'Dog Daze' by Emma Peelfan

"Man, Roy, I'm tellin' ya. This is gonna be a long shift." sighed Johnny as the squad made its way back to the station. "It's 2 PM on April 1st and the Phantom has yet to show himself."

"Maybe the suspense is the joke?" he added hopefully.

Roy sighed. He knew exactly what Johnny meant. Chet's tricks were always on Johnny and Johnny always ended up on a tear about revenge that Roy would have to listen to for the next 3 shifts.

"I think that's probably too much to hope for Junior," said Roy with another sigh. "Chet's probably using the suspense to make the joke that much better."

"Maybe he's waiting for me to give up the wait figuring he's not going to do anything."

"That's probably it," said Roy.

"So I'll pretend to give up and get it over with. Then I can start working on something to get him back with."

Roy rolled his eyes. The joke hadn't been played yet and already there was talk of revenge. This was going to be a very long shift.

'Squad 51, child collapsed. 1313 Witches Place, 1-3-1-3 Witches Place, cross street Sunset, time out 14:13.'

Johnny shuddered involuntarily as he wrote down the address. 13 was not his favorite number. Twice in one address on Witches Place? He started to get a very bad feeling about this call.

****************************

As the squad pulled up, a frantic black woman came running up to the squad.

"It's about time you got here!" she yelled in a heavy Jamaican accent. "Teddy just collapsed. He's only 4 years old! You have to save him!"

Roy shuddered as he thought of his daughter, only 2 years older. He understood exactly how this woman felt. He paused long enough to summon an ambulance to their location. Then he grabbed the bio-phone as Johnny grabbed the drug box and oxygen. As they ran into the house, Johnny was firing questions at the woman about Teddy's medical history and recent activities including food he might have eaten or medicines or chemicals he might have gotten into.

"I don't know!" yelled the woman. "He's never been sick a day in his life. The only thing he could have gotten into would be my herbs. They're medicinal. They wouldn't hurt him!"

"Some herbs in the wrong combinations could be dangerous. They're not tested or approved by the FDA. They could be very hazardous to a small child," said Johnny as he took in the sight of the once-lively 4-year-old boy.

"You've gotta help m'boy! Don't you let him die! You'll regret it if he does! I promise!"

"Ma'am, calm down and let me do my job. I won't let him die if I can help it," said Johnny. "How long has he been like this?"

He knelt down beside the boy and began taking his vital signs. He was starting to get that bad feeling again when he realized the child was very near death already.

"He was fine half an hour ago! He just got this sort of shocked look on his face and then went down. I never been so scared in me life!"

As Johnny relayed the boy's vitals to Roy who relayed them to Rampart, he realized with a sinking feeling that the boy's symptoms were consistent with a burst aortic aneurysm. It was usually fatal.

As they loaded the boy into the ambulance, the woman was behind them waving beads and a rattle. She climbed into the ambulance with Johnny and her son and began the journey to Rampart.

The ambulance was forced to stop twice when the boy went into V-fib. The second time, the boy was having no response at all. Finally, after nearly 20 minutes of following Dr. Brackett's orders, Johnny was forced to admit defeat. As he sat looking sadly at Teddy's peaceful face, he wasn't aware of the boy's mother taking a lock of his hair with a pair of nail clippers that she pulled from her pocket.

*******************************

As Johnny and Roy were going over their supply list with Dixie, Johnny was decidedly nervous.

"Man, Dixie, the mother of that kid was really giving me the creeps. Did you see all those beads she had on her? I bet she practices voodoo!" Johnny shuddered. "She said if her kid didn't survive, I'd regret it. Like it was my fault he died."

Dixie fought to stifle a laugh, "Johnny, voodoo is just superstition. It only works if you believe it will!"

"Yea, Junior. You know if anything bad happens to you, it'll be Chet's doing and not a voodoo witch!"

"I hope you're right, Pally! I hope you're right."

****************************

The rest of the afternoon passed fairly uneventfully. The engine got called out to a couple of trash fires and the squad was surprisingly not busy at all.

When the engine got back, Johnny had hamburgers ready. Chet had managed to rig the saltshaker for Johnny and ruined his French fries. He also managed to switch the ketchup with extra-hot chili sauce for Johnny's hamburger. When Johnny could speak again, it was with language that can't really be repeated in mixed company.

Johnny finished the evening by making himself a sandwich with whatever didn't have a funny color or smell in the fridge. Afterwards, he went to his bunk complaining of a headache and Chet short-sheeting his bed.

Three hours later, in the middle of a monster movie marathon, there was a scream from the dorm. It wasn't Johnny's usual 'I'm-gonna-kill-you-Chet' scream, or even his 'scream-like-a-girl-because-Chet-put-a-fake-snake-in- his-locker' scream. This was a scream of agony. The five men in front of the TV froze at the sound. No matter how much pain Johnny was ever put through - whether it was being bitten by a snake, hit by a car, trapped in a burning warehouse or falling off a ladder - he never screamed.

Roy was first into the dorm. Captain Stanley, Chet, Marco and Mike quickly followed. Chet was trying to make a joke.

"Relax, it's just Gage trying to get me back for the hot-sauce trick." Chet's attempt at humor poorly masked the worry he was really feeling. He didn't really believe that. Gage would only try to get him. Not everyone.

Captain Stanley barreled into Roy, nearly knocking over the extremely shocked paramedic. Roy was standing about 4 feet from Johnny's bed staring in horror. The other men's eyes widened at the sight that greeted them.

"Madre de Dios!" whispered Marco, crossing himself.

Johnny was writhing around on his cot. In front of their eyes, he was changing. His legs were growing shorter and his nose was growing longer. His clothes were being ripped away as his body writhed and twisted. He was growing a tail and his fingers were losing their form. His thumbs were suddenly non-existent. In place of finger and toenails, claws were forming. Fur was growing and his ears were becoming seriously pointed.

