Giant Flying Dogs
The beam of sunlight illuminated a rectangular patch of carpet in the living room. In the middle of the sunbeam slept a blue-gray colored cat. As the hours crept by, the sunlight moved across the floor. Yannie was amazed that while the cat never woke up, she somehow stayed in the warm patch. She adjusted her position without moving a muscle. “Must be cat teleportation,” Yannie said to the huge, brown dog lying on her feet.
In the late afternoon the dog’s massive head jerked up, ears alert. The dog rose to his feet, shook himself once, and ran to the window.
At the dog’s behavior, Yannie looked up from her laptop. “Bear’s up, that means Arthur’s almost home,” she said.
The dog barked once. A minute later he barked twice. Another minute later and he uttered three hopeful barks. Every sixty seconds he would say something, adding to the number of barks. When he reached fifteen barks Yannie put down her laptop and went to the front door. Even the cat got up and stretched.
By the time Yannie reached the door Bear was unleashing a cacophony of frantic barks. When she opened the door, Bear bolted through to greet Arthur, his favorite person. Yannie followed and she embraced Arthur, who wasn’t just her favorite person, but also her husband. Bear danced and yelped around them.
Half an hour later, Arthur flung himself into a chair with the impetus of a child.
“Not so hard on the furniture,” Yannie scolded.
“It was miserable,” Arthur complained. Bear walked up and leaned against Arthur’s legs.
“You sounded so happy at the genetics conference,” Yannie said. “I wish I could travel to far away places.”
“The conference was great,” Arthur said. “I shared and learned so much about modifying animal genetics. But getting there and back is really hard.”
“At least you get to travel,” Yannie said. “I never get to go anywhere. Just as far as my office.”
“You don’t understand,” Arthur said as Bear sat on his feet. “Airports and airplanes are so homogeneous it’s toxic. It’s like walking into a shopping mall, then getting into a metal tube without wifi, and then sitting there while it bumps around for hours. I’m physically exhausted!”
“You take your life for granted,” Yannie said, a note of annoyance creeping into her voice. “What I wouldn’t do to suffer through these experiences with you just for the chance to go somewhere new.”
“But that’s just it,” Arthur said. “The experience of travel ruins the fun of being in new places. If only travel where as nice as having a dog sit on your feet.”
“Or a cat in your lap,” Yannie said as the cat jumped into her lap.
“Dogs are better,” Arthur said.
Yannie scritched the cat’s head. She said, “Goblin and I say otherwise.”
“What kind of name is Goblin for a cat?” Arthur asked.
“What kind of name is Bear for a dog?” Yannie retorted.
They laughed together.
“Arthur, when you were a kid, do you remember reading about the girl with a big red dog?” Yannie asked over dinner. Goblin sat in the third chair. Bear sat on the floor, but rested his heavy head on the seat of the fourth chair.
“No, tell me about them,” Arthur said.
“The dog was red and as big as a bus. His name was Clifford and his owner was Emily. Sometimes she rode him.”
“Sounds cute, but it’s not realistic” Arthur said. “When I was little I tried riding my uncle’s big dog. His back was too narrow.”
“But that’s just it,” Yannie said. “Clifford was big enough that Emily could ride him. Couldn’t you genetically modify dog genes so they would be rideable?”
“Sure, but why do that when there’s horses?” Arthur asked. “Unless...” His eyes widened.
“Unless what?” Yannied asked when Arthur didn’t say anything for a minute.
“Unless I also made dogs fly.”
“Flying dogs!” Yannie laughed. “You mean like making their ears so big they can fly?”
“What’s so funny about flying dogs?” Arthur said with a frown. He crossed his arms.
“You’re serious about this?” Yannie asked.
“I’m a world class geneticist invited to conferences all over the world! I was the one who modified dog genes so they could see in full color.”
“Have you ever taken a careful look at bird or bat wings?” Yannie asked. “They have rigid bones in them. Dog ears are floppy!”
“I’ll make it work!” Arthur said, determination filling his voice. Bear barked in support.
Yannie opened her mouth, then shut it.
“What?” Arthur said.
“I know when you’ve made up your mind,” Yannie said.
“Yannie, I can do this,” Arthur said. “I’m going to make giant flying dogs.”
“Giant flying dogs?” Yannie said, raising an eyebrow.
“Giant flying dogs!” Arthur shouted.
“Are there any ethical considerations for creating a subspecies of dogs that are huge and can fly?” Yannie asked at bedtime.
