“Shimar!” shouted the young pups as they came back to sit at the base of the chair where the older dog liked to rest. “Tell us another story of you and Reggie the Terrible and the pirate ship The Dirty Drawers.!”
Shimar arched his back, and then stretched out his stiff leg as he opened his one eye to gaze upon the growing group of young pups that had returned to hear stories of the pirate life and times on the high seas. He smiled, loving the attention and knowing that the stories had snared them like the fish he used to pull out of the ocean. To his amusement he noticed one of the pups, a young lab named Spike, was sporting an eye patch. So, he once again had his own little crew of pirates, ready to set forth on the seas. Just like in the old days.
“OK my little pirate crew,” he began, “how about I tell you about Reggie and my visit to T-Rex Island?”
“T-Rex Island, we’ve never heard of that island? Where is it on the map?” Shouted Simon, a particularly inquisitive Border Collie.
“Well,” started Shimar, “it is way out on the Eastern edge of the Caribbean, it is a little bitty speck of a place on the Southern edge of the Windward Islands, just North of Granada. Others had different names for the island but for reasons that will become clear for the crew of the Dirty Drawers it was always called T-Rex Island.”
“Our story begins in what had been a very uneventful journey for the ship. The Vice Grip was patrolling further North looking for merchant ships and we had been sweeping to the South. Our supplies were running low and so we dropped anchor off this tiny, uninhabited island and Snarl’s gun-crews were tasked with finding food to feed our crew. The island was swarming with birds and we knew that where there are that many birds there must be eggs. We had been at sea for a month and a wonderful supper of eggs sounded like a sailor’s dream. We also figured there must be some type of fruit or other sustenance we would find on the island but Snarl, myself, Reggie, Pippin, Rusty and Gunter set ashore on a rowboat towards this tiny little gem of an island sitting in the midst of a coral reef. We had to row quite a long way since it was too shallow for the Dirty Drawers to approach and they had withdrawn to a more hidden location while we searched for sustenance.
We made our ways onto the island and pulled the boat onto the shore our paws sank into the soft sand at our feet. The air was hot and humid and we were all panting from the exertion of rowing to shore. All around us the sea birds called and taunted us as they effortlessly sailed above the island and the surrounding ocean. We broke into two teams with Snarl taking Peppin and Rusty while I led Gunter and Reggie in the opposite direction. Each team would look for nests and we would meet back at the boat in an hour with our captured provisions.
This was one of those times where my once beautiful coat of fur became a challenge. I seemed to attract every bur from the underbrush as we moved through it and the sand matted into my wet fur. As we moved inland I began to look more and more like a pincushion. Even Reggie’s fur began to accumulate burs and only Gunter’s short coat seemed to pass through the underbrush without accumulating a large layer of burs, seedpods and leaves. Gunter remarked that I looked more like Shimar the urchin than Shimar the pirate before I barked at him that it wasn’t funny. In hindsight, it was funny but I was feeling embarrassed that while I was supposed to be accumulating food I was only attracting burs. Well burs and bugs.
Oh yes, the bugs, let me tell you about the bugs in that place. There were beetles that crawled upon the ground that were the size of your head. Millipedes and centipedes seemed to be everywhere. The mosquitos swarmed in such thick swarms that I swore every time I swung my machete I cut through a solid mass. And the spiders, I tremble at the memory of all the spider webs that I walked through and the monster spider that Gunter pulled off my fur. Yet, I was in charge of our operation so I pushed ahead through the brush and the bugs until we came upon what we were looking for on the Eastern edge of the Island.
It was there that we found the colony of birds, nesting undisturbed on the ground. There were dozens of them, maybe as many as a hundred. We had hit the jackpot. More eggs than our crew could consume in weeks. All we had to do was to shoo away all these birds and we would accomplish our mission and come back to the Dirty Drawers as heroes.
As we approached the nest the alarm went up and the boobies and frigatebirds cries filled the air. The three of us began to approach the colony boldly, after all what were sea birds going to do to pirates? Well, we found out. No sooner had we begun to approach the nests than the birds began to divebomb us and after the third or fourth time I was knocked to the ground I called out to my comrades to retreat. We moved back into the underbrush as the birds laughed and laughed and laughed. A great frigatebird who seemed to be the chief of the colony puffed out his red chest and sang out:
Runaway little pirates, no eggs today
Runaway little pirates, we birds don’t play
Steal our eggs and we will strike you
With beak and wing and talon bite you
His song got a great reception from his counterparts in the colony and they shrieked their approval. On our own we would never get the eggs we hoped for, but pirates don’t give up easily. We returned to rendezvous with Snarl and his team at the boat and it was there that I suggested a plan. Snarl and everyone but Reggie and myself would take the boat and move slowly around to the other side of the island while Reggie and I would repeat our trek through the brush and bugs to the colony of birds on the other side.
Before we began our trek both Reggie and I rolled in the sea water and then in the sand, accumulating a thick layer of sand that was caked onto our fur. Then as we passed through the brush we allowed every bur and seed and weed to embed themselves into our fur no matter how uncomfortable. When next we saw the birds, we would be as armored as armadillo ready for the approaching attack. We even left the spider webs in place that clung to us even though our constant temptation was to scratch and shake it all out. It seemed like it took hours to cross the island through the thick vegetation but one consolation was that aside from our nose and ears the mosquitos couldn’t find a place to bite and only a few managed to strike like the little vampires they are.