Finally, the writhing and screaming stopped. Johnny looked up at his partner.

"Roy! What happened to me?" He tried to ask. What he heard coming from his mouth was a series of very convincing dog barks.

Roy looked on in shock and horror. The figure on the bed was now a dog - a large, wolf-like dog with a thick, black and white coat and deep, brown eyes.

"It's an Alaskan Malamute," said Mike Stoker. He couldn't keep silent anymore, but he didn't know what else to say.

"It looks like a wolf." Said Chet not really knowing what to say, but like Mike, felt the silence was too heavy.

"Johnny?" asked Roy tentatively.

"Yes," barked Johnny.

"If it is you Johnny, answer one bark for yes, two barks for no. Do you understand me?"

One bark.

"Do you know what happened to you?"

Two barks.

Chet, looking slightly shell-shocked, spoke up. "Hey Gage, is this your idea of an April Fool's joke? You slip a hallucinogen into our food?"

Two barks and a growl as if to say 'No! Shut up, Chet!'

"Kelly, you twit!" snapped the Captain, "do you have any idea the odds of all of us having the same hallucination at the same time?"

"Okay, Cap! I believe it's real, alright?" answered Chet in an equally snappish tone. "What are we gonna do with him? We've already got a mascot!"

"CHET!" shouted four voices at once.

By this time, Roy had moved over to Johnny's cot where the big dog watched him with sad eyes. As Roy sat down and reached out to stroke the animal's head, the dog shifted, put his head in Roy's lap and whimpered.

"Oh, Johnny. What happened?" asked Roy in a quiet voice.

*********************

Meanwhile, across town, a woman smiled as she looked at the small dog statue on the altar. The dog statue made with clay and human hair.

*********************

"Chet does have a point, guys," said Cap after a few more minutes of shocked silence. "What are we going to do with him? I have to call in a replacement. How am I supposed to explain this to the Chief?"

Roy spoke up, "I'll take him home with me. He's my partner and best friend. I'll take care of him until we figure out how to change him back."

Johnny nuzzled Roy's hand and gave a good-natured growl.

"He's man's best friend now, Roy."

"CHET!" came the loud chorus of four.

"Hey, maybe you should take him to Rampart," suggested Marco. "He's a dog now, but he used to be human. Maybe they'll know what to do."

"Maybe pigs will learn to fly, Lopez," answered Captain Stanley. "Exactly how do you propose we explain to Dr. Brackett and Miss McCall that this...this...wolf-dog is actually one of the county's best paramedics?"

"Maybe he'll start chasing nurses. Then they'd know."

"CHET!"

"Look, Cap. If it's all the same to you, I'm just gonna take Johnny and get out of here. I don't know about you, but I don't want to explain this to B-shift."

"I sure as hell don't want to explain it," said Captain Stanley. "I'll call in and put the squad out of service until the next shift. Actually, you'd better talk to Rampart. Johnny doesn't have any vacation time left and some kind of injury is the only plausible way to get him out of his shifts until we get this cleared up. Someone at Rampart will have to back it up."

"Okay Cap." answered Roy, gently disentangling himself from his canine partner. "Johnny, I'm just going to change clothes and we'll go, okay?"

One bark.

*************************

Dixie McCall looked up from her paperwork to see Roy walk in wearing his civilian clothes.

"Hey, Roy. I thought you were on duty tonight. What happened?"

Roy pointed down toward his feet. "This happened."

Dixie leaned over the counter and saw the most beautiful dog she had ever seen. The big brown eyes stared up at her with a very familiar expression. An expression she couldn't quite place...

"Roy! He's beautiful! Are you bringing him to visit someone? You know he has to be on a leash if you are."

"Er...no Dix...I...er...is Dr. Brackett or Early around? I really need to see one of them about this dog."

"Roy, are you trying to find a new home for him? If you are, I'll take him."

"Er...no...I mean...he's coming home with me. It's just that...well...you're not going to believe this."

By now, Dixie was getting confused, "I won't believe what, Roy?"

Roy looked down at the ground, unable to meet her eyes while he made himself sound completely insane.

"This is Johnny. He was changed into a dog tonight."

Dixie stared at Roy for a minute and then burst out laughing.

"Roy DeSoto! That is the funniest April Fool's gag I've seen yet! Johnny a dog! That's funny!"

"Dixie! It's no joke! I wish it were! I saw him change! His pain was unbelievable!"

"You don't have to carry the joke this far. It's funny, okay? You got me! Really, where's Johnny?"

"Ask him yourself! He answers one bark for yes and two for no. Ask him questions!"

Dixie wiped her eyes. "Okay, Roy. You win. Hey pup, are you John Gage?"

One bark.

Dixie looked at Roy. "Just a fluke."

"Johnny, have I ever dated you?"

Two barks.

"Are you a paramedic?"

One bark.

"Are you married?"

Two barks.

"Do you know what happened to you?"

Two barks.

Suddenly, Dixie remembered the conversation about the child and mother that they had that afternoon.

"Johnny, could this be a voodoo curse?"

Slight whine. Pause. One bark.

"The woman with the 4 year old son who died?"

One bark.

Roy's head snapped up. "Of course! She said if her son died, Johnny'd regret it. I guess she meant it."

"Dixie! What's the meaning of this!" Kelly Brackett's decidedly irritated voice surprised them.

Dixie jumped at the sound of his voice. "Kel! You're never going to believe this!"

"I already don't believe that the head nurse of the ER is allowing a dog in here. Without a leash no less!"

Roy piped up, "It's my fault Doc. I didn't know what to do with Johnny and the fellas at the station suggested I bring him here for you to look at."

"Roy, it's very nice that you named your dog after your partner, but why does that mean I know anything about dogs?"

