- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Praise for The Last Dogs:"With suspense, action-adventure, and some droll touches...[The Last Dogs] offers a fast-paced read."
When the companions reach the ocean's edge, they find a free-spirited beachfront community. Reunited with long-lost friends (and introduced to a new delicacy -- cat kibble), ...
When the companions reach the ocean's edge, they find a free-spirited beachfront community. Reunited with long-lost friends (and introduced to a new delicacy -- cat kibble), Max, Rocky, and Gizmo gain the motivation they need to keep going. But danger lies ahead. . . . As their travels take them deep into the spooky swampland, can they discover what's driven the humans away? Or have they finally reached the end of the long road?
The Last Dogs: The Long Road is the third book in a thrilling series about three unlikely friends on an epic quest to find their people -- and bring them home.
"Fans of animal adventure stories and mysteries will enjoy this exciting look at the resiliency and ingenuity of dogs."—VOYA
"A post-apocalyptic Animal Farm for young readers."—Kirkus Reviews
The first thing Max realized when he awoke was that the buzzing and tingling on his nose were not part of his dream at all.
Crossing his eyes, he could just make out the blurry outline of a bug with flapping wings and spiky legs. The thing was big, black, and bloated with blood. He felt a jab of pain as it stuck its needlelike nose into his tender skin.
Before Max could react, something wet and heavy slapped his nose. The buzzing stopped, and Max saw a fleshy pink tongue snap back into its owner's mouth.
Max recoiled, only to find himself trapped in the spongy, snakelike tree roots where he'd lain down to rest. He must have fallen asleep without realizing it and had one of his dreams—dreams that had become all the more vivid over the past few weeks.
Shaking his head, Max peered up at the mosquito eater. It was a squat, bulbous bullfrog with slick, bumpy skin. Slowly it blinked its big yellow eyes.
"Uh, thanks," Max said.
The bullfrog merely blinked once more.
Clearing his throat, Max said, "It seems there are a lot more mosquitoes and other bugs around since all the birds went away. But I guess that's good for you, huh?"
Max was met with a stare. "Since you eat bugs, I mean?" he continued. "No more competition."
The frog's pale throat bulged. With a croak it leaped over Max's head in a flash of long limbs and webbed feet.
"All right," Max muttered. "Nice to meet you, too."
Max rose to all fours. He felt stiff, and his fur stank of rancid mud. He couldn't be sure how much time he'd spent asleep.
Not that it mattered. He'd lost track of how long this journey had lasted. It must have been a few months, maybe longer. All he knew was that he was farther from his old home on the farm than ever before.
The farm. That was where he'd lived with Charlie and Emma and their parents before all the people disappeared, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. Max had been trapped in a kennel, but luckily Rocky was around to help him escape. Soon they'd met Gizmo, and it wasn't long before the three new friends decided that living under Gizmo's tyrannical pack leader wasn't what they wanted.
Max's dream of Charlie and Emma had felt so vivid and real, but his family and friends often came to him this way, bringing warnings of upcoming danger, as well as messages of hope.
"Big guy! You're finally awake!"
Craning his neck, Max looked up to see his two companions.
The one who'd spoken was Rocky, a Dachshund with a pointed snout, a spiky tail, and a long black body held up by short legs. The floppy-eared dog was notorious for his love of kibble.
Beside Rocky was Gizmo, a chipper, fearless little Yorkshire Terrier. She had tan-and-black fur; bright, friendly eyes; and tufted, pointed ears that were always alert. Brave and charming, she'd lost her people even before the other humans left.
Max padded out from between the tangled tree roots. "How long was I asleep?" he asked.
"All afternoon and all night!" Gizmo said. "But we didn't want to bother you." Wagging her stubby tail, she flicked out her small pink tongue to lick Max's nose.
Rocky waddled toward the river's edge. "Yeah, we figured you needed your beauty rest. Hate to break it to you, buddy, but your coat ain't exactly got the sheen it used to."
Max looked down at the mud crusting his overgrown golden fur. Not that any of the dogs looked their best. Gizmo's once-fluffy fur was matted and knotted, and Rocky's coat was coarse and patchy. They were all thin, though they weren't starving. They'd been on the road long enough to tell where they might find something to eat.
"Come on, Max," Gizmo said as she trotted after Rocky through the underbrush. "The water is nice and cool."
"Thanks for looking out for me," Max said as he joined Rocky and Gizmo on the slick, pebbly shore.
"It's the least we can do," Rocky said as Max dunked himself into the river to clean the mud from his fur and lap up the cool water, which tasted of fish and drowned plants.
"You've been leading and protecting us ever since we saved the dogs on the riverboat," Gizmo added. "Lately you've forgotten important stuff, like eating and sleeping!"
Rocky shook his head. "I'll never understand how you can forget to eat, big guy! I mean ... kibble. I could—"
Rocky stopped speaking, his whole body gone rigid.
"You hear that?" he whispered.
