Dog and Pony Show

The best prize ever

by Musiker

When Max and Dale perform, the grand finale of their show is an obstacle course competition between the two. The loser bottoms for the winner—not that either of them minds when he loses. But although the show secretly calls for Max to win, Dale has an unexpected surprise for Max.

Added: 11 Jan 2020 5,875 words 1,126 views 4.0 stars (1 vote)

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This episode takes place almost two years after Dale and Max’s debut at The Zoo, but before Max wrote the FAQ’s for The Zoo’s website that served as our introduction to the two.
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The show had been going really smoothly, but Dale, Mister Dante, and Miss Rachel all seemed the tiniest bit jumpy. I’m sure the audience didn’t notice—in fact, the audience was remarkably responsive this evening—but I could tell. They kept stumbling over lines or saying them with a bit more energy than necessary. Little things.

We were preparing for the big finale; what the audience didn’t know was that our show has four different ways that we’ve planned for the ending to go, with small variations possible as well. This gives audience members who come see us more than once the illusion that the finale is completely unscripted.

The first parts of our show are a combination of weight lifting exhibitions, bodybuilding poses, and acrobatics routines, with a little bit of humor to connect it all together. The premise of the big finale is that Dale and I do an obstacle-course-style competition through our five-story-tall habitat. We have to race each other as we climb the various ladders, ropes, poles, and trapeze that crisscross the air space above the safety nets. But we had added a twist we hadn’t yet revealed to the audience.

The four of us were standing on the rubberized floor of the habitat. Dale and I were shirtless, wearing only matching compression shorts and grippy gloves in our signature colors: cherry red for me and bright blue-violet for him. Humans would have needed full-length leggings and maybe a full leotard to do our routines, but our coats gave us extra protection against painful friction burns. We couldn’t do without the gloves, however.

All four of us wore wireless microphones; Dale’s and mine were concealed in fake slave collars to prevent any possibility that they would come loose and interfere with our acrobatics during the show.

Miss Rachel addressed the audience in the viewing gallery, which was behind an enormous bank of plexiglass windows one story above us. Mister Dante dashed off to the side of the habitat to grab something out of one of the storage chests that line the walls.

“Now, you all know that Max and Dale actually live here, so they pretty much know this place like the backs of their giant furry hands,” Miss Rachel declared.

“So we’re going to make this game juuuuust a little more challenging.” As Mister Dante jogged back to the center of the room, he held up the items he had fetched: two foam rubber hoods without eye holes. Their colors matched our shorts and gloves.

Our keepers are both pretty tall, but I’m six foot ten and Dale is seven feet exactly, so we got down on our knees so they could put our hoods on us. The audience hadn’t really been able to see what the items were until this point. The windows block a certain amount of sound, but we had audio monitors that allowed us to hear the audience react as they caught on that Dale and I would be scrambling around up there blind.

“Even blind, these guys are amazing at knowing exactly where things are,” Mister Dante explained. He gently tugged my floppy ears through the holes at the top of my mask and fitted the chin strap snugly.

“But ropes and trapeze have a nasty habit of swinging and moving around.” Miss Rachel was good at getting that bloodthirsty glee into her tone. The audience laughed and shouted in amazement and approval. Unless they’d seen this portion of the show before, most of them didn’t even know that our keepers had very long poles they could use to encourage aerial elements to go wandering.

“Thank you, sir,” I told Mister Dante when he finished with my mask.

“Thank you, miss,” Dale added.

Mister Dante took my elbow and stood me up. Then he gave me three rapid-fire pats on the back, plus a good, hard smack on the butt. This was meant to just look like he was getting me pumped up, but it was actually secret code. Three pats meant “route/variation 3”, and the butt pat told me which extra twist we had planned to add. I couldn’t keep my tail from wagging. “3-butt” was my very favorite. I heard a loud slapping sound from where Dale was standing.

“Ow!…Miss!” Dale hollered. I assumed she had smacked his butt extra hard.

“All right, are you boys ready?” Mister Dante asked. He was steering me so that I would be facing straight toward my first target. I actually could have found it on my own, but this was my last chance to alert the staff that something was off, or that I needed clarification. If I aimed myself clearly in the wrong direction, the sound techs would cut our mikes so I could tell Mister Dante what was wrong, and he and Miss Rachel would not start the race until my concern had been addressed. We had only needed to use this safety procedure once in almost two years, but Dale and I were about to do something that would be very dangerous if everything didn’t go as planned.