"This isn't just a dog named after my partner." Roy took a deep breath and then went for broke. "This IS my partner. A voodoo curse turned him into a dog. I'm going to take him home, but I wondered if you knew anything about this sort of thing."

Brackett just glared. "Roy, this is an emergency room. You of all people should understand that this is not the place for April Fool's pranks."

Dixie piped up, "I thought it was a joke too, Kel. But this dog was able to answer yes/no questions about himself as if he really were Johnny. I really think Roy is telling the truth."

"Ask him yourself, Doc! One bark for yes and two for no!"

Brackett's mouth twitched. He just glared between the paramedic and nurse for a minute. Finally, he looked down at the dog. If he thought about it, the expression in the dog's eyes DID remind him a little bit of Johnny.

"Okay dog, is your name John Gage?"

One bark.

"Is Roy your partner?"

One bark.

"Does he let you drive the squad?"

Two barks.

"When I was injured in that car accident, were you in the ambulance with me?"

Two barks.

"Have you ever been bitten by a snake?"

One bark.

"Did Dr. Early catch the virus from that monkey?"

Two barks.

"Did I?"

One bark.

Brackett looked up at Roy. His eyes widened with amazement. He could believe the dog would get at least a couple of questions right. Assuming the animal knew his cue to speak was a human stopping speech to give him time to answer, which only gave him a 50/50 chance of getting the question right. This animal got ALL the questions correct. But it was still so unbelievable!

In a slightly patronizing tone, Brackett asked "Okay, Roy. I believe you. This is Johnny. How did it happen? What do you want me to do?"

Roy didn't seem to notice the doctor's tone. "Could you back up Cap's claim that Johnny's been injured? Make something up. Something that will keep him out for a while, but could also be cured on a moment's notice should we get this thing cleared up quickly enough."

Even more patronizing tone, "Of course, Roy. I think a serious sprain could be arranged. Maybe even a slight concussion. But you haven't answered my first question. How did this happen?"

"We went on a run for a 4 year old with a fatal aneurysm. His mother was this voodoo priestess or something and she told Johnny that he'd regret it if her son died. I handled the bio-phone and Johnny treated the boy and rode in the squad with him. The boy died enroute."

Brackett nodded grimly. "I remember. There was nothing anyone could've done. It was amazing the child lived as long as he did. It should have been instantly fatal."

Roy nodded. "I know. Johnny knew. The kid's mother, she didn't know. Or if she did, she didn't accept it. Either way, the boy died and now Johnny's a dog."

Dixie looked thoughtful, "I read somewhere, that in order for someone to put a voodoo curse on someone else, the priestess would need something personal like a lock of hair or something from the victim."

Roy looked at the dog, "Johnny, do you know if the boy's mother touched you at all when her son died?"

A slight whine. Pause. One bark.

"She did? Did she touch your hair?"

Another whine. One bark. Johnny jumped up on Roy as he remembered feeling someone or something stroke his hair just after the boy died. He didn't think anything of it because he didn't feel his hair actually being cut.

Roy laughed, "Okay, down boy!"

Slight growl.

"Johnny, she must have cut your hair when you weren't looking. We'll have to go see her in the morning. Meantime, let's get you home and get you something to eat and a place to sleep. Jennifer's gonna be thrilled at having a dog. You wouldn't mind playing fetch with the kids would you?"

Slightly louder growl. Then a resigned sigh. Johnny rubbed affectionately against Roy's legs and headed for the door.

"Hey Junior! Wait for me!"

*************************

As Roy pulled into his driveway, he sat for a minute with his hands on the steering wheel. Johnny looked over from his seat and whined a question.

"How am I gonna explain this to Joanne? Brackett and Dixie probably thought I was nuts. Joanne'll probably leave me and take the kids!"

Johnny lay across the seat and put his head in Roy's lap as if to say 'we'll get through this together partner.'

Roy smiled and absently scratched Johnny behind the ears for a minute. Johnny closed his eyes and sighed. Now he understood why dogs liked that so much! Finally, Roy took a deep breath and opened the car door. With not a little nervousness, they headed for the front door.

"Joanne? Honey, I'm home!"

"Roy? Honey, are you all right? What are you doing home? Is something wrong?" Joanne stopped when she saw the large dog standing next to her husband. "What is that?"

Roy sighed. "It's a very long story Joanne."

As he began to tell the story, Roy's children, Chris and Jennifer came downstairs to see their dad and were thrilled to see the 'cute little puppy!' (As Jennifer referred to Johnny). Chris ran for a tennis ball to play fetch while Jennifer hugged Johnny and told him that he would sleep with her every night and be her very own puppy. Johnny whimpered and looked at Roy (giving new definition to the term 'puppy dog eyes').

Roy laughed, "Sorry partner, you're just going to have to deal with it as best you can for now."

He turned to his daughter. "Jenny, sweetie? A mean witch turned your Uncle Johnny into a dog. This is him. So you be good to him, okay? Don't pester him if he doesn't want to be and don't tease him, okay?"

The six-year old little girl looked at the dog in amazement, "Uncle Johnny?"

One bark.

"You're a pretty doggy Uncle Johnny."

Johnny licked her face and she hugged him again.

"Come on, Uncle Johnny! Let's go tell Chris!" Jenny called over her shoulder as she headed off in search of her older brother. Johnny gave one last look at his partner and followed the little girl.

"Roy DeSoto!" said Joanne in her best angry mother voice. "How can you lie to a little girl like that? What's going to happen when she sees Johnny and that dog together? She's going to know her daddy lied to her."

"But Joanne! I didn't lie! A voodoo priestess or something put a curse on him! She was mad because we couldn't save her son on one of our runs today."

Joanne gave him a skeptical look.

"Believe me, honey. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. The other guys at the station saw it too! You can call them and ask! Poor Cap didn't know how to call it in to headquarters!"