Max waded out of the water and looked along the shore. For a moment, he almost expected to hear his pack leaders' laughter, just like in his dream.
Instead, he heard a distant croak.
"Aw, it's back!" Rocky turned to Max. "Say, big guy, you hungry for some frog legs? I hear they're a delicacy."
Max chuckled. "Now why would I eat a bullfrog? They seem so ... slimy."
Rocky stared up at Max. "Because if you don't eat it, it's gonna eat me!" The Dachshund paced back and forth on the bank. "You should have seen it, just watching me. Licking its oversize lips. Waiting. I'm telling ya, big guy, it was hungry for dog!"
Gizmo darted to the water's edge, then splashed Rocky. She laughed as he sputtered and backed away.
"Snap out of it, Rocky," she said. "The bullfrog isn't that big. How could it eat you?"
Rocky dropped to his belly and rested his head on his paws. "I've heard stories. And everyone tells me I look like a sausage. It's not easy being mistaken for a tasty treat, okay?"
Shaking his head, Max padded back up onto the muddy, grassy bank.
"How about we start walking again," he said to his two companions. "That way we won't be here when the bullfrog comes back."
With a happy bark and a wag of his spiky tail, Rocky jumped up and waddled over to Max's side. Gizmo joined them.
"Do you think we're close?" Gizmo asked as they started walking south on the grass, following the river.
All Max could see in the distance was the glittering water and more trees. Still, his dreams gave him hope that they'd be reaching the next stage of their journey very soon.
"I'm not sure, Gizmo," Max said as he stepped carefully over a fallen log. "But I have a good feeling. Today might be the day we get to the end of the river."
The three friends spent most of the morning in silence. As the sun rose, the day grew hotter, but the shade of the large, twisting trees kept them comfortable.
Max peered into the branches as they walked, looking for the glowing orange beacon he'd seen in his dream. He'd seen the beacons first in real life.
Several weeks ago, Max, Rocky, and Gizmo had stumbled upon a riverboat full of dogs who had made their home inside. It was there that Max and his companions had met Boss, the Australian Shepherd who proved to be a good friend.
With Boss's help, the three dogs had found the laboratories where the old woman, Madame's pack leader, worked. There they discovered that pets and other animals had been infected with a virus called Praxis that was meant to make animals smarter. But the virus could spread to the humans and hurt them. That was why all the people had left. Something about the virus had made the birds fly away, too. A pig named Gertrude had told Max to seek out the glowing orange beacons that the old woman was leaving to mark her trail.
Then some bad humans and a pack of vicious wolves had attacked the riverboat, and Max, Rocky, and Gizmo had helped save the dogs who lived there. The riverboat had gone up in flames, and Boss was too badly hurt to live. Boss had asked Max to find his lost love, Belle, in a city called Baton Rouge, and Max had given his word that he would.
Max and his friends had left behind the riverboat dogs several weeks ago, but they hadn't seen any beacons yet.
Even earlier, in a city far to the north, Madame also had told Max to find the woman, who had been her pack leader. Just like Boss, Madame, who was old and very sick, had asked Max to continue the journey. Because of his two fallen friends, Max would never give up. He knew the beacons had to be somewhere, and Belle was waiting in Baton Rouge for word of Boss.
"Hey, is it just me, or is the river getting wider?" Rocky asked.
Max shook his head, ready to insist that it was just Rocky's imagination—but it wasn't. The little dog was right.
The river had been a wide, gushing, turbulent thing for as long as the dogs had followed it. But now it seemed to double in width, the opposite shore farther away than ever.
His heart pounding with excitement, Max broke into a run. "Come on!" he called.
Up ahead through a break in the trees was a small, muddy incline. Max dug his paws into the dirt and climbed up to find himself walking on asphalt.
As Rocky and Gizmo came to stand near him, panting, Max darted back and forth. To his left, the road stretched long and straight. There were great swaths of dried mud on the asphalt, and broken branches littered the path, as if some storm had come through.
To his right, the road turned into a long metal bridge that spanned the river. Vines dangled from the rusting metal, and dead weeds and other debris lay scattered everywhere.
Straight ahead, the river fanned out on a sandy beach into a body of water that seemed to stretch on forever. Max remembered old images from his pack leaders' television. "It's the ocean," he gasped.
Strong winds rose up off the waves and carried with them the pungent scent of brine and fish and water plants. It was unlike anything Max had ever smelled before.
He studied the beach. The ocean waves crashed against the shore in a burst of froth and foam before receding, leaving wet sand. He could see slick weeds with bulbs at the ends and branches strewn across the shore. There were animals, too, strange creatures that looked like hard-shelled, smooth spiders and one that looked like a star.
"Have we reached the end of the world, big guy?" Rocky whispered.
Max shook his head, the salty wind swirling through his golden fur. "I don't think so. But we've reached the end of the river."
"So where do we go now?" Rocky asked.
Before Max could answer, Gizmo barked in excitement. She leaped forward, her tail a blur.