I stood squarely in the right direction, at the center of my “lane”, which had a shin-height padded barrier on each side so I’d know if I wandered off course.

“Ready, sir,” Dale reported.

“Ready, sir,” I agreed.

“Are you guys ready?” Miss Rachel shouted. The crowd roared its assent. Dang, they really were responsive tonight!

“On your mark…” Mister Dante began.

“Get set…” Miss Rachel continued.

“GO!” they yelled together.

I took off toward my first target, a rope ladder that would take me up just this side of the viewing gallery windows. Before I could mount the ladder, however, I had to crouch down to fit under the lowest of our safety nets, which was hung next to the ladder. I cleared the net, straightened up, and jumped onto the third rung and began to scramble up. I heard a thump and a grunt from Dale, still down at ground level. He must have misjudged the distance and run into the wall. He really was off his game tonight; he never missed the ladder.

“You’re supposed to climb the ladder, not beat it up!” I taunted.

“Fuck you,” Dale laughed. The audience chuckled as well.

“I’m counting on it, babe,” I retorted. That got a bigger laugh from the crowd. They enjoyed hearing our banter. They knew we were boyfriends from various comments made previously throughout the show, so they knew we were only joking around with each other.

I made it about halfway to the top of the ladder and paused with absolute precision so that my crotch, including a bulge that revealed a not-exactly-human-shaped cock, was exactly at the audience’s eye level. In this variation I was supposed to get ahead of Dale, but not too far ahead, so I took a few seconds to waggle my hips side to side and thrust my privates forward a couple times for the crowd. They hooted and whistled while I waited for the ladder to stop swinging. I love my life.

I continued climbing. I was now higher than the audience, but they could still see me, because at this point their windows slanted diagonally away from me, giving them plenty of sightlines to the ropes and trapeze above. About the only thing they wouldn’t be able to see was the tech booth directly above their heads where the lighting and sound techs sat and controlled the mikes, music cues, stage lights, and spotlights.

I made it to the top of the ladder and reached above my head. There was a horizontal metal bar here that extended along the wall to my left for about 40 feet. Dale had an identical bar that took him to his right. Our routes were exactly the same, but mirror-image to one another, so at this point we would be moving away from each other. I reached up to the bar and hung from it, then swung myself hand-under-hand toward the other end.

“Hey Dale, I think your shoe’s untied,” I joked.

“Horseshoes don’t have laces, dolt,” Dale retorted. Yes, it was a lame joke. We got a courtesy laugh from the crowd. But the point here was to keep the banter up to keep the audience engaged but not too riled up. We needed them to save their real excitement for later.

(And by the way, Dale doesn’t even wear shoes. The keepers apply a special goop to the soles of his hooves that hardens as it dries. It keeps his hooves healthy, and gives him the perfect amount of traction on the trapeze and other aerial equipment.)

At the end of the bar was a two-foot length of metal welded at a right angle to form a “T”. This piece was nice and flat, and just wide enough to stand on. When I reached it, I rotated myself 180 degrees and hefted myself up so I could stand on it. I now had the audience to my left. Reaching out with my right hand at shoulder level, I sought the next element in the course—a trapeze that swung parallel to the gallery windows. Nothing met my outstretched fingertips. I overbalanced and had to swivel my arms and focus on not falling. I heard a faint “Oh!” from beyond the plexiglass.

“Careful, Max!” Miss Rachel hollered. “A fall at this point would mean losing a lot of precious seconds!” Each trainer especially enjoyed heckling the other’s trainee. I could tell from her tone that she had probably nudged my trapeze with her pole to get it swinging before I arrived. Some of the crowd shouted in protest at the “cheating”; others loudly announced their delight. Both reactions were good as far as I was concerned.

“Thank you, miss,” I called back, putting just a hint of sarcasm into my tone. “Perhaps you could move the trapeze over to me?”

“That’s a good idea, miss,” Dale chimed in. “Otherwise he’ll be there all day.”

“Oh-ho-ho you’re asking for a drubbing now, horse!” I shot back.

By the time we’d finished that exchange, I’d had plenty of time to regain my balance and move my hand to where I knew the trapeze would eventually be. Sure enough, the side rope of the trapeze swung back into my hand and I grabbed it.

