Ally Reilly was moving. She was going to see her new house today. Her family had been living with her Uncle Lee and his wife, Diane. Uncle Lee's house was nice and cozy for an older couple with no children, but a two and a half bedroom can be almost claustrophobic for four adults, two children, two dogs, and two cats. Ally wanted a room of her own.

Ally was nine years old and her brother Wayne was four and a half years old.

He was becoming a pain about getting into her stuff and following her around. Wayne was a clingy child; he had to be with someone all the time. He was such a Momma's boy. When he got dirty he went into a hysterical fit. His face would turn red then blue until whatever scum had breached her brother's defenses was washed away.

Ally's Dad, Clark, was a meat cutter in a shop near Fresno, Ca. He worked there five years until the owner, Mr. Sackey, dropped dead of a heart attack in his office. Mrs. Sackey tried to keep the shop going but her oldest son had a drug problem and the meat shop was bankrupt in just under two years.

The Reilly's moved to a small country community called Sebastopol, CA, with Aunt Diane and Uncle Lee.

Ally's mother, Jeanne, found a job right away.

She was the new waitress at the Captain Jack's Bar & Grille. It was a family style restaurant with the interior designed to look like the inside of an 1800's sailing ship. They served mainly fish and French Fries but occasionally added duck or chicken to the menu.

It was almost unbearable living with her brother, but Aunt Diane had bad intentions toward Ally. Ally didn't understand why but felt a chill up the middle of her back when Diane would approach her from behind.

Ally was too scared to tell her parents. She knew it would only be a few weeks and they would have their own house.

It turned into six months.

When her parents were away working, Ally and Wayne were under full control of Aunt Diane.

Aunt Diane was the type that felt the children needed discipline

Aunt D, which is what Ally was informed to address her ill-tempered Aunt, was the picture perfect, often angelic, babysitter as long as Clark or Jeanne were home.

As soon as her parent's left for work, Aunt D, was rousing Ally out of her bed to do housework.

Aunt D. had a high heel shoe with a solid flat wooden base. If the tasks that Ally was instructed to do weren't performed the exact way Aunt D wanted, Ally was struck on the back of the head.

Aunt D wanted her to sweep the floor an exact way, a club to the head if it wasn't in the proper direction.

Ally went through this for months.

But, the animals kept her sane.

Ally can talk to animals. She didn't quite understand why she could, but she always remembered talking to the animals around her.

Doesn't matter what kind. She understands them, although wild animals don't trust her enough to have a conversation.

Uncle Lee and Aunt D had two Bloodhounds called Chick and Vee.

Vee lost her litter last year and hadn't gotten over it. Her melancholy was evident in her speech and movement. Ally focused her attention on Vee.

Chick had a little more energy. He was always trying to bug the peep-el, that's how he pronounced it.

The first time Ally went to Uncle Lee's house, Ally heard Chick speak to Vee for the first time.

"Vee watch me go over here and nose this peep-el's pants!"

Chick rose slowly and trotted towards Clark. Ally watched as Chick started to nose at her Dad's privates.

Clark started slapping at Chick. The dog slipped around behind her father and stuck his nose right in his butt.

Chick abruptly stopped and returned to his original position on the porch. He panted as if nothing at all had happened.

There is always laughter when a dog pants.

Ally noticed how Vee stared off into the sky as if waiting for something.

Ally felt the mother's sadness, her sense of supreme loss. Ally had already set a special place in her thoughts for Vee.

Chick and Vee seemed to welcome Ally to their home with all their hearts. The other two animals that resided at Uncle Lee's house regarded her with malice.

The two cats were mother and daughter Siamese shorthairs named Myrtle and Mabel. If they weren't fighting with each other, they were complaining how Ally and Wayne were in their favorite spots.

One day Myrtle hissed at Wayne when he got too close to them.

"Keep away boy or I'll scratch your eyes out!"

Ally had enough of the stuck-up felines and she defended her annoying brother.

"Don't ever touch him Myrtle! I know what you're saying and we aren't doing anything to you! You hurt Wayne and I'll get Aunt D's broom after you!"

There were no more outspoken hisses.

The first couple of months the animals were careful and never spoke to Ally. As if they thought it taboo.

Ally didn't really care about any of the animals but one, Vee. She looked so sad all the time and ate very little. Ally felt like Vee had lost her love for life. Ally began to sit down after dinner with Vee. Ally never talked and neither did Vee.

After two weeks of the same ritual Vee laid her head on Ally's lap. Vee let out a sigh that was deep and made a hollow sound like you would hear in a cave or mine. It was as if the pain left her body with that hollow sighing.

The next day Vee followed Ally around talking her head off.

"Why do some peep-els make me sneeze? Why don't you pee on the grass? Why do you eat the good food and make us eat that God awful tasting stuff in that ugly colored bowl?"

Ally answered as many questions as she could explain to Vee.

Ally noticed Aunt D start to watch her closely. Ally knew she would have to be careful. Aunt D would try to convince everyone she was crazy.

Chick began to take walks with Wayne. He even complemented Ally on Wayne's manners.