"Look!" she said as she spun in a circle. "Do you see them? Boats!"
Narrowing his eyes, Max gazed past the beach and the crashing waves, far out into the ocean.
And he saw them.
Beneath puffy white clouds that floated lazily in the blue sky were three distant ships. Judging by how far they were from shore, Max guessed they were much larger than the riverboat.
"Good eyes, Gizmo!" Rocky said, nuzzling the terrier affectionately.
"Thanks," Gizmo said. She looked up at Max, her eyes wide. "Do you think there are people on those boats? Where do you think they're going?"
Max tilted his head. "Well, the last boat we found was full of dogs, but most pets couldn't sail out to sea on such big ships. So it must be humans, heading in the direction we need to go in, too."
"And where's that?" Rocky asked.
Max nodded toward the bridge. "West."
"Yay!" Gizmo said, bouncing up and down. "Let's not wait anymore, Max."
Together, the three dogs ran toward the bridge, where a green sign hung between the arches. It read FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT—1 MILE.
Reading human words—not something a dog could usually do.
But as Max, Rocky, and Gizmo had learned, that was just one of the many perks of Praxis.
Gertrude, the pig, had explained that the Praxis virus was dangerous to humans but harmless to animals. In fact, it was the first step in a process that, when completed, would make an animal as smart as a human. Back at the lab, Gertrude had put Max, Gizmo, and Rocky through the second step of the process, and ever since then Max had understood more of the world around him. He could see the change in his friends, too, by the way they spoke and acted. It was frightening but exciting—especially since Gertrude claimed that finishing the second step meant they could no longer infect humans.
If only the rest of the animals could be made safe, too. Then the humans could come home and everything could go back to normal.
But first things first—Max needed to find Madame's pack leader.
The three dogs swiftly crossed the bridge. Far beneath their feet, the river splashed and roared into dangerous currents as it met the ocean.
Not exactly water they'd want to dive into.
It was late afternoon by the time they reached the town, and the setting sun cast long shadows. First they passed a small bait shop, its windows boarded up and a CLOSED sign dangling on a chain. A rusty truck sat on concrete blocks in its driveway.
But the farther they walked, the more modern the buildings became. On the right side of the road, opposite the beach, they passed shop after shop, all painted a pale summery blue with white scalloped shutters. One of the shops had jars of brightly colored candy in its window alongside rainbow-patterned kites and racks of postcards. Next to that was a restaurant. Its sign read JIM'S CRAB SHACK.
"Ohhh," Rocky moaned. He plopped belly-down on the road.
"Are you okay?" Gizmo asked, licking Rocky's fur.
"I'm fine," Rocky said, "but I'm really hungry. We've been walking for ages."
Max's own stomach growled, and his legs were tired, too. He scanned the storefronts, but he didn't see a grocery store.
But there was another building down the road on the sand. Squinting, Max read its sign. SUNNYSIDE RESORT AND SPA. A smaller sign read, LUNCHES AND DINNERS PROVIDED BY OUR RESIDENT CHEF. PETS WELCOME.
Rocky perked up as he read the signs. " 'Lunches and dinners'? 'Pets welcome'? Sounds like my kind of place!"
"Let's check it out!" Gizmo yipped.
With Max in the lead, the three dogs ran forward with renewed energy. They bounded up the weathered, wooden steps of the resort onto a wide porch. Stepping forward, Max nudged the glass front door with his head. It didn't budge. Looking up, he read the word on the door: PUSH.
Which meant the door was locked.
"Come on," Max said. "Let's see if there's a way in around the back."
They followed the porch around the side of the building to where it stretched out into a wide-open area. Wooden beach chairs were arranged around an empty swimming pool that stank of chlorine and mildew. A few chairs were tilted on their sides, and one lay up against the railing. Umbrellas were lying torn and tattered on the ground.
At the back of the resort building, there were two sliding glass doors. One showed symbols Max equated with bathrooms. That door was wide open.
They had a way in!
Max was about to tell his friends the good news when he felt Rocky bump into his hind legs.
"I don't mean to alarm you," Rocky whispered. "But I don't think we're alone, big guy."
The musk of animal fur met Max's nose. He turned to see four small creatures on the opposite side of the pool. They huddled in the early evening shadows next to the porch railing: three cats and a tiny dog.
The largest of the cats—a fat orange tabby with a square of black fur beneath its nose—stepped forward into the light, its green eyes narrowed into slits.
"Hi!" Gizmo said with a wag of her tail. "Maybe you can help us. We're looking for food and thought this place might have some."
The orange cat didn't have a chance to answer.
They heard a distant thwump thwump from the north.
As the sound grew louder, great gusts of wind rose up, carrying fallen leaves and stinging sand.
Blazing, man-made lights flooded through the resort windows.
And the big cat, its fur standing on end, cried out, "Don't just stand there! Run!"
Excerpted from The Last Dogs: The Long Road by Christopher Holt, Allen Douglas. Copyright © 2013 Christopher Holt Allen Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.