Now that I had the trapeze in one hand I could lean my weight out sideways and get both hands on it. Next, I let my feet swing off from the T-bar platform and hung with straight arms from the bar of the trapeze. My momentum started the trapeze swinging sideways slightly. To get things moving in the right direction, I squeezed my abs and brought my straight legs forward, then began to swing my legs forcefully forward and back to build up momentum. I loved the feeling of swinging higher and higher on the trapeze. My coat is very, very short, but the air flowing across it as I zoom back and forth, faster and faster, still feels different than it does on bare skin.

Now I was swinging just about high enough to make it to the next element in the course. As I was swinging away from my target, I pulled my legs in tight and hooked them over the bar of the trapeze. At the top of my arc I let go with my hands and flung my upper body out to give myself an extra bit of momentum. I was now upside down, but more importantly, I was facing the correct direction to grab the rope that would be just within reach when my motion stilled for a fraction of a fraction of a second at the opposite end of my swing.

Just as I started rushing toward that rope, the audience gasped in disappointment. Dale must have missed his rope. That meant he had been ahead of me; now was my chance to get back in the lead.

I swung my body up with the momentum of my swing, reached, and snagged the rope as easy as if I’d been standing calmly next to it with my eyes wide open. The audience’s groan turned to a cheer of triumph. I released the trapeze and clung to the rope.

“Too bad, Dale, Max is back in the lead!” crowed Mister Dante.

“I’m going easy on him,” Dale grunted. He was focusing on not missing, I could tell. The crowd cheered right after that, so he must have succeeded this time. “Max gets all sensitive when he loses.” I would have just laughed that off, but we were here to entertain the guests.

“Nuh-uh-uh,” I retorted breathlessly as I climbed the rope with just my hands, “you know my rule, hon. If I find out you’re not bringing your ‘A’ game, you sleep alone tonight.”

“Oooooh,” the audience jeered, then kind of murmured and chuckled to each other like there was more to that joke than I had intended. What was going on tonight?

At the top of the rope I reached to the side. Here, I was pretty much at the very roof of the habitat. For a split second I wished I didn’t have my hood on. I love the view from fifty feet up. I squeezed the rope between my knees for a little extra stability, and reached out for the next element: monkey bars.

There wasn’t much that was challenging about monkey bars for Dale and me, so Miss Rachel had come up with a vicious idea to make it more challenging.

“Now watch what the boys are doing here,” Miss Rachel narrated for the audience. “We can’t have them just negotiating the monkey bars like any 10-year-old could. So the bars are spaced extra far apart, and for each bar, they have to do a one-arm pull-up before they can move on to the next!”

This twist was especially brutal, because by the time I finished each pull-up, I had lost all my forward momentum. So after each one, I had to swing my legs a couple times to make the reach to the next bar. It was by far the most physically difficult part of the course. Mister Dante and Miss Rachel used the time to feed some interesting facts or something to the guests. I honestly had no clue what they were saying during this part of the course. I was too focused on what I was doing to care. Fortunately for Dale and me, the slow pace and lack of banter—we had to save our breath—also got dull after a few iterations, so we only had to do ten bars before we could move to our next element.

To get the crowd excited again, this one was more flashy, called an aerial silk. It’s basically the world’s longest, strongest, flowiest silk scarf—the center of the scarf is tied to a ring at the top, and both ends of the scarf drape down pretty much from ceiling to floor. It’s incredibly strong, though I have to wear caps on my toe claws so I don’t snag on the fabric. The silk is my favorite of all the aerial apparatus, though. When we do routines on the silk, it’s a wonderful blend of strength and art and dance. I love when we surprise the audience with how two bulky, massively muscular guys can also be beautiful and graceful.

Since this was a race, I just did an Angel Descent, which simply involved holding the silk in a certain way across my back to allow me to control my speed as I lowered myself to the ground. It wasn’t at all difficult, but it looked impressive because of the distance I was descending, and reminded the audience of the silk routine we’d done earlier in the show.

Once I had touched down, I stepped away from the silk. I had essentially come back to my starting point. I felt for my lane markers, first with my right foot, and then with my left, to make sure I was centered, then did a handstand. Balancing on my hands and doing the splits with my legs—I love the shocked reaction that gets—I hand-walked toward the far end of the lane.

“Dale better get a move on or he’s gonna need to hire a dog catcherrrrr!” Mister Dante shouted, drawing out the last syllable like a DJ. He always uses that line when I’m winning, but I never get tired of it.

“Why, did he see a squirrel again, sir?” That was a good comeback! I had to laugh, even though Dale’s joke was at my expense.

