Tara yawned and slowly rose from her spot in the stables. She stretched for a moment, below slowly sauntering out of her doghouse and shaking off the straw that clung to her body.
She was literally living a dog's life. Being a pet and a guard-dog was a quiet, yet rewarding career. Usually, Tara spent her time in the large backyard, running, sleeping, eating and playing with her ball and ropes. The door to the house was always open when her masters were at home, so she could go into the large house which also doubled as Drusilla's veterinary practise. The best days were when Drusilla was watching a romantic movie. Tara would curl up on the couch next to her and receive precious petting... Though the times Spike watched a football match were also quite rewarding: she'd lay next to his chair and be fed many nice salted crisps.
It was almost noon, so it was time for Tara to get up and patrol the yard, so she could protect her beloved masters from any intruders looking to intrude.
Tara walked past Boxer, the elderly clydesdale enjoying his well-earned retirement. The old horse with whom she shared the stables greeted her in a gentlemanly way. Tara returned the greeting, thinking that if Boxer were a human, he'd make fine kindly nobility.
The hound quickly make her way across the lawn to the fence at the front of the house. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously as she scanned the road for any possible intruders. Finding no wrong scents in the air, she relaxed somewhat. Until...
Tara barked loudly when a shifty looking hedgehog passed by the fence.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," muttered the unwelcome drifted. "Shuddup already, dogmeat."
"And stay out, ya freeloader!" Tara growled for good measure. With pride in her accomplishment, Tara continued her patrol, taking solace in the fact that at least one intruder wouldn't mess up her mistress' flowerbeds today. She moved along the back of the house to the other side, to patrol the fence there as well.
Already, Tara found it hard to control the wagging of her tail when she picked up a familiar scent on the wind. The sound of metal on stone was telltale, so after quickly checking out the fence, Tara headed back to the place where her masters kept the garbage cans. And sure enough, one of the cans lay on it's side, while only Willow's hindquarters and bushy tail could be seen from the outside.
Moments later, the tiny fox dragged out a styrofoam holder containing the remainder of Spike's Chicken-Rice-and-Curry.
"Hi, Tara," Willow greeted cheerfully, her nose already buried in the rice-and-curry. "FOOD!"
"Um, I can see that," Tara looked on bemused as Willow picked the pieces of left-over chicken from the rice. After Willow licked the rice off her muzzle, the tiny fox trotted over to Tara to rub her nose against that of the hound.
"I'm never going back to the forest, Tara," Willow grinned happily. "You won't believe how much good food the humans just throw away. Why doesn't Spike eat all of this? It's so good."
"I don't know," Tara shrugged. "But he'll yell again when he finds the trashcan overturned."
"At least it overturned this time," Willow shook her head so that her ears flapped against her skull. She remembered the last time she had tried to jump into the trashcan to overturn it. Whatever she tried, it didn't budge and she was trapped until Tara had bumped against the trashcan several times to flip it on its side.
"I'll put the packet back in the can later. Want some of this food?" Willow asked.
Tara frowned. "No, thanks. I've heard that stuff is bad for dogs. Besides, I have my own feeding-dish."
"Yeah," Willow rolled her eyes. "Salted tripe and hogfat. Yay, that's a meal. Come on, Tare, this is the stuff the humans keep for themselves. The good stuff!" Willow used her nose to push a bit of chicken into Tara's direction.
"Uhm, I don't know," Tara frowned. "Isn't that kinda like stealing?"
"Hey, if they wanted it, they would have eaten it," Willow shrugged. "We still want it, so I guess it's ours now."
"I suppose," Tara carefully took a nibble and chewed the chicken.
"I like," Tara admitted, trying a bit more of the curry... until she felt as if her tongue was on fire.
"It's an acquired taste," Willow shrugged. The two animals finished their meal and decided to play around in the yard for a bit. They found a piece of rope and started pulling against each other. Through the slight fox had a significant disadvantage against the larger and heavier hound, Tara found that 'throwing the match' at some occasions increased Willow's confidence. After some playing with Tara's ball, the two animals decided to lay down in the warm grass.
"I wish I was human," Willow said suddenly. "Humans never go hungry and they have wonderful food all the time. And they can change their fur whenever they like it, and make it different colors too. And they have those fast wheel-beasts that bring them everywhere."
"Humans have other problems," Tara said. "Spike and Drusilla have been trying to have a litter for years, but there's something wrong with Dru so they can't. I've heard them talking about it and it sometimes makes her really sad."
"She can't have a litter?" Willow frowned. "Why not?"
"I don't know," Tara replied. "Maybe it's a human thing... Boxer says that's why Drusilla likes us animals so much, but I don't know why he says that."
"Hey," Willow suggested. "Wanna roll around in the grass?"
"Sure," Tara said, and soon enough, both hound and fox where giggling as they rolled and scratched their backs. It all went fine, until the heavier Tara collided with the rabbit-hutch. Soon after that, Willow was startled by Tara's high-pitched whine.