Joanne sighed. Roy was obviously convinced he was telling the truth. Lord knows he was always a lousy liar. If it were a trick, she'd be able to see it in his face. Might as well go along with it until she could figure out what to do.

"Okay, honey. I believe you. It's Johnny. What are you going to do?"

"We're going to see that voodoo woman tomorrow morning and see if she can reverse this thing."

"Well, be careful honey. One dog in the family is plenty!"

Roy just glared at her.

****************************

The next morning, after a slightly awkward trip out to a tree in the backyard and a quick game of fetch with Chris and Jennifer, Roy and Johnny were ready to go meet the voodoo woman again.

Johnny pulled his head back into the car as they pulled up at 1313 Witches Place. That was another sensation he had always wondered why dogs liked so much. Wind in the face at 55 miles per hour was really a rush!

Johnny whimpered slightly as Roy opened the car door. As much as he wanted to be human again, he really didn't want to face that witch woman again!

"Come on Junior! Let's get this over with." said Roy as he tried to nudge Johnny out of the car. Roy still didn't have the heart to put his best friend on a leash.

Just then, an attractive woman walking a French poodle walked past the car. Johnny was out of the car and after them before he realized that he didn't know if he was chasing the woman or the poodle. Gay or straight was never an issue for Johnny. Human or animal shouldn't have been. Roy caught up with him as he was sitting on the pavement wondering what just happened.

"Come on, Romeo. Let's do this already." Roy said with a chuckle. He had noted his partner's confusion.

As they approached the door, Johnny's demeanor gradually went from happy and confident to sad and fearful. He hung his head and tail and stayed behind Roy, shivering. Just before he knocked, Roy leaned down and scratched Johnny behind the ears to try to give him some encouragement. He could have sworn he saw the dog smile a little.

When the woman opened the door, she didn't seem the least bit surprised to see a visibly upset Roy and a cowering dog. She did seem a little taken aback at the dog himself, though.

"I didn't expect such a dignified dog. I was thinking like a little terrier dog or something."

That earned her a slight growl.

"Relax, Johnny." said Roy under his breath. Johnny sat down at Roy's feet and glared up at the woman.

"Ma'am? I was wondering if I could talk to you about my partner here. I know you are responsible for changing him into a dog and I'm here to ask you to change him back please."

"Why would I want to do something like that? He let my boy die! The only reason he ain't dead is I ain't a murderer. Far as I'm concerned, he got what he deserved!"

"Ma'am! He did his best. Your son had a burst aortic aneurysm! It's almost always instantly fatal! It was amazing your son was still alive when we got here! Johnny did his best; there was just nothing he could have done. It wasn't his fault!"

The woman appeared to be taking Roy's words into consideration. After a minute, she shook her head.

"No! He could have saved my boy! He wasted too much time asking me stupid questions about what my son ate that day. He's no better than a dog and he'll stay that way!"

With that said, she slammed the door in Roy's face.

Johnny whimpered for a minute as Roy dropped to one knee and put his arm around his partner. Johnny leaned into him and whimpered again.

"Don't worry, Johnny." Roy whispered. "We'll find a way out of this. We'll find a way."

*******************************

Back at the DeSoto household, Jennifer and Chris immediately commandeered 'Uncle' Johnny for another game of fetch as Joanne and Roy sat on the deck and watched. Joanne got up when she heard the doorbell.

Hank Stanley was standing on the porch looking somewhat uncomfortable. He held a bag of dog food in one hand and a bright red dog collar in the other. One end of a leash was sticking out of his jacket pocket.

"Hi Joanne," he said as she opened the door. "Are Roy and Johnny here?"

"Hi Hank, come on in. Roy is out on the deck, but I haven't seen Johnny in a few days."

Stanley looked confused. "Didn't Roy bring a wolf-dog home? That's Johnny. Damnedest thing I ever saw."

Joanne clutched at the doorknob. Could Roy really have been telling the truth about Johnny? It was just too wild to be believed.

"Um...exactly what did you see, Hank?" she asked in an almost steady voice.

"Something I never want to see again. I've never seen a human body become so distorted. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. One minute, he's a skinny, hyperactive, hotshot, HUMAN paramedic, the next minute he's a wolf. It was horrible!"

"You mean Roy wasn't lying? There really was a voodoo curse put on Johnny?" She shook her head. "That's impossible! It's just an April fool's prank! You're all in on it together!"

"Joanne, when have you ever known Roy to pull a prank like this? Besides, it's April 2nd. Don't you think that if it were an April fool's prank, he would have told you by now? I'm not a superstitious man by nature. I normally don't believe in voodoo and witches and all that mumbo jumbo. I understand how unbelievable it all is, but it's real! You wouldn't believe the conversation I had with Dr. Brackett about Roy's sanity. Not to mention my call to the Chief."

Joanne went into the living room and sat down. It was all a little much to take. Just then, Johnny came bounding into the room. He went over to Joanne and put his head on her knee. She looked down at the dark brown eyes and decided the expression did remind her of Johnny after all.

Suddenly, the dog seemed to be aware that there was someone else in the room. He looked up and barked a friendly hello to his Captain.

Stanley gave him a sympathetic, if not uncomfortable smile. "Hey Pal, I just stopped by to see how you were adjusting to being a dog. Everything alright?"

One bark.

"Glad to hear it. You and Roy go see that voodoo witch yet?"

One bark.

"And?"

Two barks.

Stanley's face fell. "Gee, that's too bad. What are you gonna do? I can't have a canine paramedic. Maybe you could be a rescue dog."

Joanne watched this exchange with amazement. "You understand him?"

Hank nodded. "You have to ask yes/no questions. One bark for yes and two for no."

Roy came into the room. "Hey Cap, what brings you by?"

"I was just checking on Johnny. I brought some things you might need until you get him back to his human form."

