THE PUPPY AND THE OTTER

I. PUPPY GOES WALKIES

Once upon a time there was a cute little puppy who wanted a friend to play with. Although Puppy had some friends, he wanted a special best friend who would always be around when he needed someone. So the little puppy went walking.

Over hill and dale went Puppy until his little legs hurt and his little waggy tail was too tired to wag. But still he hadn't found a best friend. He had met lots of others on the walk, but none were cute and cuddly and none wanted to romp with the puppy.

Outside the big factory he had seen a large black-and-tan dog with a pointed nose, long legs and stumpy tail.

"Hello big dog," said the puppy, "I'm a cute innocent puppy and I'm looking for a best friend."

The big dog looked down at Puppy, who was wagging his tail quite frantically, and said "Go away silly little puppy. I'm a big fierce guard dog and I don't play with puppies I eat puppies for breakfast!" and he growled at the puppy who ran off with his tail no longer wagging, but tucked between his little legs.

A bit later, Puppy met a stripy grey-and-black cat that was his own size. The puppy liked stripy things so he went up to the cat , who was sunning herself on a doorstep.

"Hello stripy cat," said Puppy, "I'm looking for a best friend who will play with me, Will you be my friend?"

The cat blinked slowly at the puppy, who was wagging his tail so hard he looked as though he would wet himself with excitement, and lifted a paw. She stretched out her claws and began to lick them slowly.

"Go away silly little puppy," said the cat in a supercilious manner, "silly little puppies are beneath my dignity," and she hissed at him.

With his ears back in fear, the little puppy ran off as fast as could be on his little legs. Soon he had run so far that he was quite lost and very, very tired.

"Where am I?" he asked himself, for he was now a long way from the houses and didn't know the way back.

Ahead of the puppy was a big river that sparkled in the sunlight. Puppy was now very thirsty as well as very tired, so he padded slowly towards the river for a drink. Just as he reached the river, a brown head with shiny, black, beady eyes and a black button nose popped up out of the water. Puppy sat back on his bottom in startlement. A long brown animal with a long tail slipped out of the water and onto the river bank.

Puppy stood up and wagged his tail tentatively. The brown animal rolled over onto her back and began to wash her belly.

"Hello," said Puppy, "I'm just a cute, innocent, lonely and frightened puppy all on my own. I don't know who or what you are and I only want a drink of water, so please don't chase me away."

"Hello there," said the otter, for that was what the brown animal was, "I'm Otter. Why should I chase such a cute, innocent puppy away?"

"Hello Otter," said Puppy. "I came looking for a best friend to play with, but the big fierce dog chased me away and the stripy cat hissed at me. Now all I want to do is have a drink and find my way home. I'm just a little puppy and I'm thirsty and lost. I come from the buildings where people live."

Otter looked at Puppy for a little while. "If you follow this river along the tow-path you will soon reach the buildings again. But why do you have to go home so soon? Otters are very playful and love to romp, so now that you know about the tow-path you can come and visit any time you want."

"Oh yes!" said Puppy excitedly, "I'd like that very much. I have to go home for my tea, but I'll come straight back tomorrow and we can play games together!"

And with that, Puppy had a long drink and trotted off, his little tail wagging happily, in the direction of home.

II. PUPPY LEARNS TO SWIM

The very next day, little Puppy woke up full of plans to see Otter and play on the riverbank.

"Naughty puppy!" admonished his lady owner, "Yesterday you ran off and we spent ages looking for you. No outdoors for you today!"

Puppy whined and scratched at the back door, but all that happened was his owner put him on a harness and walked him around the garden to do his business. Poor Puppy had to spend the rest of the day indoors, looking out the window and wishing he could run along the riverbank to see his new friend.

Poor Otter! She'd had such fun and now she thought Puppy had abandoned her. She'd so looked forward to his visit. She sat on the bank washing her fur and sunning herself and though it was a lovely bright day, she felt very lonely without her new playmate.

Puppy's owner forgot about being cross the following day and Puppy was allowed to play outdoors again. He quickly wriggled his tubby little body under the gate and trotted towards the river, his little tail wagging.

Otter was swimming in the river and when she saw him trotting along the tow-path, her heart leapt. She did several underwater somersaults out of happiness.

