He looked like a genetically modified coconut standing on four fury legs in the middle of the dog park as he shook his head in disagreement with his friend and housemate. “No giant dog is going to fall from the sky and smash everyone’s backyard gate,” he said. “Sparkatus is a myth. Dogs throw his story around and the one about the Night of the Broken Gates when they’re bored and depressed, stuck in the their yard sniffing their own piles of… well, you know what I mean. And who can blame them? Not every dog gets out and travels like we do. I’ve peed on sixty-four trees just this morning.”
“Sparkatus is not a myth. He’s real,” said Coconut’s housemate, a mutt, who was big and round like a watermelon. “I talked to a friend on the way into the park who said he’s seen Sparkatus, that he’s in town, and that he actually sniffed his butt. Can you believe that? Sniffed the but of Sparkatus?”
Coconut cocked his head at Watermelon. “Is this that friend of yours with the litter box addiction? You can smell the chemicals in that stuff from across the street.”
Watermelon didn’t make eye contact, feigning interest in a blade of grass instead, which was answer enough for Coconut. “That’s what I thought,” he said. “So what did your kitty roca addled friend say the butt of Sparkatus smelled like? Meow Mix?”
Watermelon’s head snapped up excitedly. “Squirrels,” he said. “How about that? A dog who can live off of squirrels.”
“Ha. Now I’m he’s lost to the litter,” Coconut said. “No dog catches the squirrel, it’s impossible, let alone live off of them. No one even knows what they taste like. Fresh, that is. What else did roca brain, I mean, your friend say?”
“That Sparkatus is big, wolf-like big. You’ve heard of the dire wolf?”
“Sure I have. A wolf bigger than the biggest grey wolf. I shudder at the thought. Coyotes are bad enough with their wily ways. They pretend to be your friend so they can lure you in to the woods where their puppies eat you. I’d be nothing but a tidbit to them.” He cocked one of his little hind legs high in the air. “Piss on them and their sneaky ways. If Sparkatus was real, he could scare them off with a single glance.”
Watermelon waddled closer to Coconut. “I thought he was supposed to unite the canine tribes?”
“There’s no uniting with a hungry coyote, unless you’re within his belly.” Coconut finished peeing, then sniffed his own piddle. “So your friend saw a really big dog, so what? I’ve seen a lot of big dogs and you know what? They ain’t that bright. See that dumbass Lab over there trying to mate with that log?” Watermelon followed Coconut’s gaze across the park to an overweight Labrador stuck climbing over a log. “Did you know that dog once ate so many rocks the two-leggers had to open him up to get them out? In my book, big just means dumb, and the bigger you are, the dumber–”
“No, no, no. Sparkatus is smart, smarter than a two-legger.”
“That’s not saying much.”
“Okay, smarter than a cat.”
Coconut grunted. “Cats aren’t smart. They’re just sneaky, like when they stand so still you can’t see them, or taunt you from the other side of a closed window. What chicken nits.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” He pondered a moment, sniffing Coconut’s piddle. “How about smarter than a car?”
Coconut scratched the ground excitedly with his hind legs like a miniature bull getting ready to charge the matador. “Now you’re talking. Cars are smart. They know all the good places to go and you don’t have to tell them anything. You just get in and they take you there. Yeah, I love cars. They’re the best.”
Both dogs wagged their tails in appreciation, thinking of cars as the summer breeze ruffled their fur, and eventually Watermelon continued. “My friend said Sparkatus showed up at the park, lifted his leg on a tree or two, had a few words with the locals, and left. But sniff this, when he left, he walked straight through the gate as if it wasn’t there.”
“Ha! More roca damage as the myth grows. Now Sparkatus can walk through walls. Was it at this park?”
“Nah, another I’ve never been to.”
“What did he say to the locals?”
“He said the Night of the Broken Gates was coming.”
“What a load of pig poop. The Night of the Broken Gates is here already. It has been the Night of the Broken Gates for as long as dogs have been stuck on the wrong side of the gate. Why does everything in life seem to involve waiting? Now even the great Sparkatus himself is telling us to wait. His back legs must belong to a two-legger.”
As Watermelon squatted over Coconut’s piddle, he said quietly, “I like pig poop.”
“Who doesn’t?” Coconut agreed, and wagged his tail, enjoying memories of some very filthy frolics.
A gathering of dogs on the far side of the park caught their attention. It was much larger than the usual gathering of three or four and was growing. Like flies drawn to a fresh pile, dogs from all over the park headed toward it, and then Coconut and Watermelon saw why. Standing on the outside of the gate to the park was the biggest dog they had ever seen. He wore no collar, no leash was attached to him, and their wasn’t a human standing beside him fretting over whether they had baggies or not.
Coconut’s eyes grew wide. “Do you think that’s him?”
With eyes equally wide, Watermelon said, “It must be. He’s massive.”
And the two of them practically flew across the park to join the others.
As they squeezed through the crowd to get closer, the massive dog spoke in a deep rumble. “Why waste your life with violence fighting the gate when you can learn to open it? My brothers and sisters, the Night of the Broken Gates has arrived. Watch closely,” he said as he demonstrated. “Put your nose under the latch, lift, then push.”
And he did just that, opening the gate and coming inside the park. “And remember to close the gate behind you. It’ll give you more time before they notice that you’re gone.”
Coconut worked his way through the forest of various colored dog legs and pranced underneath the massive dog, at one point jumping high as he could in a failed attempt to sniff his butt for squirrels.
The massive dog looked down at him, amused, and added, “And if you can’t reach the gate, use a stick to lift the latch.” He picked up one nearby and demonstrated again by going out and coming back in using the stick in his mouth to open the gate latch.
“I want you to practice this at home while the two-leggers sleep. Go out and come back in, again and again, until your new sense of freedom is absorbed into your soul. I have to leave for the next park now, but I’ll be back in a few days to show you what to do if your gate is locked. Pee is magical when applied properly. With time, it can destroy any lock.”
Coconut stood under the massive dog’s head, inhaling deeply the rich scent of squirrel on his words, and like the conversion of most cynics, he had fallen hard, but he just had to ask. “Are you Sparkatus?”
The massive dog looked at him, then at the gathering, taking every dog in like he’d been litter mates with each and every one of them. “No, we are all Sparkatus.