Roy gratefully took the food and collar from Stanley, but he balked at the leash.

"I know a dog should be on a leash, but I just can't bring myself to put Johnny on a leash. You know? He may be a dog, but inside it's still him."

Stanley nodded and put the leash back in his pocket. Suddenly a childish voice called from the back yard.

"Uncle Johnny! Come back and play with us!"

Johnny looked at Roy with an expression that said 'here we go again!'

Roy laughed. "You want me to tell the kids you're too tired to play anymore?"

Pause. Slight whine. "Uncle Johnny!" Resigned sigh. Two barks.

Roy laughed even harder as Johnny walked slowly back outside to play with the children. Joanne allowed herself to chuckle and Stanley watched with amusement.

"Hey Roy, maybe you should leave him a dog. Your kids seem to enjoy him like this."

"Cap!" cried Roy in a wounded voice. "You're beginning to sound like Chet!"

"What are you going to do, DeSoto? Johnny told me your meeting with the voodoo woman didn't go well."

Roy slumped down on the couch and put his head in his hands. "I don't know Cap! He can't stay like this! That woman refused to listen to reason! She kept insisting that it was Johnny's fault the kid died. By all rights, the kid should have been dead long before we got to him. It wasn't anyone's fault. Least of all Johnny's."

Joanne got a thoughtful expression on her face. "Roy, you know, it occurs to me that if there's one voodoo practitioner in Los Angeles, there's bound to be more. All you have to do is find one willing to help you break the curse. What have you got to lose?"

Roy smiled and ran for the phone book.

******************************

"Next full moon!" shouted Roy. "What do you mean you can't change him back until the next full moon? That's more than three weeks away!"

The wizened old man watched Roy's outburst calmly. Johnny put his head in Roy's hand in an effort to calm his friend. When the old man decided that Roy had calmed down sufficiently, he began to speak.

"Sorry man. It's the best I can do. The only way to lift the curse any sooner would be to get the priestess who cursed him to lift it herself."

Roy slumped into a nearby chair. "That's not going to happen anytime soon. She said he deserves to be a dog."

"What did he do to her to make her do this?"

Roy told the man his tale - the failed rescue, the scene in the dorm, explanations at Rampart, at home, the woman's reaction to them showing up on her doorstep. The old priest said nothing during Roy's recital. He calmly listened and smoked his pipe with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"I see what you mean when you say she be unreasonable." said the old man once Roy finished speaking. "Come here dog."

Johnny gave one last look at Roy and went over to the old man. The old man grabbed his head and looked deep into his eyes. Johnny felt like the man was staring into his soul. He sat down and whimpered under the intense scrutiny. Roy started to go to him when something he couldn't explain stopped him. He fell back into his chair and watched helplessly as his partner squirmed in the old man's grip.

The man finally released Johnny's head, but instead of letting Johnny go to Roy, he grabbed the collar that Roy had put on him that morning. He grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped a lock of the dog's hair.

"That's all I need from your partner. My fee to do this is $250."

"Two hundred fifty dollars!" squeaked Roy.

"It's very reasonable," said the old man. "It's $200 less than I would normally charge. I give you a deal because you're a fireman. You're not gonna find anyone do it cheaper."

Johnny looked at Roy with the full force of his new 'puppy dog eyes'. Roy could almost hear his partner's voice {I'll pay you back Roy! I promise.}

Roy sighed and pulled out his wallet, "You take a check?"

"Of course! As a show of good faith, I won't cash it until your partner is human again. Now, while I don't charge extra if it bounces, your partner WILL end up as something OTHER than a dog or a human." said the old man with a smile.

Roy shuddered at the thought and wrote the check. They left with instructions to return on the next full moon - a full 24 days later.

******************************

The next morning as Roy was getting ready for work, Johnny was constantly at his side (except for a quick trip out to the tree). Roy smiled as his partner helped him wake his kids up for school. Jennifer couldn't stop laughing as Uncle Johnny licked her face until she sat up. Chris kept trying to push him away, but Johnny weighed almost as much as the 10 year old and it was no contest as Johnny finally pulled the boy out of bed by one pajama leg.

As Roy headed out to his car, Johnny started to follow him.

"Sorry, Johnny," said Roy apologetically. "You're not a paramedic now. You can't go to work with me."

Suddenly, Roy was aware of Johnny's voice in his head. {Come on Pally! I belong at the station for my shift. I may have nothing to do but talk to Henry all day, but I need to be there.}

Roy looked at the dog in amazement. "Johnny! I think I understood what you just said!"

{Did you really, Roy?}

"Yes! That old man must have done this to help us until we get you back into human form!"

Johnny danced around in excitement. Real human communication! No more of this stupid once for yes, two for no crap! When Roy opened the car door for him, he nearly leapt through the car and out the other side in his excitement.

************************

When Roy got to the station, he went to the locker room to change while Johnny went into the break room to see who was there. He saw Mike and Marco sitting at the table, Chet was on the couch with Henry on his knee and...uh-oh...Craig Brice. He was really going to owe Roy big time!

Everyone turned when Henry barked at the strange dog in the station. He did not like the idea of competition.

{Relax, Henry,} barked Gage. {It's me, Johnny. I'll only be a dog for a little while. Can you deal with that?}

{Johnny?} Barked the old basset hound. {Do I even want to know what happened?}

{Nope,} answered Johnny. {Could you just help me with this being a dog thing?}

"Where did this dog come from?" asked Brice.

The men of A-shift looked at each other. There was an uncomfortable silence as their minds raced to come up with something believable. Finally, Marco spoke.

"It's an experimental program. Er...rescue dogs!" The other guys let out a collective sigh of relief as Brice seemed to accept the lie.

"I didn't see him when I came in. Who brought him?"

"Roy has been keeping him," answered Chet. "He's a rescue dog after all. Roy is a rescue man. That and the fact the dog's name is Johnny."

