“Come on, Star Dog, we don’t want to be late!” Nathan called as he locked the car and started walking towards the park. Star Dog grabbed the blanket in his maw and followed at a joyful trot. It was a beautiful day in Prism Park, and the sun made all of the ornamental fixtures sparkle and warmed Star Dog’s black and tan fur. The pavement was slightly too hot for his padded feet, so he skipped lightly up onto the grass and bounded up to Nathan. The young man laughed and swung the picnic basket to the other side to give his canine companion room next to him to walk.
“A small part of me thought you were joking about the picnic,” Star Dog mumbled around the blanket.
“Why would I joke about this? It’s a gorgeous day, and Nicole’s meeting us there with even more food,” Nathan said brightly.
“Thank Anubis, I wasn’t sure about that casserole you made,” Star Dog said as he looked for where Nicole might be set up.
“It’s my mother’s recipe,” Nathan sniffed. “Anubis?”
“Egyptian God that resembles canines,” Star Dog explained. “I’m trying to make it catch on.”
“Good luck,” Nathan said tersely as he spotted Nicole and waved to her with his free hand. The duo made their way up the small hill to join her. It was a gentle slope with the softest grass that was kindly shaded by the biggest willow tree in the park. It was isolated from the other families that were enjoying the day with their small kids running around, and while they were fun to watch from a distance, they also wanted their own privacy where a certain talking dog could be a talking dog without fear of someone listening in.
Not that Star Dog was a secret anymore, but the unwanted attention would ruin their day together. The point was trying to get over the Star Dog Fiasco that the multinational corporation known as Vertechs would perpetuate. It was hard to imagine that was a year ago already. It felt like a lifetime, Star Dog mused while looking at Nathan and Nicole hugging. After they left each other’s warm embrace, Star Dog inched forward for his own warm greeting from Nicole, who bent down and grasped his warm fur. She kissed him on his tan forehead and then stood up with the blanket in hand.
“Thanks Star Dog,” she said as she spread the blanket out. It was large enough to accommodate all of them, but it was a cozy fit. The food was spread out with appetizers first, including a small salad and cheese and crackers. Star Dog started to gobble up a lot of it, including the garnish which caused Nicole to panic and say, “Star Dog! Wait!” before pulling the plastic and utensils out of the way of the snapping canine jaws. With a small burp, Star Dog apologized and took the special food that Nathan had prepared for him.
“Not that he needs it,” Nathan commented. “Eating is mostly a joy for him since his metabolism can burn off anything, but he can similarly last weeks on a few pieces of kibble. Your father did a great job with him.”
“Thank you,” Nicole said while biting into a sandwich. “Do you really think I should follow in his footsteps?”
“If you want,” Nathan said noncommittally. “It depends on which degree you want to pursue next.”
“You say that as if I’m collecting them,” she smirked.
“I thought you were,” Nathan teased with a wink. “Eventually I imagined you would get them all, and plaster your office with them like wallpaper.”
“I honestly don’t know what I want to do next in life,” Nicole said while she wove her gentle fingers through Star Dog’s fur. “I just know that I’m finally getting to a happy place now, and it’s because of you two.”
Star Dog licked her fingers gently, both looking for cracker crumbs, and also to comfort her. He understood about finally getting to a happy place, and he could only hope that this one didn’t go crashing into the sea like the wrecks of his other incidents of happiness.