"Hello Otter," said Puppy, bumping Otter's nose in greeting. he was out of breath from trotting and running all the way to see her, "I have to be home before tea or my people will shut me indoors again."

"Hello Puppy," said Otter in happiness, "Do you want to come swimming with me? it's a nice way to cool off after a long run."

"I don't know how to swim," said Puppy, who'd never been wetter than a bath after rolling in something stinky when he was younger.

"I can teach you!" squeaked Otter, "It's easy. All dogs know how to swim, but many don't know that they know how."

Puppy was puzzled by this. How could he not know that he knew something? These were deep philosophical thoughts, far beyond Puppy's usual scatterbrained thoughts which tended to flit around his mind like butterflies flitting around summer flowers.

Puppy stepped to the water's edge and put his front paws in. The mud squished between his toes. Feeling braver, he walked in until his chest got wet, but his back end was still high and dry on the river bank. He wagged his tail tentatively.

Otter swam around in circles, encouranging Puppy to join her in the river.

"I might get swept away by the current!" wailed Puppy.

"There's almost no current here," said Otter, "This is a tired, old river and it doesn't move very fast at all. You are a young, strong Puppy and can easily swim back to the bank."

So Puppy waded in until his paws only just touched the bottom of the river. The water moved slowly around him so he bravely began to puppy-paddle towards the other bank. Otter dived around him, blowing tickly air bubbles as she swam under his belly. Soon Puppy was full of confidence, and happily chasing Otter. On the bottom of the river were old shopping trolleys and bicycles. Puppy had to be very careful not to get caught up in those. They were covered in weeds and the fish hid in them. Puppy and Otter chased the fish around underwater until Otter, who was much swifter and more agile than Puppy, caught one. By then, Puppy was quite puffed out at trying to keep up with his friend, so they swam back to the bank to eat their dinner together.

Puppy looked up at the sky and saw the sun had moved.

"I'd better go home now, Otter," he said, nose-bumping her snout.

"Will you come again tomorrow?" she asked wistfully, "My other favourite game is sliding down the muddy bank into the river. it makes such a lovely splash!"

"As long as I'm not shut indoors, I will be back. I am all clean from swimming, so I'm sure no-one will be cross with me."

When Puppy got home, his people were waiting for him. They'd blocked the gap under the gate so he couldn't wriggle out of the garden tht way.

"Oh pooh!" said his lady owner, "You are covered in mud and green slime and you absolutely stink!"

Poor Puppy. His tail stopped wagging and drooped down. His perky ears drooped as well.

"I don't know where you've been, but you need a bath. You're not coming in the house smelling like that and dripping all over the carpet."

So messy Puppy had to be washed down in the garden, but he'd had a wonderful day so he decided it was worth it. And although the gap under the gate had been blocked up, there was a gap in the hedge he could wriggle through and go visiting Otter when his owners stopped being cross with him.

He was, after all, just a playful Puppy and didn't mean to upset anyone.

III. PUPPY AND OTTER RESCUE SOME KITTENS

Next day, after Puppy's man owner had gone to work, his lady owner said she was going out to see a friend for the day.

"You can spend the day out in the garden," she told him, "It's a nice sunny day and you can't wriggle under the gate anymore."

Puppy had a nice kennel to sit in if it got too sunny or started to rain. As well as some toys to play with, there was a bowl of water and some bone-shaped chews. But puppies don't like being on their own, they need to play with other puppies.

"You be a good boy," said his owner as she shut the gate behind her, "I will be gone all day, but I'll be back to give you your supper."

Puppy stood on his back legs with his paws on the gate. He wagged his silly little tail gently and whined to tell her he would miss her. She reached down and patted his head. Then he waited until her car had driven away and it was safe to wriggle through the hole in the hedge.

First, he picked up a bone-shaped biscuit in his mouth to take to Otter as a present. He got lots of different things to eat, but Otter only had fish and she had to catch those herself. Puppy didn't think this was right. He wouldn't miss one biscuit, would he? With the biscuit in his mouth, he trotted gaily along the tow-path beside the river to where Otter lived.

On the way there, he got a little peckish, so he put down the biscuit and bit the end off it. He was sure Otter wouldn't mind him having a little snack. After all, half a biscuit is better than no biscuit at all. With his strength restored, he quickly reached Otter's holt. A holt is what Otters call their homes in the river bank. He dropped the half-biscuit outside the door and called out to her.