"I like that boy! He never walks too far without takin a pee!"

Myrtle and Mabel just started telling her when the cat litter needed to be changed or when the front door needed to be opened. That was only in between arguments over whose seat was who's to lie in.

Clarke got a meat cutter job at the largest grocery store in nearby Santa Rosa. We finally had the money saved for a house of our own.

The family loaded up in their Kelley green 1951 4-door Oldsmobile like it was Sunday church. They drove a mile down the dirt road between an apple orchard and a fenced pasture. It was way off any paved road.

They drove up in front of their new home. Ally had to scoot up to look over the green and white bench seat to see the house.

Ally thought it was huge. The Week's Ranch was beautiful in its own right.

But, the house sat on a sloping hill overlooking the pasture on one side or the apple orchard on the other.

Directly behind the house was an old tractor barn. The front of the barn was two stories. The employees parked the heavy equipment on the first floor in the opposite direction of the ranch house.

What Ally could see from our car was the barn in back and a little lower on the hill.

On the west side of the house was a carport. It was a two-car covering made of 4x4 posts and that curved sheet metal.

Mr. Weeks waited in front of the house as we drove up.

Ally and Wayne exited the car in a supersonic race for the house.

Mr. Weeks who had introduced himself as Ted shook hands with Clark. He tipped his hat to Jeanne.

"Well Clark? Would you and Mrs. Reilly like to take a tour of the house?"

The house was built on top of a sloping hill.

The front of the house faced the dirty driveway. The front steps were made of red orange slate rocks. There were two square flowerbeds made of the same red-orange rocks on each side of the stairway.

When the Reilly's climbed the six-step incline they noticed how high their front porch over looked the apple orchard.

Ally and Wayne had explored the house completely by the time the adults entered the front door. Wayne and Ally had already picked their bedrooms and weren't fighting.

Wayne was fascinated with the barn and his window looked right out on the front of the ancient building.

Ally liked to look over the pasture. She wanted to catch the cows or horses grazing near the bobbed-wire fence.

The living room was long and wide, with a square of tile for the dining area at the furthest end of the room. A swinging door separated the living/dining area from the kitchen.

In the middle of the living room at the midway point, a door led to a long hallway.

As they all entered the hallway, Ally announced that the first door to the right would be her room.

Wayne equally announced his pick of bedrooms, right across from Ally's.

The last door on the left was the bathroom. Ally noticed it had a claw-footed bathtub. Clark and Jeanne inherited the last door on the right, mostly because it was the largest bedroom.

The final room was the kitchen. It was a huge with a window over the sink to see the setting of the sun while doing dinner dishes.

Ted began to explain the house and the water well.

He told Clark that no one else but Lee and Diane lived on this ranch.

"I just come out to the ranch a couple of times a week during harvest season."

Ted caught Ally's attention when he began to talk about the animals he had.

"Over in the pasture around the barn there is an old donkey. She is wild and untamed. I used to use her to pack in when I was young enough to hunt, but it had been at least a decade. She is a mean one, too!"

Ted turned to Ally and Wayne.

"She bites! A Lot! So be careful and stay away from her!"

He told them he had five sheep in the same pasture.

The he began to talk about his dog Beekers, a purebred Beagle.

"He was a great huntin dog, for deer, ducks, rabbits, anything. But like me he's gotten old and like that donkey out there he's gotten mean. Bite's people all the time. You kids stay away from him, too!"

As the Reilly family began to load their vehicles with clothes and mattresses, Diane pulled Jeanne off to the side.

"Could Ally come by and help me on a project after school everyday? I just need her for an hour."

Jeanne didn't have a problem if Wayne could stay, too.

They made the agreement.

The move started at dawn on Saturday morning. The women packed and the men moved.

It was late afternoon as Ted drove in. The shadows creeped out of their resting places. Ted walked up the steps and knocked on the screen door.

Clark looked through from the kitchen and saw Ted.

"C'mon in Ted we're almost moved in."

They gathered in the living room, began to talk about how nice the furniture was going to look.

Jeanne glanced around.

"Where's Wayne?!"

Ted looked out the front window. His face went a color of pale only achieved after death.

"oh…my…god"

The three of them approached the screen door and looked out.

Wayne was bent over on his haunches in front of Beekers. He had Beekers by both ears. Wayne's face was a mere inch away from the dog's muzzle.

He shook the dog by the ears moving Beekers's entire head.

"…me and you are gonna get along…you understand me Beekers!"

The adult's froze in fear.

Ally walked out, stood beside Wayne and Beekers.

"Wayne, Momma wants you in the house."

Ted, Clark and Jeanne all went ballistic. Jeanne grabbed Wayne and ran him into the house. Ted acted as though he would have a heart attack.

Ally didn't understand what all the fuss was over. She sat down beside Beekers. She began to pet him gently.

"Beekers? You wouldn't hurt us would you?"

Beekers was panting. He reached over and licked Ally on the face.

"Didja see the look on those faces?" He whispered.

Ted stared in disbelief.

"I'll be danged!"

Ted took his ballcap off and wiped his forehead.

He began to laugh… slowly… at first then harder.