Eventually we reached the edge of the vegetation and looked out longingly at all the nests with seabirds sitting upon them. I needed to get all their attention focused on Reggie and myself and hope that the rest of Snarl’s group was in position at the critical moment so they could surprise the birds. So, to capture their attention I began to sing my own little song:
Little birds, little birds, sitting on the nest
Little birds, little birds, whose wings need rest
Don’t mind us hungry pirates in your home
We only eat a little then we leave you alone
For we are the descendants of the wolf and fox
We are predators you are prey, so stop your squawks
If nothing else, my little song got some appreciative squeaks and laughs from the seabird. Then the leader, the great frigatebird left his perch and landed in front of Reggie and me. His feathers were jet black and he puffed out his brilliant scarlet throat pouch while he flapped his wings threateningly.
“Little sea dogs go back to your ships, there is nothing for you here. This is our land and we will defend it on the ground and from the sky. Two little dogs like you can’t hope to prevail against us.”
“But we are the descendants of the mighty wolf and we will not be intimidated by a bunch of songbirds.” I barked back.
“Well, well, well, that changes everything!” Laughed their leader, “Surely then you must be the runts of the wolf litter. But under all the vines and sand and burs you look more like a porcupine or a trash heap than a proud descendant of wolves. But even so wolves have no place on this island where the birds reign supreme and I am their king.” As he inflated his throat pouch even more.
“You are nothing but a bunch of chickens, good for laying eggs and being eaten. We are sea dogs and wolves who have come to eat.” I taunted.
“Chickens!” shrieked their king. I knew I had touched a nerve as the whole colony seemed ready to attack at once. “Chickens! You may claim to be descendants of the mighty wolves of old but you will find that we are descendants of the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex and we are far fiercer than you seem to think. My fellow birds let us show these silly dogs the way back to the sea with their tails between their legs.”
At that moment, the entire colony took to the air and oriented themselves on Reggie and myself as we continued to bark out challenges at them. They squawked and screeched insults about our coats, about our inability to fly, and about our size. Yet we were tiny terrors and we didn’t back down we held our own and so one by one the birds went from circling over us to dive bombing us time and time again.
While the birds had their attention focused on us, and as we moved further and further from the colony Snarl, Pippin, Rusty and Gunter crept silently up to the colony and began to gather up the eggs that would later become our feast. They worked quickly while Reggie and I attempted to hold their attention. We only needed to give them five or ten more minutes.
Our armor of detritus didn’t work quite as well as we hoped, but it did absorb some of the impact as the birds divebombed us or attempted to peck at us with beaks or scratch with talons. After a minute or two Reggie retreated into the underbrush but I was determined to give our crew a couple additional minutes and so I continued to bark out threats and then I curled into a ball while they attacked. I would still try to snap at the birds if they attempted to land and peck at me or scratch me and several times I came away with a mouthful of feathers. The melee seemed to drag on interminably until I heard one of the bird cry out, “Thieves!” as they noticed the rowboat pulling away. Suddenly I was forgotten and I made my way back into the safety of the underbrush with Reggie. There was nothing more I could do for my fellow Tiny Terrors, they would have to get away on their own.
Reggie and I made our way to the other side of the island and we attempted to wash the sand out of our fur in the ocean. We also attempted to remove some of the burs and stickers from our fur but we quickly found this was a hopeless endeavor. The stickers and burs we wore as armor had embedded itself into my thick fur and unfortunately the only path forward would be a haircut once I returned to the Dirty Drawers. Ultimately, I was bruised and battered and hungry but we had successfully done our part to procure eggs from T-Rex Island.
A couple of hours later the rowboat returned with Old Jack at its front. He welcomed us back into the boat and patted us both on the back as we returned to the pirate ship. Unfortunately, as he patted me on the back he came away with a terribly sharp bur in his paw and let out a loud yelp as the bur was painfully extracted. He told us our story was already being told throughout the ship and that we would be welcomed back to the ship as heroes. He was right, we came back to cries of “Shimar the Wolf” and “Reggie the Terrible” and “T-Rex Tricksters.” Our shipmates had been busy cracking eggs into the biggest bowl we had and then cooking them on an iron skillet over an open fire. We ate like kings that night, the kings of T-Rex island I suppose.
Before we could go to sleep that night both Reggie and I received fur cuts to get the remaining stickers out. Reggie’s fur was able to be trimmed down a little bit since the burs didn’t seem to embed themselves quite so deeply in his fur, but unfortunately that was not the case for me. Many of the stickers and burs seemed to be right against my skin and they finally had to pull out a straight razor and shave away portions of my back and belly to get the last of them. The only fur I had left were on my face and on my legs.
My hair never grew back right after it was shaved. Maybe it was the hot sun that baked my skin while we sailed the seas, maybe it was damage done by the razor or some poison from the sticker burs but whatever the reason I ended up with Pomeranian pattern baldness. Yet, I wore it as a badge of honor. It made me look tougher and with my one eye and battle-scarred body I rarely had people question my toughness again. It was also a reminder of my heroics upon T-Rex Island and my victory over the descendants of the Tyrannosaurus Rex as they referred to themselves. Snarl was promoted to become the ships quartermaster and so I assumed the position of leading the gun crews of the Dirty Drawers.
We would continue to take on new recruits to fill up our gun crews and I trained them the way Snarl had trained me. We were to be Tiny Terrors, nobody was going to push us around. We were meaner and tougher than any other gun crew on any pirate ship. We were seasoned pirates of the Ghost fleet, and little dogs with ample attitudes.