The last element of the course was a 50- foot rope that hung near the ladder I had first climbed. My rope was right next to Dale’s; there was a violet flag at the top of my rope and a red one at the top of Dale’s. That flag at the top of my rope was supposedly Dale’s, and if I captured it before he got mine, he would have to earn his flag back by giving me some great sex as a prize.

Sex with my boyfriend? Best. Prize. Ever.

When I felt the bottom of the safety net brushing against my calves and the soles of my feet, I knew I was almost to my final target. I reached the end of my lane and flipped myself right side up. I climbed the ladder just enough to get higher than the net and searched for the rope, which should have been hooked to the wall next to the ladder. But the rope was not where it belonged. The crowd was booing.

“Now’s your chance to catch up, Dale!” Miss Rachel urged. “Max can’t find the rope!” Her voice was coming from my left, beyond where the rope should have been.

“…Which you’re holding out of his reach, cheater!“ Mister Dante pointed out.

“Miss! I obje—!” My objection was overruled by a 2-inch thick rope smacking me in the face. I woofed involuntarily, then growled in mock exasperation, adding in a bit of a laugh so the audience would know not to take this all that seriously.

I must have been pretty far ahead. Miss Rachel would never have actually cheated, unless it was to give Dale a chance to catch up by just the right amount. I began to climb the rope with only my hands, just like before. I heard Dale breathing hard, about six feet lower than me.

“Dogs rule, you’re a mule!” I taunted. “I’m gonna call you ‘Bottom’ after I win ‘cause you’re a donkey and I’m gonna ‘top’ you!”

“Oh yeah, smartass? We’ll see who’s on top, Mr. Shakespeare!” Dale retorted.

Suddenly I felt a hand grab my ankle. Dale had caught up just enough to reach across from his rope and latch onto me. A second later I was holding up our combined bodyweight and he was trying to shake me off the rope. The audience thundered with excitement. I managed to get a couple more inches up the rope, but then Dale started to climb my leg.

“Dude, if you’d wanted to hump my leg, it would’ve been easier on the ground,” I gasped. This was hard work, lifting both our body weights with just my arms.

The audience roared with laughter, but Dale didn’t respond. He was working hard too. He was now at my waist, and I had climbed high enough that, once again, my crotch would be at eye level for the guests. Dale maneuvered his hands just an inch above the waistband of my shorts, then artfully allowed himself to slip several inches. He cussed softly, as if this were not going to plan. With my shorts slipping down slightly, he paused long enough for the guests to anticipate what was about to happen. Then he plummeted into the net, taking my shorts with him.

The crowd went completely bonkers. With my cock and balls on proud display, I finished my climb to the top and grabbed Dale’s flag. The sound tech played my victory song, George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”. I love that song! I hung there for a moment so I could swing my legs and jiggle my privates to the “Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie ay”, then dropped myself into the net.

I rolled to the edge of the net and flopped down onto the ground, but didn’t take my hood off. If I had lost, I would be taking it off and getting prepped to be the prize for Dale. Sometimes the loser gets hung in a sling in one of the squat racks, or gets tied to the bench press. When I lose, sometimes they put me in a leash and a ball gag, but the ball part of the gag looks like a tennis ball. When Dale loses, they often strap a fake saddle to his back and put a bit gag on him; then I get to wear a cowboy hat and “catch” him with a lasso.

Whatever presentation the keepers choose for the prize, it’s supposed to be a surprise for the winner. So I kept my hood on and spoke for a minute with Mister Dante, like a post-game interview.

“So Max, how’s the breeze feeling down there?” Mister Dante began.

“It feels amazing, sir! That was kind of unexpected,” I laughed.

“Are you cold?”

“No, sir, that was hard work! I’m sweaty and hot right now!”

“Oh yeah, boy, you are very hot!” The crowd whistled and catcalled. There was a peculiar pause. “Well Max, today, Dale has kind of an unusual prize for you, but I think you’re going to like it a lot. Let’s get that hood off of you.”

That was quick. Usually we have to stall for a minute or two to give time for Miss Rachel to prep Dale. I also noticed that, as I knelt to let Mister Dante help me with my hood, the audience had gone instantly from raucous to silent. This was just so weird!

