a fluffy bed and is waited on paw and paw by a couple of humans? I'm more the kind who lives by his wits…and the occasional beg, and a wag of the tail."
Lady turned herself around entirely, and sat down, curious. "What do you mean?"
"Simple. I mean that I show up at someone's doorstep, perform the standard routine for when a dog wants something good to eat, and then they are as kind as any decent human. They give me what I need to survive until the next day, and I'm off onto my next venture."
Lady cocked her head again. "Hmm," she murmured. "I've never known a dog who lives that way."
"Not many do, Pidge," said Tramp. "Plain and simple as that."
Lady didn't say it, but she wasn't surprised at Tramp's way of going about life as a stray. Tramp was rather easy on the eyes, and she could easily imagine how he looked when he begged for something to chomp on. And she didn't really like to say it to herself, but she was fascinated by such stories. Her friends from around the neighborhood, Jock and Trusty, were dogs who probably wouldn't trust Tramp's kind of dog, because such dogs didn't have a proper home. Therefore, those dogs were unworthy, low-life scoundrels who didn't deserve a dog like Lady's attention.
"Well…" Lady paused, unsure of her words. "I guess it's at least enough that you can find yourself food and a home sometimes."
"Oh, sure," Tramp agreed, nodding his head and grinning proudly. "I know some of the best places in town to get only the very best foods. Ever heard of Tony's Restaurant? It's the very place for a meal that includes music and fun. I go there every Wednesday for a plate of bones and a game or two with Tony and Joe. They're the humans who run the place."
"I've never been over there," Lady answered. "But, I would certainly like to."
There was suddenly a kind of glow in Tramp's brown-eyed face that Lady hadn't seen up till now. And then, he stood up taller, wagging his tail faster. Lady wondered for an instant if she was supposed to notice how quickly Tramp's excitement was rising, but somehow she didn't quite care. He was a decent dog. What was the harm in making gleeful conversation with him?
A whistle sounded from inside Lady's house, and both she and Tramp turned quickly. Lady prepared to answer it, but she only heard Jim Dear's voice. "Lady! Here, girl!"
Lady looked back at Tramp, before she bent down to pick up the paper in her mouth again.
"Say, Pidge?" Tramp asked quickly. "If it's worth the trouble to you…could…could I see you again?"
"Oh. Oh, why, yes," said Lady. "Do…do you know the park, in the middle of town? Darling and I go there on our afternoons out together."
"Don't say another word," said Tramp, grinning sincerely at Lady. He quickly winked at her, and then abruptly disappeared around the corner behind the white picket fence, before Lady could tell him when she and Darling would be heading out that afternoon. She was left feeling a little hurried, somehow, before Jim Dear came to the door, and found her slowly turning with the paper between her teeth.
That morning passed slowly for Lady, although she thoroughly enjoyed the way Jim Dear and Darling scratched her fur during their breakfast. She stared across the kitchen floor to the back door, and the tiny slivers of light between the edges of the dog door, and the full-size door. Everything she thought of was like those teeter-totters she saw in the park, going back and forth between clarity and fog.
And Tramp was the only thing on her mind.
She had never known a dog with such a lifestyle, or one so daring. She always thought that a dog like Tramp would be turned away wherever he went, but, obviously, he could turn the hardest of hearts into mud. Lady couldn't place why exactly. She supposed that it was because there was such a charm about him, that he had that rough exterior that hid a playful, carefree heart.
Lady wondered what it would be like to roam like Tramp did, never having the same home for more than a day, or living by one's own wits. She couldn't picture such a life, especially without Jim Dear and Darling. She loved them too much to picture them as either someone else's humans, or just not existing at all.
"Did I make a mistake?" Lady asked herself, while Jim Dear and Darling cleaned up the kitchen.
She didn't speak again until she and Darling started outside for their walk, and she said hello to Jock and Trusty outside their homes.
In spite of her thoughts, Lady was pleased to be walking alongside Darling across the sidewalks. The sun had gone higher, so Lady felt warmer under her thick coat of copper-colored fur. Her thick, floppy ears bounced while she trotted contentedly through the park. She barked to acknowledge any dog who said hello to her, and she wagged her tail to the rhythm of her step. Darling hummed while she walked, though Lady didn't recognize the tune. She was content enough where she was.
But, she didn't see a scruffy dog with grey fur anywhere.
Did Tramp remember?
Did he just say that he would come to jip her off, like he took her for some kind of an innocent, doe-eyed fool? Lady felt her heart skip a beat when she considered that notion. Maybe she was a fool for believing that she could trust a mutt like Tramp. Maybe Jock and Trusty were right after all.