"Fitting name, I think." said Brice looking at the dog. "Something in his eyes reminds me of Gage."

Johnny barked once.

"See?" said Chet. "He agrees with you!"

{That's not what I said! Can't you understand me Chet? Or is it just Roy? So much for the human communication!}

Roy came into the break room and saw Brice standing by the coffee pot. {Oh Johnny, you owe me big time for this one.}

{Sorry Pally, I'll make it up to you.}

Roy looked at the dog in surprise. {You understand my thoughts?}

{Yea. I guess it works both ways. Then again, when I was human we could almost read each other's thoughts anyways. The other guys can't. I tried already. It's just you and me!}

Suddenly, they heard the Cap's voice calling the men in for roll call. Johnny came out and lined up in his rightful place next to Roy. Brice looked down at the dog that pushed him out of line. He thought he saw a smug expression flit across the animal's face. Roy just smiled and scratched Johnny behind the ears.

"Roy," came Stanley's gruff voice. "What is Johnny doing here?"

Marco spoke up quickly, gesturing subtly at Brice, "Don't you remember the rescue dog program they're experimenting with?"

Stanley got the hint. "Oh...yes. I almost forgot that started today. Lopez, you've got latrine duty today. See me in my office before you get started. Roy and Johnny, you too."

In Hank Stanley's office, two men and a dog were waiting for the inevitable. They weren't disappointed.

"RESCUE DOG PROGRAM?!?" yelled Stanley as loudly as he dared with Brice in the building. "You told the walking rulebook that Johnny is a rescue dog? What's going to happen when he finds out it's not sanctioned by the Chief?"

Marco shrunk in his chair. "I'm sorry Cap! He asked about the dog and we couldn't tell him the truth. It was a spur of the moment thing. I didn't realize what I was saying."

"Cap, why can't we take Johnny on our runs? He already knows what he's doing when it comes to rescues. His senses are heightened as a dog. He'll be able to help in search and rescue efforts."

Johnny barked his agreement.

"Okay," Stanley relented. "Only on small fires and rescues. We can't have him meeting the Chief like this. Understood?"

"You got it, Cap!"

One bark.

The shift passed relatively uneventfully. If Brice wondered why the dog wasn't accompanying the squad on ALL the rescues, he didn't say anything. When the engine and squad went to a 3-alarm fire, Johnny went in search of Henry. Of course, given the fact the old dog never left the couch, he didn't have far to look.

{So, Henry, what can you tell me about being a dog? I've got 3 more weeks like this.}

{Have you learned what "the look" can get you?}

{Better believe it Pal! Roy and his wife and kids melt every time.}

{That's the important thing. If you run into any other dogs, don't make eye contact unless you want to challenge them. That's a good way to pick a fight.}

{Never knew that about dogs. Thanks.}

{If another dog won't meet your eyes, it means they see you as the leader. You can do anything you want with them. People are the easy ones to deal with.}

{How so? I mean besides the "puppy dog eyes" thing.}

{They feed you, take you out when you need to go, love you unconditionally and rub your belly...now THAT'S a great feeling! You think behind the ears is good?}

{Better than behind the ears? I'll have to get someone to try that.}

When the engine returned, Johnny was lying on the couch with Henry's head on his back. When Chet tried to move Johnny, he got a growl for his efforts.

"Come on Gage! Move over, huh? You're taking up the whole couch!"

"Gage?" asked Brice. "I thought the dog's name was Johnny."

Roy froze. Chet started as he realized his mistake. He thought quickly to come up with something Brice would buy.

"Er...force of habit. Johnny in the station is Gage to me."

Brice nodded. "You realize most dogs don't respond unless you call them by their proper name. He won't answer if you don't call him Johnny."

{Good save Kelly,} barked Johnny as he got off the couch.

As Roy leaned down to pet Henry, he whispered to Chet, "Johnny and I agree. Good save Chet."

************************

The next three weeks passed with little trouble. Roy was able to relay Johnny's thoughts to the guys as needed and Johnny proved himself to be not only a great family pet, but also an exceptional rescue dog. Everything was going fine until two days before the full moon. Then it all hit the fan.

*****************************

The guys and dogs were watching TV on a particularly quiet shift when the klaxons sounded.

'Station 51, unknown type rescue, 2194 Darin Street, 2-1-9-4 Darin, Cross Street Martin. Time out 15:24.'

Roy and Johnny jumped into the squad on the driver's side while Brice climbed into the passenger seat.

2194 Darin Street proved to be a small bungalow in a resort complex. An attractive, young woman was waiting for them on the lawn.

"I didn't know who else to call! I've been knocking on her door for an hour and no one answers. I know she's there. I was sitting on my porch and I saw her go in and she didn't come back out and then I needed to borrow some sugar and no one would answer my knock." She paused to take a breath.

"Anyway, her name is Melba. She's really old, but she's in great shape. She does ballroom dancing and everything. She can dance circles around me and she's gotta be nearly 80. You should see her samba."

Stanley jumped in before she could draw breath to start again. "Do you know if she lives alone? Does anyone else have a key to the bungalow?"

While the woman and Captain Stanley were talking, Roy, Brice and Johnny went up to the front door. Roy knocked on the door while Brice went to look in the windows. Johnny jumped off the porch and started sniffing around the house.

Suddenly, Roy heard Johnny's frantic voice in his head. {GAS, ROY! Get out of there!}

Johnny went around the back of the house where Brice was looking in a window. Johnny started barking frantically. Brice looked at him coolly.

"Is there something I should know?" Brice asked the dog. "This isn't an episode of Lassie. I can't tell from your barking if there's a child stuck in a well or I need to drive for the Ranger."

{Dammit Brice! Just get out of here!} Johnny started tugging at Brice's jacket. Brice started to push him away when he heard Roy on his handi-talkie calling him away from the house. Brice looked at the dog in amazement.