The rabbit-hutch was a low-built, angular structure, lain over a part of the lawn. It was large and covered with metal chicken-wire and inside, sat a very frightened rabbit with droopy ears, watching the fox Willow slowly circling the hutch.
"So," the fox said menacingly. "Warren."
"Y-yes?" the rabbit gulped. "That's me... You can't get in here, you know? Full-proof security and all that," he said, hiding behind his waterbottle.
"Oh, yes," Willow grinned. "Your cage... your prison... your doom."
Warren continued to observe the circling fox, trembling slightly. "Y-you won't get in here, fellah! Stupid fox."
"You look... tasty."
"Hah!" Warren challenged. "You're a deformed urbanite pustule of a fox, b-baby. You don't steal chickens, you get your food from the trash!"
"Oh, I don't steal chickens," Willow said menacingly. "But there's always room for a nice... fat... juicy... rabbit... Hm, I can almost taste your soft... supple... rabbit-y flesh right now."
Warren panicked when he saw Willow taking hold of the chain securing his hutch and yanked on it hard. The hutch groaned as it started to buckle under Willow's surprising strength, threatening to pull out the side.
"Stop!" Warren squealed. "Stop, you'll pull out the side... Uh, I mean, you'll never get in here, hah-hah."
Just as quickly as she started to pull, Willow dropped the chain. "There's something I'm puzzled about. Does Tara's ear look like a carrot to you? It certainly doesn't look like a carrot to me, Bugs. And yet you bit down on it. You hurt Tara's poor ear badly. She's in pain because of you."
"Hey, Tara knew what she was getting into," Warren challenged. "If she didn't want her ear bit, she should have looked where she was rolling."
"Bored now... Sleep lightly, rabbit. Sleep lightly," she said quickly, staring the rabbit down until she sauntered off towards the barn, remembering what had happened only yesterday.
Tara howled in pain and beat at her severely bleeding ear with her paw, while Willow was still in shock. During her playful rolling, Tara had collided with the rabbit-hutch, causing a bit of her ear to poke through the chicken-wire. Warren had bit down without hesitation, causing Tara to yelp and pull out her ear quickly. Unfortunately, the sensitive flesh of her floppy ear was caught behind a protruding piece of metal from the chicken-wire, which ended up tearing a deep, painful wound.
Fortunately, Willow could hear Spike and Drusilla's car pull up into the driveway. Immediately, Willow ran to the fence, crawled through it and ran to the car, frantically scratching her nails against the front door of the car to draw attention to herself.
"OY!" shouted Spike as he opened the door. "That bloody fox!"
"Spike, look," Drusilla said, while Willow lay her front legs on the chair and moved towards the fence, frantically looking back and forth between Drusilla and the fence. "I think she's trying to tell us something."
"Don't tell me Timmy fell down the sodding well again," Spike groaned. "This time, we'll leave that dimwit down there. Or better yet, we will that damn thing with concrete while that fat ponce's still in it."
It was then that Tara let out another anguished howl. Drusilla rushed up to Tara and she and Spike carried her into the practise. Willow waited outside when Tara was put under narcosis and Drusilla carefully cleaned and stitched the wound.
And there Tara lay, in the stables looking miserable with twelve stitches in her ear and a plastic cone attached to her collar. Willow greeted Boxer before moving up to Tara, who was ineffectually trying to scratch her ear with her hind-leg, only to be foiled by the plastic cone.
"Hey," Willow greeted and rubbed her nose against Tara's.
"Hey," Tara greeted warmly. "I'm glad you're here."
"Does it still hurt?"
"Not so much," Tara replied. "But it itches... oh, man, it itches! I know I shouldn't scratch, but I can't help myself... and this stupid cone makes me bump into everything..."
"I put the frighteners on that stupid rabbit," Willow said smugly. "He's never gonna do something bad to you ever again. And if it does, I said I'd eat him."
"Please don't!" Tara stressed. "If you do, Spike and Dru'll never let me see you again and... I don't think I can handle that."
"Hey, don't worry. Of course, I won't eat him," Willow smirked. "But Warren doesn't know that."
"I'm glad," Tara laid her head down and whined softly. "Oh, it itches!"
"Don't think about it," Willow said as she laid down and pressed against Tara's side. She yawned when she pressed her muzzle against the nape of Tara's collar.
"I'm happy you're here."
"I won't run off until you're better," Willow replied. "I'll stay here with you until your ear is better."
Tara hesitated. "You know," she started, "you don't have to go when I'm better." Tara knew that Willow always came back to her, but, being the urban fox she was, she often hit the town looking for food and sometimes didn't show herself for days. Tara was often worried something had happened to Willow, or that she had been caught by hunters again, until Willow turned up safe and sound to raid Drusilla's trashcan and sleep in the barn, curled up against Tara.
"Nice warm barn, nice good food," Willow yawned. "Nice warm Tara to curl up against... I think I'll stay a bit longer this time."
"I'm glad," Tara winched as she felt the itch overtake her again. But now that Willow was with her, things just didn't seem that bad at all.