Because Bounce has become such a popular character on my Six Sentence Sunday snippets from War’s End, the third book of the trilogy I’m working on, I thought I’d post the first scene in which the pocket herders appear. This is from Rescue Operation, the first book of the trilogy and they are on Horizon, which is at war.

Kilravock Lassie

This is Kilravock Lassie, the first Shetland Sheepdog imported to the US to leave descendants here. I think I had her in mind when I invented the pocket herders, though they average a little larger — Lassie was only 12″ tall at the shoulder.

The planet looked misleadingly normal. Its population was low and well spread out, and in this relatively affluent section, most families lived in separate houses on their own slices of land. The planetary love affair with horses was even represented by several stables and sheds, often with attached small paddocks in which horses dozed. The sun set as they walked, but it was still daylight by the time they reached a walk gate on which a sign was hanging: CLOSE THE GATE! They were a little early, as Roi had planned, but he let himself and Mark in, shutting the gate, and started toward the house.

They were intercepted.

The dog that came tearing around the corner of the house was small, its pinned-back ears below Roi’s knees, but clearly determined to protect its territory and its mistress. Mark backed up a step; Roi simply broadcast friend, more emotion than thought, at the oncoming dog.  The animal slid to an astonished halt and lifted its ears, the expression on its face, Roi thought, probably mirroring that on his own.

Animals generally responded to broadcast emotions and simple visualizations, but not as sharply as this dog. Roi opened his mind and listened to the dog. A bright dog, about as intelligent as a wolf, but not sentient in the legal sense of awareness of itself as separate from its environment. And undeniably and very strongly telepathic.

Roi handed his share of the baker’s packages to Mark and dropped to his heels in front of the dog. Projective as well as receptive telepathy, he thought. Probably strong enough that such a dog could manage two-way communication with even a latent telepath. Certainly the dog was telepathic enough to provide Merle with the comfort she needed in a form she could accept. But was this an anomaly, or was the whole breed telepathic?

“Misty!” A middle-aged woman was running toward them down the path, a woman wearing rumpled clothes that looked as if they had been selected to hide dog hair. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone quite this early, or I wouldn’t have left her out in the yard.”

They were shown into the house in a flood of apologies and thanks for their contribution to the refreshments. “But we were just getting acquainted,” Roi protested, and insisted that the dog not be banished on his account. “I thought I was going to be looking for a replacement for a girl who lost her dog, but if Misty’s typical, I’ll be looking for breeding stock as well.”

I’ve just passed the files on this on to my editor, so there may be changes. But Roi’s interest in the pocket herders is going to remain.