“The airline and airport industries are going to suffer,” Arthur said. He stepped over Bear and into bed. “Who wouldn’t prefer a flying dog over a giant metal tube stamped out by a aerospace factory?”
“Exactly how big are these dogs going to be?” Yannie asked as removed Goblin from her pillow.
“As big as a jumbo jet,” Arthur said.
Yannie bit her lip. “Arthur, I know you’ve made up your mind about this but I need to remind you of something,” she said. “I’m a veterinarian and I can tell you large dogs tend to have support problems. We’re fortunate that Bear doesn’t have any spine or hip problems.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” Arthur said. “I’ll engineer that out of the dogs. What would I do without you?”
“You would probably fail,” Yannie said, the smile on her face taking the edge off her words.
“I’ll need your help,” Arthur said.
“Of course you will,” Yannie said. “You might know about the science, but someone’s going to need to handle the breeding and care of your creations. Might as well be me.”
“Might as well be you,” Arthur agreed.
“And if we succeed, maybe I’ll get to travel,” Yannie said.
Months later Yannie held a squirming puppy up to the light. Its oversized ears flapped clumsily.
“Well?” Arthur asked. Bear looked on with concern in his eyes, while Goblin yowled from the closet she was locked in.
“The rigid sinew in the ears is developing, as is the supporting musculature,” Yannie said. “It’s growing according to your schematics.”
“Excellent,” Arthur said.
“I’m worried about the rigid sinew in the ears leaching material from its bones,” Yannie said. “So let’s up the calcium supplements.”
“You’re the vet,” Arthur said.
Yannie lowered the puppy to the floor. Bear and the puppies’ watched with quiet parental affection as it scampered to play with its littermates.
Arthur opened the closet door and Goblin bolted out. The cat ran over to the puppy Yannie had picked up and inspected it. Once she was confident her self-appointed charge was uninjured, Goblin flung an angry look at Yannie.
“It’s unusual how Goblin is so maternal with the puppies,” Arthur said.
“Not as much as you think,” Yannie said. “House cats who lose their kittens are known to steal puppies and nurse them. For that matter, lionesses who lose their cubs are famous for adopting the children of prey species.”
“Not to change the subject, but as soon as the puppies achieve lift I want a private demonstration,” Arthur said.
“Why? Aren’t we recording every moment of their puppyhood?” Yannie asked.
“We are, but records are not the same as seeing something live,” Arthur said. “And we need funds to make this work. It’s one thing to breed flying dogs, but to scale them up will require serious money.”
“Agreed, let’s not use up our life savings on dog chow,” Yannie said, laughing. “I’ve got some rich clients I can convince to attend a demonstration.”
“So when do you think the puppies be ready to interact with strangers?” Arthur asked.
“Puppies should be introduced to 100 people by 12 weeks,” Yannie said. “Let’s start that at eight weeks.”
“That gives me a good amount of time to get documentation and slides in order,” Arthur said. “And both of us enough time to figure out what to do with Goblin when the puppies have visitors.”
A month later, Yannie ducked as a puppy glided through her personal space. It landed clumsily a moment later, tumbling head over heals on a gymnastics mat, yipping as it went. The other puppies of its litter stood at the top of the ramp, each trying to muster enough courage to leap into the air.
“As you can see, at just eight weeks of age the puppies are capable of unguided, unpowered flight,” Arthur said to the people around him standing on the far side of the sunroom.
“Amazing! Wonderful!” the people clapped. In their midst Bear wagged his tail with gentle pride. Goblin was nowhere in sight, having been locked away. The cat couldn’t accept her adopted charges jumping from heights.
Yannie encouraged the next puppy to make the leap. Out of the corner of her eye she observed their most important guest, one of Yannie’s wealthy customers from the veterinarian's office. The woman wore very fashionable business casual clothes, the kind worn by high level executives with a lot of money.
“Yip! Yip!” Barked a puppy as it flapped its enormous ears. Bear barked in support of the puppy. Emboldened by Yannie’s and Bear’s encouragement, the little puppy leapt into space. For a moment the puppy dropped like a stone, then its oversized ears caught the air and it glided gently into Yannie’s waiting arms.
“Well done!” the executive shouted over the cheering.
Yannie carried the puppy over to Arthur and the guests. Eager hands reached out to pet the little creature.
“The possibilities are endless,” the executive said. “We’re going to revolutionize the pet industry. Everyone will want a flying puppy.”