"How did you know?"

Brice and Johnny were almost clear of the house when the explosion hit. Brice was thrown to the ground amid a shower of debris. Johnny, however, had been closer to the house. He had stayed behind Brice in order to help him if need be.

Roy looked back at the house in terror. {Johnny? Can you hear me partner?}

Roy projected his thoughts as hard as he could. Out loud, he was screaming Johnny's name. He wasn't getting an answer to either effort. He was suddenly aware of Craig Brice standing behind him. He was dirty and disheveled, but aside from a small cut on his forehead that he was holding pressure on, he was fine.

"That dog knew there was danger and he came to warn me. How did he know, DeSoto?"

"It doesn't matter now! We have to find him!" Roy was running back towards the burning house.

"DeSoto!"

Roy didn't acknowledge him. He just kept running. Past Marco and Chet, he ran until he saw a pile of fur lying motionless on the ground. He grabbed the dog's body and ran back to the squad. Panic filled him as he realized the dog wasn't breathing. He grabbed the oxygen and a non-rebreather mask and awkwardly fitted it on the dog's muzzle.

"DeSoto! That equipment isn't for a dog! You just have to let the dog go."

"Go to hell, Brice."

Captain Stanley came up to the paramedics and saw Roy frantically trying to save his friend. He didn't see the Chief's car pull up.

"Brice," came the Cap's shaky voice. "Let him alone. Johnny means a lot to us. Dog or not."

"But, Captain Stanley. We need to rescue the woman in the house, not give a dog mouth to mouth!"

"The woman went out the back door and walked to her dance lesson. She wasn't even in there. Just let Roy alone."

"Hank!" came the Chief's voice. "Why is one of your paramedics working on a dog?"

"DeSoto didn't want to lose the station's rescue dog," Brice piped up as Stanley glared at him.

Chief McConnikee turned to Captain Stanley, who was standing with a very uncomfortable look on his face.

"Rescue dog? Since when does Station 51 have a rescue dog?"

Brice suddenly realized why the dog hadn't been going out on the larger rescues. It was to avoid the Chief! But why would they lie about what the dog was doing at the station?

"Chief, it's a long story and one that, quite frankly, you won't believe. Hell, I wouldn't believe it if I were you, and I saw it. It's a true story."

Suddenly, they heard a cry from the ground, "Atta boy Johnny! Just keep breathing, okay pal? We'll have you fixed up in no time."

Stanley closed his eyes in relief. One problem avoided. When he opened his eyes again, the angry eyes of his Chief were glaring at him. One problem one to go. Hank sighed and began to tell the story. The Chief's eyes got bigger and bigger as Hank got further and further into the story. Finally, he began to laugh.

"That's a good one, Hank. Not even close to the appropriate place for a joke like that and three weeks too late for April fool's day. You're going to write me a report on this one. You'd better come up with a better story than that or you're going to find yourself hanging hose faster than you can say 'I've been demoted!'"

Roy jumped up from where he was tending to Johnny (who, only seemed to have minor wounds, Thank goodness!).

"It's true Chief! I realize it's almost impossible to believe if you weren't there to see it. It happened! Johnny was turned into this dog. In two more days, the curse will be broken and he'll be as good as new. Or at least as good as human!"

"You really believe that, DeSoto?" asked the Chief.

"Yes sir! You can ask him yourself. I think he's feeling well enough to answer questions. Just ask yes/no questions and he answers one bark for yes and two for no."

The chief looked between his Captain and paramedic and sighed. Feeling more than a little foolish, he began to ask the dog questions.

Ten questions and correct answers later, the Chief, while still not completely convinced, agreed that he could see how his men could believe this animal was Johnny.

"Okay, Hank. I'll buy it for now. I still want a more believable story on your report, though. Understood?"

"Thanks Chief."

He turned to his paramedics. Brice was looking remarkably surprised at the turn of events and Roy was still hovering over his canine partner.

"DeSoto," said Stanley. "Take your partners in for medical care. Brice needs that cut treated and Johnny probably needs a vet."

{Oh man! I was hoping to avoid a hospital stay for once! Rampart is bad enough! Don't let the vet keep me overnight, huh partner?}

{Don't worry, Junior. I don't think you're hurt that badly. Besides, Jenny'll love taking care of her puppy!}

{Don't get me wrong, Roy. I love Jenny as if she were my own kid. But...}

Roy laughed. {I know what you mean. No more fetch!}

{Thanks. How 'bout a belly rub? They're really great when I'm feeling bad.}

{Ask Jenny or Joanne. No offense partner, but I don't think I could do that comfortably.}

{Actually, you're probably right. I love you partner, but maybe a belly rub is crossing a line that I sure as hell don't want to cross.}

Roy just laughed as Brice looked at them curiously. "What's so funny, DeSoto?"

"Never mind Brice. You'd never believe me anyway."

******************************

Two days later, Roy and Johnny found themselves back at the old voodoo priest's home. Roy had brought some of Johnny's clothes as it was pointed out that dogs don't wear clothes ergo, Johnny wasn't wearing clothes.

As the old man began the ceremony, Johnny felt the pain beginning again. He lay down and began whimpering, then crying. Roy was almost in tears himself. There are very few sounds in the world that can break your heart faster than a crying animal. Especially when the animal is your best friend.

Roy watched in horrified fascination as Johnny's legs began growing and his feet took shape. Paws became hands and claws fingers and dewclaws thumbs. His face gradually became more human and fur gave way to skin. The animalistic cries became human screams of pain and suddenly, it was over and all was quiet.

Johnny was lying naked, curled into a ball on the floor. Roy moved quickly and threw a blanket over his friend as he knelt down beside him. He removed the dog collar, smiling slightly as he realized it was now too big on Johnny's thin neck. Gradually, Johnny opened his eyes and looked up at Roy.