Lady yanked her head back up, and instantly, within the crowd of humans and dogs in the park, she spotted a coat of wiry grey fur, sprinting between the brown and green grass like a shooting star. Then, he stopped on top of a little hill near the grove of trees at the end of the park, standing tall and certain.
Lady couldn't take her eyes off of Tramp for a moment, feeling all too relieved to see him. He was here, just as he had said. Lady herself couldn't believe it. Now she just wanted to go over and see him.
She turned, and barked gently at Darling, motioning with her head towards the other dogs playing in the park. Lady felt her heart drumming, but she quickly felt at ease when Darling bent down to remove Lady's leash, and patted her coat to go and play.
The moment she was freed, Lady ran in the direction of the other dogs, and, once she felt she was far away enough, turned, and went towards Tramp. He still watched her from on top of the hill, and Lady grew more and more excited the faster she ran to him.
She slowed, stopped, and panted to release her long-held breath.
"Hi," Tramp simply said.
"You came," was all Lady could say to him.
"Oh, sure," Tramp replied. "Did I say I wouldn't come?"
Lady shook her head. "I'm glad you kept your word," she said.
Tramp smiled, and bowed his head in a courtly fashion. "Well I can definitely say the same to you, Pidge." He glanced around the park. "What should we do? Whatever you think is good, I think is good too."
Lady glanced about her too, but she turned back without a trace of certainty.
"Care to join me for a run, then?" And then, Tramp leapt down from the hill, landing on all fours and making a dash for the other side of the park. He looked again like a dash of light among all the brown and green, and for a second, Lady couldn't see him.
"No, wait!" Lady called out to him, going in the same direction. She bounded across the grass just like she did on the lawn, but this time, she had to move faster, to keep up with the renegade Tramp. She raced between groups of dogs who gave strange looks at her desperation, but all she saw was the faint shape of Tramp racing ahead of her.
"Come on, Pidge!" Tramp called out, just as Lady was catching up. "Follow me!"
"I wish you would slow down!" Lady protested.
"No, you're doing great, kid!" called Tramp with a little laugh. "We're building some memories."
Memories. The word struck Lady at an odd place, but she couldn't think for very long. She was starting to get tired.
By this time, Tramp had led her out of the park, and into the other side of the neighborhood. The houses were the same neat colors and encircled by the same white picket fences and green lawns, although it was a place that Lady hadn't seen very often. She didn't have too much time to take in the scenery, because she was still chasing Tramp across the lawns. One of them was running a sprinkler, and Tramp was going right through it.
Lady hoped Tramp would stop right there, but when she saw him continue to sprint along, she shut her eyes and prepared for the dank, musty feeling of wet fur. She slowed her step, careful not to trip over her feet while she couldn't see in front of her.
"Pidge! Watch out!"
Lady recognized Tramp's voice like none other, the alarm in it causing her eyes to snap open and notice where she was headed. And in that minute, she skidded across the grass, and came to stop right where Tramp was, under the sprinkler.
"Did you have fun?" asked Tramp, grinning down at Lady.
Lady couldn't answer right away. She was breathless once again, and she was instantly uncomfortable sitting under the sprinkler while she was getting wet.
Although, she did like looking up, and seeing the happy shine in Tramp's eyes- brown as the mud under her paws.
"You were great, kid," Tramp said, with his trademark wink.
"I had no idea you could run so fast," Lady panted.
"I have far too much time to simply sit on my tail and do nothing," he replied.
"But…why stop right here?" Lady wanted to know. "Under here, where we can get wet?"
"Don't you want to do something besides run and walk, like all the other dogs?" Tramp scooted closer to Lady; she didn't move.
"Well…I don't know. I guess so," said Lady.
"Then pretend that this is a rainfall, and don't think of anything else."
Lady couldn't imagine why Tramp was making her do this, but she couldn't think of why he wouldn't either. So she just tried to imagine what he told her, that they were sitting under a gentle rainfall, resting after their long run away from the park.
Darling would not like that she had run off. But Lady couldn't deny, in the slightest, that she found a thrill in running with Tramp.
He was the first dog of his kind that she had ever met, but she felt that there probably wasn't another dog like him anywhere.
She knew that for sure now, as he bent his head to rub against the soft brown fur of her ear. She was startled at first to feel his fur on her own, but she liked it. It felt like a protective barrier between her and the harsh drops that occasionally fell onto her.
"Say, Pidge, I know the perfect place for a very special occasion," Tramp whispered.
"Sure," he said. "I hope you like Italian."