“Why stop there?” Arthur said. “Let’s go beyond pets. Let’s take over the travel industry.”
“What do you mean?” the executive said.
“We can replace airplanes with giant flying dogs,” Arthur said.
“That’s brilliant!” the executive exclaimed. “Can you breed flying dogs big enough to carry people?”
“With enough funding, I can improve the genetics enough that a dog could carry a hundred people,” Arthur said.
The room went silent except for the sound of puppies yipping, Bear’s tail whacking against Arthur’s leg, and the faint sound of Goblin yowling from her closet prison.
“You’re serious, aren’t you,” the executive said.
“Yes,” Arthur said, his eyes full of vision.
“Then let’s make it happen,” the executive said. “To whom should I make out the check?”
“It won’t work,” someone said. “Dogs can’t fly as fast as a jet plane.”
Yannie looked at the speaker. It was the adolescent daughter of her receptionist, who she had invited because she knew the twelve year old bookish girl liked puppies. But right now she wished that the girl was illiterate.
The executive turned on Arthur. “How much slower will a flying dog go than a jet plane?” she demanded.
“About one hundred miles per hour,” Arthur said in a nervous voice. Yannie breathed a sigh of relief. She planned to have words with her receptionist tomorrow.
“That’s not so bad,” the executive said. “If a cross country flight on a dog takes a six hours instead of the five on a plane, no one is going to mind.”
“A hundred miles less than a jet plane or a hundred miles an hour total?” the girl said.
“About a hundred miles per hour,” Arthur said in a glum voice.
“Can you genetically engineer a flying dog to go as fast as a jet plane?” the executive asked.
“Well...” Arthur started. At his favorite person’s sudden shift in mood, Bear began to growl his displeasure.
“Dog flying speed is limited because of physics,” the girl said. “The drag of a dog’s fur is going to as high as a bird, in fact that’s why birds can’t fly faster than one hundred miles an hour. Even propellor planes are limited in speed because of drag. That’s why modern jets are built like darts, it’s because of air resistance.”
“I plan to reduce the drag coefficient by creating a fur alternative that would serve as a form of propulsion,” Arthur said.
“How long would it take for a dog to fly across the country?” the executive asked in an abrupt voice.
“It’s about three thousand miles from coast to coast,” the bookish girl said. “Therefore, at an optimal one hundred miles an hour, without stopping, it will take a dog thirty hours to fly from Los Angeles to New York City.”
“That won’t do at all,” the executive said. “Not to worry though, there’s still the pet industry to conquer.”
Bear whined in misery. Yannie looked at Arthur. His face was crumpling.
Moments later Goblin bolted into the room and bounded up the ramp. The cat reached the puppies clustered at the top and with her mouth grabbed one gently by the scruff of its neck. She carried the puppy, nearly half her size, down to the gymnastics mat.
“How did you get out?” Yannie exclaimed. As Goblin went back up the ramp Yannie scooped her up, avoiding a clawing by holding the cat by the scruff of the neck with one hand and cradling her with the other. “I’ll get her back in her closet.”
“I’ll walk with you,” the executive said. Once they were out of the sunroom, the older woman said to Yannie, “Don’t beat yourself up. You and Arthur have done something amazing. Flying dogs, that’s history!”
“But that wasn’t our dream,” Yannie said. Her heart was sinking. She had dreamed of travelling around the world.
“With the money and fame that comes from creating flying dogs, you’ll make new dreams,” the executive said. “Where did you keep this cat anyway?”
“Here in this closet,” Yannie said. “But the door is closed. How did she get out?”
The executive laughed. “Cats teleport, don’t you tell me that all the time? Mine appear out of nowhere and disappear to unknown places,” the woman said. “Isn’t that why you named yours Goblin, she can disappear at will!”
Yannie stopped. For a long moment she was still. Then she ran back to Arthur.
A year later Yannie stood in a concrete room next to a puppy the size of a horse. She put her foot in a stirrup and used that to lift herself onto a young dog’s saddle. She patted the massive canine head between the pointed, cat-like ears. She unmuted her headset and said, “Arthur, me and Klondike, we’re ready.”
On the other side of a wall she heard the faint sound of Bear barking. Klondike, the huge puppy on which Yannie sat on made a curious sound, a mix of bark and meow. Then it and Yannie vanished.
From the other side of the wall Yannie shouted, “Giant teleporting dogs!”