"Roy?" Johnny said. Then he realized it was his own voice coming from his mouth. "It worked?"

"Welcome back, Junior." said Roy affectionately as he handed Johnny his clothing.

The voodoo priest looked at Johnny curiously.

"Your partner said the woman expected you to be a terrier. Tell me boy. Do you have a Native American name? I see your ancestors in your face."

Johnny looked a bit embarrassed. "I have one. No one at the reservation ever used it. They said half-breeds shouldn't have warrior names."

Roy looked at Johnny sympathetically. His time on the reservation was not something Johnny liked to talk about.

"You didn't answer my question, boy."

"My Native American name translates in English to Running Wolf"

The old man nodded knowingly. "Your heritage kept you from becoming an annoying lap dog. You remained a wolf, like you were called."

"I never thought I'd be glad to have a Native American name. It was always spoken as an insult on the reservation. You wouldn't think Running Wolf could be made to sound insulting, but you'd be surprised."

"Come on, partner," said Roy, putting an arm across Johnny's shoulders. "Let's go home."

***************************

Johnny's first day back to work as a human was interesting, to say the least. When he got into the break room before roll call (he was so excited to be back to work, that he actually got there early!), there was a gift-wrapped box sitting on the table. The card read, 'Welcome Back Human! From Chet, Cap, Marco & Mike.' Johnny looked at Roy who just shrugged. Johnny eagerly ripped off the paper to reveal ... a box of Milk-Bones. Johnny looked up to see the guys watching him with amused expressions.

"This was Chet's idea, wasn't it?" Johnny asked, already knowing the answer.

The others just started laughing. Johnny went over to the couch, opened the box and gave a biscuit to Henry.

"Thanks pal, I couldn't have done it without you." he said to the sad-eyed dog.

{Anytime. Remember what I told you about dogs. It'll help you later.}

Johnny started and stared at Henry, "I'll remember buddy! I wonder if I can talk to all dogs, or just you."

"Hey, Gage. You can understand Henry?" Chet said in an incredulous tone. "Maybe he'll tell you what it will take to get him off the couch."

{Tell him not to hold his breath.}

"He says don't hold your breath."

Everyone laughed until the squad was called out a few minutes later.

********************

The shift was relatively uneventful. Dixie was extremely pleased to see her favorite paramedic back to normal - at least until he started chasing her nurses again. Brackett was still convinced it was an incredibly elaborate joke until Johnny was able to tell him exactly, word for word what went on in the ER that first night he was a dog.

********************

The next day, Johnny pulled up into Roy's driveway. When he got to the door, he barely had time to raise his hand to knock before the door was flung open and he suddenly had an armful of 6-year old.

"Uncle Johnny! You're a person again! Daddy said you were, but I didn't believe him. I wanted you to be my puppy forever."

"Jenny, Uncle Johnny didn't want to be a dog for the rest of his life," said Chris from the doorway. "You wouldn't understand; you're just a baby."

"I am not!"

"Are too!"

"Hey, guys. Where's your dad?" Johnny asked, hoping to derail a sibling fight before it really got started.

"I'm in here Johnny," came Roy's voice from the living room. Johnny put Jennifer down and walked into the house.

After sending the kids up to their rooms to play, Roy went over to Johnny and said, "Did you get it?"

"Yea. Are you sure Joanne won't mind? It's kind of a big thing, you know."

"Don't worry, we've discussed it. Are you sure you got a good one?"

"Roy, after three weeks, I've learned a few things. Don't worry, it's a good one."

"Okay. Let's get the kids." Roy said with a smile. "Chris! Jennifer! Could you guys come down here?"

As they came running downstairs, Johnny was practically dancing with excitement. {Of course,} thought Roy, {he never could sit still anyway.}

{No, I guess I can't Roy. I can still hear you, you know.}

{You're kidding? And you can talk to Henry too!}

{Yep. Shall we get started? The kids are a bit antsy. Come to think of it, so am I}

Johnny got down on one knee and motioned the kids over to him.

"Your dad tells me you guys are disappointed that I'm not your dog anymore. Is that true?"

"Well, Uncle Johnny," said Chris after an embarrassed pause. "We really did like having a dog. It's not that we were disappointed you weren't our dog. We were disappointed because we didn't have a dog anymore. We like you as a person. Right Jennifer?"

"You were a good doggy Uncle Johnny. I liked playing fetch and combing your fur and rubbing your belly and scratching your ears and..."

"Okay, Jenny sweetie. I get the picture." Johnny said. "Can you guys help me with something? I got you all a present to say thank you for helping me. It's in my truck. I need some help bringing it in. Okay?"

"Okay!" came the children's chorus of two. Jennifer and Chris led the procession out of the house, followed closely by Johnny and Roy.

Johnny reached into the back seat of his Rover where there was a large cardboard box. He pulled the box out of the car and set it on the ground. Almost immediately, a series of whines and yips emanated from the box. Chris looked at Jennifer and Jennifer looked at Chris. Their eyes were wider than saucers.

Finally, Chris dared to ask. "Uncle Johnny, is that what I think it is?"

Jenny took the more direct route. "Did you bring us a puppy?"

Johnny just smiled, opened the box and pulled out a fat, squirming Alaskan malamute puppy. Jennifer squealed and ran to grab the puppy. He licked her face and wriggled in her arms until she was forced to give him back to Johnny before she dropped him.

Chris didn't want to act as childish as his baby sister - he was 10 after all! Yet, he couldn't keep from running up to play with the puppy in Johnny's arms.

"Well, guys?" asked Johnny. "What do you think? Could you give my friend here a good home?"

"Can we ever!" yelled an exuberant Chris.

"I know what we can name him!" piped up little Jennifer.

"What?" asked Chris, Roy and Johnny in unison.

"Johnny!"

End.