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Herding the Brachiosauruses

Mary E. Lowd is a prolific science-fiction and furry writer in Oregon. She's had nearly 200 short stories and a dozen novels published, including the Entangled Universe trilogy and the Otters In Space trilogy. Most of her fiction involves spaceships, talking animals, or both. Her work has won numerous awards, and she's been nominated for the Ursa Major Awards more than any other individual. She is also the founder and editor of Zooscape. Learn more at marylowd.com or read more stories at deepskyanchor.com.

"Look, you're overreacting," Angie Cartwright said to her wife, Dr. Miriam Loxley, as she drove the two of them across the beautiful stretch of golden savannah on the west side of Hali'corra Island. Warm air flowed through the open top of her company jeep, and she could hear the peaceful, melodic cries of the brachiosaurus herd singing to each other in the distance. She hoped that seeing the gentle, plant-eaters would calm her wife down or cheer her up. Anything other than holding her head in her hands, staring into the distance like she'd seen death itself in a cage.
Loxley hadn't taken well to seeing the T-Rex pavilion. Maybe that hadn't been the best choice for a first stop on this trip. She'd started ranting about those old Jurassic Park movies and messing with nature. Cartwright had expected better from a fellow scientist in a similarly unfairly maligned field, let alone her wife. Loxley worked on gene-modding humans into their fursonas, letting them live out their furry dreams, and her work had been at the center of several protests. She should know better than to judge Cartwright's work so quickly.
"I'm surprised okay?" Loxley said, voice hollow. "I knew you were working on something big..." She trailed off, thinking about how excited Cartwright always was, like she was bursting with secrets to share, but unable to talk about any of them until after she'd gotten special permission to bring her wife to the island. And even then, Loxley had been required to sign an NDA. "I just didn't realize it was dinosaur big."
"Or Clifford the Big Red Dog big," Cartwright countered, trying to cover a smile at her own joke. She parked the jeep in the middle of the field and pointed toward the tree line.
Loxley could make out the brachiosaurus herd, their legs and necks like trees, in front of the forest of prehistoric plants, each painstakingly revived and altered to grow on this particular island.
Loxley knew what Cartwright was doing. She was trying to let her wife's favorite dinosaur do the convincing. Loxley loved brachiosaurus. And giraffes. And flamingos. Anything funny-looking with a long neck. But a herd of brachiosauruses peacefully cruising across a field wouldn't erase the image in her mind of that T-Rex and its gengineered companion dog. Sure, Labrador Retrievers were cute at any size, but they'd never been meant to be that big.
Even so, she was here now. It couldn't hurt to watch.
As the brachiosauruses strolled, moving away from the trees and into the savannah, Loxley made out stripes on their sides--long swaths of tree bark brown alternated with swampy green, emulating the pattern of light in the forest behind them. They came closer, and over their doleful, sonorous song, a sudden incisive yip! coincided with the herd changing direction. A gigantic dog came into view, circling around the slow-moving brachiosauruses. This dog had a bright orange, flowing mane and long, pointy face, split into a cheerful grin. A collie. Except as tall as a house.
"You developed herd dogs to manage the herd dinosaurs," Loxley observed drily.
Loxley had grown up with collies. Cartwright had been right that seeing one would tug at her heart strings.
"I should have shown you this before the T-Rex," Cartwright said. "I just got so carried away... The T-Rex is our crown jewel."
Loxley frowned. "This doesn't change how dangerous a T-Rex is."
"I know," Cartwright admitted. "But what we're doing here really is safe, and I didn't drag you here to help fix some horrible mistake we've made. It's not like the movies. And I guess I kinda forgot how startling it can be when... you know... you first find out about it."
Loxley shot her wife a troubled look. Now that she knew what Cartwright had been working on, she didn't like the idea of her flying off to Hali'corra Island three days a week. And yet, Cartwright had been doing exactly that for years. Nothing had changed, except Loxley had been allowed to see behind the NDA.
"Why are you showing me?" Loxley didn't believe in hiding from knowledge. And yet, right now, she kind of wished she just didn't know that The Prehistory Zoo had gone full-on Jurassic Park.
In retrospect, how had she missed it? Way out on an island, with a name like that....
Loxley supposed that people had failed to see bigger things than dinosaurs when they just didn't want to see them.
Oh god, if she'd failed to see through something as big and obvious as this, what else was Loxley missing in her life? Was Cartwright keeping other secrets from her? Personal ones? Was her marriage in trouble? The hands still on the side of her head pressed harder, digging her fingernails into her scalp.
"Woah, now, Miri, don't panic, it's nothing bad." Cartwright put a hand on her wife's arm and helped Loxley to ease her hands down from her face.
The two women stared at each other, one staving off panic that felt totally irrational but seemed to be a physical response to the adrenaline of meeting dinosaurs in the flesh for the first time, and the other one... calm, smiling, almost impish.
"What then? What is it?"
"Well, we live on a really, big, isolated farm... and there's plenty of space..."
Realization dawned: "You want to adopt one of the dogs."
Cartwright's impish smile grew into a full lopsided grin. "Well, yeah, there's this one dog, Galileo. He's a scruffy mutt, and he didn't work out with the dinosaurs... but..."
Loxley could see everything she needed to know about this dog in Cartwright's face. Her wife was already in love. And it was true that their farm was big enough to safely hide a gigantic, secret, NDA-covered dog.
"Look, Galileo is the sweetest dog you'll ever meet."
And probably one of the biggest.
Loxley stared at the giant collie in the distance, running happy circles around the brachiosauruses. Dinosaurs were scary in the movies, but out there, they were just big, weird sheep for a collie to play shepherd with.
And the dog was just a dog. Domesticated. And clearly well-trained.
"All right, Angie, let's meet this dog."
Cartwright's grin grew even wider. She knew that her wife had only agreed to meet the dog, but it's really hard to say No to a dog when he's looking at you with big--really big-- brown eyes.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Author Comments

After writing my previous Daily Science Fiction Story, "Comfort Animal," I realized there was room to do more with the characters and setting. So, I wrote a short, bulleted outline of what else I'd like to see them do. It looked like this:

1 - already written

2 - tiny cartoon animals in lab

3 - they move in herds (Lassie)

4 - birthday party

5 - aggressive dog protecting eggs

I am not great at outlining.

Then I proceeded to land a trilogy deal with Aethon Books which required me to write two novels very quickly, and half a year later, the world was hit with a pandemic. So, this project was put on hold for three years, and the outline sat in my inbox the entire time, reminding me that I meant to work on it.

- Mary E. Lowd
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