I thanked Mister Dante and stood up to see Dale just standing in front of me looking anxious. Slightly behind him and to the side stood Miss Rachel; she was holding her hands behind her back and looking so excited she was almost floating. I glanced uncertainly at Mister Dante, but he just gave me a huge grin and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Max,” Dale began, reaching out to take my hands in his. “Master gave me permission to hijack the show a little bit so I could offer you a different sort of prize tonight.”

There was not a peep, not a whisper, not a rustling merchandise bag to be heard.

“As you know,” he continued, “Master does not allow us beast-folk to wear jewelry of any kind…with one exception.” I gasped; my heart began to beat very fast. He turned to Miss Rachel. “May I have it please, miss?”

Miss Rachel handed him what looked like a thick hank of braided black and white hair, about ten inches long, with little metal thingies at each end.

“Miss Maya helped me braid this bracelet and Mister Mike put the clasps on. I’d like you to keep this so you can put it on at our mating ceremony.” My tail was wagging so hard it felt like it was trying to fly away. His voice grew thick with emotion. “It’s made from the hair of my mane and tail and feathers, so you can keep a part of me with you always, just like I carry you in my heart.”

He placed the bracelet in my hand and looked into my eyes. He didn’t kneel; we kneel to humans, but beast-folk are always equals.

“Max. Will you be my husband?”

I made a sound that was part “oh” and part yip and part howl.

“Yes, oh my God, yes!” I cried as I flung my arms around his thick, muscular neck. He scooped his arms around my waist and picked me up as I passionately groomed his face and neck. That’s our version of French kissing. The audience exploded into cheers and applause.

When Dale put me back down, Mister Dante put his hand on the side of my arm and stood on tiptoes. I bent down so I could hear him over the din.

“Max, did you even know your Master was watching the show tonight?”

I gasped and spun to face the viewing gallery. Sure enough, there was the tiny man I loved like a father, right in the center of the front row. I would have stopped to wonder how I had missed him until now, but when Master doesn’t want to be noticed, he just doesn’t get noticed. I gazed lovingly up at him for a moment, then got down on both knees and bowed my head to him. Dale came beside me and did the same. When we straightened up, we stayed on our knees.

“I didn’t think my life could possibly get any better, Master. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, sir!” I wiped my eyes.

“Thank you, Master. For everything you’ve done for us, thank you, sir,” Dale added.

Unlike many of us beast-folk—especially me—Master is not one to get overly emotional over things. He cares incredibly deeply about us, but he just doesn’t sob or cry out or jump up and down. He smiled fondly at his two newly-engaged slaves, clasped his hands in a congratulatory gesture, then walked briskly off to wherever.

The audience applauded for a minute more. The sound tech cut our mikes and cued up our end-of-show music. Mister Dante and Miss Rachel helped us out of our microphone collars and we pulled off our gloves. Some of the guests began to disburse; more than usual hung around to see what we decided to do next.

We got up. I reached out and grabbed my fiancé’s hand. And we just stood there, two giant muscle beasts holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes.

“How long were you planning this?” I asked out of curiosity. Dale turned to Miss Rachel.

“It’s been several weeks, hasn’t it, Miss?”

“Almost a month,” she agreed.

“Your Master wanted to invite as many fans of your show as he could, so you’d have an amazing audience,” Mister Dante added. “Not sure how he contacted them all, but oh, my, God, they were all so excited.”

“Plus, it took a while to make your bracelet,” Dale pointed to it as I clutched it in my hand.

“I can’t wait ‘til I can wear it,” I murmured, looking at it more closely. “It’s so beautiful. Oh! I’m going to have to think of something to make for you!”

“Whatever you do, it will be amazing.” Dale leaned over and licked me once on the nose. Mister Dante and Miss Rachel said that to let us celebrate, they would clean up from the show so we could enjoy some time together. We both thanked them profusely and they started taking down the lane markers.

“God, how did I get so lucky that you fell in love with me?” I marveled.

“Nothing to do with luck, Love of My Life. You’re just so fucking lovable I had no choice.”

“And I’d be an idiot not to fall for you, because you’re so fucking amazing!”

“Of course I am,” he answered with that sideways cocky grin that makes my groin tingle.

“You know how I want to celebrate? I want to bend you over the preacher curl bench and bang your ass.”