" That…sure beats…me! I've never seen that dog take to…anyone like that! Heck! He won't even lick me!"

Clark laughed a deep little chuckle.

"Well, animals are smart. And these kids love animals."

Ted again shook his head in amazement.

"Well…I…guess so!"

The Reilly's got settled into their home as the last of the summer was fading.

Wayne and Ally started school the next week.

They were picked up at the paved road at six-thirty in the morning and were the first to get on the bus. They were the last ones off the bus about four-thirty in the afternoon.

Ally and Wayne suffered through Aunt D's daily ritual of housecleaning.

They were left to their chores after the hour at Aunt D's. They stocked the wood, cleaned the house, and have dinner prepared for their Dad when he got home from work at 8:45 pm.

They had a lot of time to explore their new surroundings.

Ally and Wayne began to make daily walks down to see the old donkey.

Ally began to call her Bubbles.

When Bubbles proved to be gentle Ally selected several ripened Apples from the orchard. She gave the apples to Bubbles. Bubbles grew very fond of Ally. She allowed ally to scratch her mane and nose.

It was a huge surprise to Ally when Bubbles finally started to talk.

Bubbles had many stories to tell. She wanted to tell them all to Ally. Most of the stories were about when she went to the mountains with Mr. Weeks. The most horrible ones were about before Mr. Weeks purchased her.

Bubbles began her tale by explaining the circumstances of her purchase.

Mr. Weeks bought her at an auction yard. The owners of the auction yard raised her to be a bucking donkey in their traveling rodeo. She was treated horribly as she grew up. She was whipped daily as the cowboys tried to cause her to buck them off.

There were times when Bubble tried to bite her tormentors.

"And, Ally, I am happy to tell you that I have caused many a Black and Blue butt in my time!"

Bubbles, who was called Valkrie in her rodeo days, finally grew too mean to control. She knew her owners were planning to ship her to a slaughterhouse and she even longed for the final freedom.

Mr. Weeks visited the yard during a Saturday auction. He saw Bubbles and asked the owners if she were for sale.

" I owe the peep-el my life. I would never have tasted fresh snow on a mountain trail. I would have never eaten clovers from a meadow."

"Ally, why don't the peep-el have me carry the quip-ments anymore?"

It was a question Ally didn't want to answer without serious thought. If she said what she thought was true…Bubbles feelings would get hurt.

"That's a question I'll ask Mr. Weeks Bubbles"

Ally fed the donkey the last apple.

When Bubbles defensive walls crumbled so did Chick's and Vee's. They started to talk to Ally more every day.

Chick told Ally tales of his days as the top tracker for the Alabama State Prison. He was commended several times for acts of bravery.

Vee always followed Chick's proclamations with, 'according to him, anyways.'

Chick gallantly ignored his mate.

Chick's first story was about his great-great-great grandfather. He was a tracker in the US Army.

"Ally…My granpap's peep-el's was a Lout-Ant. I'm not sure what a Lout-Ant was but I know it was an honored position!"

Chick told Ally how the wild peep-els would sneak around the soldier peep-els.

"Them wild peep-els sure could move in the dark. Like them danged hissers that live in the peep-el's barn!"

Ally asked, "Chick? What are hissers?"

Chick looked at her as if she were just plain crazy.

"Them nasty mouse eaters, my little peep-el. Just wait till your Ma sees what they left her under her sink. Them mouse eaters will sleep under the house, heh-heh!"

Ally had a lot of questions for her historic companion.

"Chick? Where are the wild peep-els now?"

Chick had respect for the peep-el that had fought with the house peep-el. He knew the wild peep-el had been hunted from the stories of his granpap. He didn't want his story to follow that smell.

"The wild peep-els live on the mountains where they were born. That's where the sky meets the ground, Ally."

Chick stared off into the horizon.

Ally saw the mountains touch the clouds.

Beekers was the most fascinating to get to know.

Beekers was born the runt of a strong litter. He was a fighter from the very first day he was born. He rolled, pushed, scrunched and kicked to get his fill every day. He grew stronger and meaner. His first peep-el tried to train him to point and fetch. Beekers was just too stubborn to be trained by peep-el. His man usually got a bite on his ankle for any discipline. After a year of earnest training, Beekers was given to Mr. Weeks, who never once got the stick after him. Beekers began to trust this man after months of attention and pampering.

Beekers liked the peep-el well enough to point and fetch for him. Many years of hunting had made the team a formidable one.

Once a cougar had attacked his man.

Ally noticed Beekers change what he called Mr. Weeks. The more he talked about Mr. Weeks he became his man.

The cougar erupted from a cave hidden by some brush. It charged howling that harrowing roar. All Mr. Weeks saw was fur, claws and teeth approaching him with evil intentions.

Beekers growled and charged the gigantic cat. Dirt, leaves, and pine needles flew up to block Mr. Weeks from helping Beekers. The dog drove the cat back into its lair. It was single bravest thing an animal had done for Mr. Weeks.

The two formed a bond that had never broken. Until Wayne had shown Beekers the kind of tail Beekers admired.

"