"Hello Otter! I've brought you a present."

But Otter didn't appear. Perhaps she was chasing fish under the water and couldn't hear him. He lay down next to the half-biscuit with his head on his paws. He kept looking at the half-biscuit. He was getting very peckish ....

After a short while Otter swam along the river back to her holt. She'd been frolicking further up the river where someone had dropped a big orange and white cone into the river. The floating cone had been a fun new toy to play with and she'd pushed it around for a while until it had filled up with water and sunk to the bottom of the river.

"Hello Puppy!" she whistled, swimming up to him.

Puppy wagged his tail, very pleased to see her.

"Hello Otter," he said, licking her on the nose and making her sneeze, "I tried to bring you a biscuit, but I got hungry on the way here. Then it was half a biscuit and when I got here you weren't here. So I waited and waited and got hungry again."

Puppy pointed his nose at the pile of crumbs on the river bank. Otter snuffled the crumbs.

"It smells like it was a very nice biscuit," she said.

"Oh it was, it was!" Puppy said, scampering around Otter. "Tomorrow I'll bring two biscuits. Then there will still be one for you after I get peckish. We can have one each."

Just then, there was a plopping noise. A sack had sailed right over their heads and dropped into the river where it sank to the bottom in a mass of bubbles. Puppy and Otter thought it would be a fine thing to investigate the new toy. They slid down the river bank on their bellies and into the water. Puppy made a big splash, but Otter was streamlined (which means she was pointed at both ends) and she slid into the water with only a ripple.

The sack was resting on the bottom of the river and, perplexingly, it seemed to be moving. Otter quickly swam up to it. Even in the water she could smell something wrong so she gripped the sack with her teeth and started to drag it to the river bank. A moment later, Puppy also grabbed the sack in his teeth and between them they got it onto dry land. The sack was wriggling a great deal and had started to squeak.

"It smells of kittens," said Puppy.

"We'd better open it." Otter replied, "Kittens can't breathe under water and they'll be half-drowned and very frightened."

"It's tied shut with some string," Puppy said, "We can chew it in half."

Between them, the two friends managed to chew the string in half and three black kittens came tumbling out of the sack. They were cold and wet and very frightened. Puppy put his head in the sack and pulled out something else. It was a large stone to make the sack heavy enough to sink to the bottom of the river.

"Hello kittens," said Puppy in a friendly way, even though the only cats he had met had not been very friendly to him.

"I want my mum," wailed one of the kittens, "Where's my mum?"

"I'm hungry," wailed another one.

The third kitten just sat there looking at its paws. "What did I do wrong?" it finally asked, "Why did the people stop loving me?"

Otter looked at Puppy, wondering what to do. Kittens ate fish, but these were just babies and the river bank was no place for baby kittens.

"When I had my first adventure, I met a cat," said Puppy, "She wasn't very nice to me, but she will know what to do."

So Pupply and Otter walked across the grass, followed by the kittens who were still crying and wanting their mother. It was very slow progress because Otter wasn't built for running on the land and the kittens were very small and got tired very quickly. After a little while they reached the cat's house. The cat was sitting sunning herself on the doorstep.

"Oh." She said, looking down at Puppy with half-closed eyes, "It's you again. Didn't I tell you to go away?"

Puppy plonked himself down on the grass and the three little black kittens huddled around him.

"That's a funny looking puppy," said the cat, looking at Otter.

"I'm an Otter, thank you very much," said Otter.

"We need your help," said Puppy.

"Well, well. A dog needing a cat's help," said cat.

Puppy growled at her and she shut up in surprise and let Puppy and Otter explain about the three black kittens in a sack in the river.

"I don't need any kittens," said the cat sulkily, "but I dare say my person will know what to do about them. Lots of her friends are very admiring of me," she preened a little as she said that, "and would probably love a cat of their own."

Puppy and Otter nudged the kittens towards the cat and watched as they all went in through a little flap in the door. Puppy thought it would be nice to have his own little door like that.

"Oh, you poor darlings!" exclaimed a voice from inside the house, "Someone must have abandoned you. How cruel. I'll give you a warm drink and phone the cat rehoming centre. They will find you a proper home."

Satisfied that the kittens were in good hands, Puppy and Otter scampered and bounded back to the river. It wasn't even lunchtime and they'd already had a big adventure!

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

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