“Fuck yeah!” Dale bent his head down and groomed me on the neck. I enjoyed that for a while, but eventually I just got so horny I couldn’t stand to wait any longer. I pulled his shorts off so that he was naked too, then popped them over his head and dragged him over to the preacher bench.
The next day, Master called a get-together for all the beast-folk to celebrate our engagement. We do these meet-ups a couple times a month during the off-season, in the morning before the park opens to the public. We all get escorted to the viewing gallery for the Atlantis habitat so our friends who can’t breathe out of water don’t get left out. It’s hard to communicate with them, but they appreciate the chance to see everyone as much as any other beast-folk.

Butch the shark-man had written “Congrats Dale and Max” on the glass in big, fancy letters with grease marker so we would see it as soon as we came in. Next to that, Serena, one of the mermaids, had drawn a fantastic caricature of Dale and me. I was juggling dumbbells while Dale swung over my head on a trapeze; pink and red hearts were everywhere.

There were more grease markers on both sides of the glass, and many beast-folk had written messages or drawn pictures. We beast-folk are truly members of a big family, and today I was feeling their love more than ever before.

It was almost time to go back to our habitats, and I was taking a moment to enjoy a quiet chat with Tess, my best friend at The Zoo after Dale. She’s a dog-human blend like me, but she’s a Border Collie and I’m a Swiss Mountain Dog. Our colorings are sort of similar, but her coat has no brown and is much longer than mine in certain places. I think it makes her look really pretty, but she’s one of those people who is uncomfortable with compliments, so I only tell her once in a while. We sat side-by-side, at the end of the top row of seats.

“So, you guys are gonna be our fourth mated couple,” Tess said to me.

“Yeah,” I replied. There were already Rio and Pacifica (male and female otters), Aurora and Frija (female polar bear and female arctic wolf), and Ama and Rojo (female ocelot and male macaw).

“You two make the best couple. But…can I confess something?” she asked softly. “Dale kind of intimidates me.”

“Really? I’m surprised! You always cover it well when you come over for sleepovers.” Tess lives in The Farm habitat, and there’s so much greenery in there that the horticulture staff need to do a really thorough clean-up and seasonal re-planting every few months. When that happens, Tess and her roommates come spend the night with Dale and me.

“Well, it’s not like he scares me to death,” she clarified. “It’s just that he’s so intense.”

“Oh,” I laughed, “I know what you mean. He can come on pretty strong. But you should know, he thinks you’re super cute, especially your ears.” Her ears are more perky and fluffy, while mine are floppier. “And he really means it when he says he’s amazed that you can play so many different instruments.”

“Pppbbf,” she snorted. Like I said, compliments are hard for her.

“You know when he really loosens up? Watching movies. You should suggest a movie you’d like to watch next time you come over. He enjoys pretty much anything, and it’ll give you two something to talk about.

“It’s funny you said that, though. Mariah intimidates me a little bit,” I admitted. Mariah is an Arabian horse who also lives in The Farm habitat.

“What?” she gaped, then thought about it for a second. “I guess she does have a bit of a temper, but really she’s very kind! And she says you are ‘just as sweet as apple pie’.” We both smiled; it was exactly the sort of thing Mariah would say.

“She and Dale sure get along.” We looked across the room where the two of them were playing Hangman on the window. They both tended to get bored quickly at these gatherings. Mariah looked fine-boned and elegant, compared with Dale’s brick-shithouse physique, but no one could ever doubt her personality was just as strong. They were cheerfully debating, probably arguing about the finer points of Hangman strategy.

“Must be a horse thing,” we both said at the same time, then grinned at each other and laughed.

“Two minutes, children,” Master announced via the attendants’ microphone.

“Thank you, Master,” we all chorused. A buzz of conversation swirled around the room as beast-folk said their goodbyes and went to meet up with the keepers who would walk them back to their habitats.

“Oh! Max!” Tess put her hand on my arm. “I just remembered! You know my keeper, Miss Jennifer? She makes necklaces as a hobby! I bet she would help you make something to give Dale.” I gasped in relief.

“Would you ask her for me, please? Please please please?”

“Sure will! Take good care of your fiancé!” She said “fiancé” in a singsong voice like a teasing seven-year-old.

“Thank you, Tess! Have a great week, okay?” I licked her on her fluffy ear. She grabbed my ear so I would bend down for her to give my face a lick.

“Can’t wait for our next sleepover! I’m going to think of a good movie to watch. Ready to go, guys?” Her other roommates, Paco and Pig, had walked up to get Tess. We all farewelled each other, and I went to meet up with Dale.

We are arguably the strangest family on the planet.

But I think that also makes us the best family on the planet.

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