“We can’t have a dog or a cat right now, Eduardo. We just moved here, I have to work and you have to go to school.”
“A dog, especially a puppy, needs a lot of attention, care and veterinary visits. It’s not that simple,” said Eduardo’s mother, Octavia, shaking her head one morning as she drove him to his new school.
They had just moved to a new town and Eduardo was tired of being alone and not making friends, so he asked for a puppy or a cat. But his mother refused.
“I will be responsible, I swear! I’m old enough to do everything. I can pick him up and take care of him too,” the boy continued to plead. “Please mom.”
“Honey, I already told you. We can’t right now. We’re just getting settled in here. Do you want to make friends? You’re a great kid and you’re going to make friends at school in no time,” Octavia said.
“Besides, if you have a pet at home you won’t be able to join some clubs. And clubs are the best way to make new friends. So please drop the subject for now and let’s concentrate on adjusting to this new place, OK?”
“Okay,” Edward replied in a defeated tone.
Octavia felt bad about it, but a pet, even a small fish, required a lot of responsibility, and there were more pressing things to concentrate on now.
The boy got out of the car, dreading his first day at a new school, but thinking that maybe his mother was right and it wouldn’t be so bad. It wasn’t the best because being the new kid was awkward, but the people were nice enough and he got to sit with some interesting kids.
However, the boy still planned to convince his mother to get a pet, and the first step was to be more responsible and diligent. He would also help with dinner and dishes.
“Did you visit any of the clubs at school? It would be best to sign up for one that takes up the whole afternoon, so you won’t be alone here at home until I get home,” Octavia commented as they ate.
“I don’t know. I checked a few, but I don’t know which one to choose,” Eduardo answered, not concentrating very hard.
“You know what might be fun? The scouts. They’re a good organization, and since we live in a wooded area, you might benefit from picking up some wilderness skills,” his mother continued.
“Isn’t that silly?”
“Please, silly things are all the rage now, kiddo. Catch up,” she laughed, trying to be playful. “But anyway, they’ll teach you a few things about being responsible and independent in case something happens.”
“If I join, do you think I’ll be responsible enough to have a dog?” interjected Edward, wide-eyed.
Octavia sighed. “Well, maybe. Although I already told you why I don’t think it’s the best idea to get a dog now. I don’t have time and you’re still a kid.”
“But if you can prove that you’re responsible enough in choosing a club, working hard at it, and keeping your grades up, then we can discuss this again. How about it?”
Finally, Edward perked up and smiled at his mother.
“Yay! Okay, I’ll join the scouts tomorrow!”.
Octavia smiled and shook her head. It was possible she might have to give in on the dog issue at some point, but she would rather wait a few years until her son was older and could properly care for any animal.
“Let’s welcome our new members, how about we start with Edward over there? Boy, stand up and tell us why you joined the scouts,” asked the scoutmaster, Mr. David, who happened to be the elementary school biology teacher as well.
All the boys sat on the floor in their nice uniforms ready for their first lesson. Eduardo stood up shyly and introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Eduardo and I joined the club because I just moved here and I don’t know anything about forests. And my mom thinks if I’m good at scouts I’ll be able to take care of a dog,” he said, and the other kids laughed.
Mr. David smiled.
“Your mom is right. But what you’ll learn with us will be a lot more than just taking care of animals. Have you ever lived near a forest before?”
“No,” the boy said, shaking his head.
“Then you must learn how to survive in the wild if something happens. Besides, scouts teach responsibility, camaraderie, teamwork and much more. So we’re glad you’re here, Eduardo,” Mr. David finished, and the group applauded.
Other kids introduced themselves and Eduardo was glad he wasn’t the only new person on the team. As their first meeting went on, the 11-year-old became more excited to be in this club, especially for all the activities Mr. David was showing them.
“Are we ever going on a field trip?” the boy asked at one point.
“Actually, yes. We have a big hike a week before school is out for winter break, and I need everyone to be ready and have your parents sign these permission slips,” Mr. David revealed.
All of the children were excited about the hiking trip. Although Edward had only joined to please his mother, he was happy when he got home and told her all about the club.
The day of the hike arrived and Eduardo was laughing and having fun with his closest scout friends. The last few weeks had been great. He had made real friends and was so busy with school that he never bothered his mother asking for a pet.
He wanted a dog, but now, he was fine waiting until he was older and could be more independent.
His real focus was learning all about survival in the wild, and he had already excelled in several lessons, encouraged by Mr. David’s frequent praise.
“It’s all right, boys. We have to stick together during this hike unless I specifically say so.”
“Let’s go find some plants that I told you can grow in the snow and some landmarks that can help you in case you ever get stranded in a winter forest. Come on!” said the scout master.. Then they started walking.
The terrain they were passing through was not particularly steep or complicated. It looked like a regular hiking trail that many other transients had used, but it was still exciting.
“I can’t wait until we finish so I can get my first medal,” said Eduardo’s friend Bartholomew. The kids around him agreed.
“But let’s concentrate on finding the flowers or anything strange in the snow so Mr. David will be more impressed,” Eduardo suggested, and they all nodded.
Unfortunately, they walked for several hours and everything seemed covered in snow. The scoutmaster showed them some tricks to light a fire despite the wet and cold, and Eduardo listened, fascinated. But he really wanted to find something unique and prove himself to the whole group.
Suddenly, a flash of color caught his attention and, off to the side, he thought he saw something purple. But he couldn’t be sure. It was far from the road.
“Hey, guys. Cover me,” he said to his friends, who stopped for a second as Edward turned away from the trail into the woods.
“Eduardo! Eduardo!” they called to him between shouting and whispering, trying not to get Mr. David’s attention.
But the boy didn’t listen; he kept going. He also didn’t notice when his friends kept walking with the rest of the team, but he really wanted to find this flower.
There it was: a lone camellia, growing despite the cold and the thick layer of ice. It was fantastic, and Edward plucked it to take it to Mr. David.
He was sure he could catch up with the rest of the scouts easily because their leader had taught them so much. However, everything seemed far away from his new perspective, and even the trail he had left on the way out was almost invisible.
Still, he kept walking… and walking… and running. He ran and called out to anyone who would listen. But he couldn’t even hear the sounds of his friends in the distance. It was very strange and confusing. Finally, he got tired and sat down at the foot of a nearby tree to catch his breath.
To his complete surprise, a dog appeared out of nowhere. At first, Eduardo thought it might be a wolf, so he tensed up and looked around for a weapon.
There was nothing nearby to help him fend off the wild animal. However, the canine approached and he saw that its tongue was hanging out and its tail was wagging.
“Oh, hey, buddy. You scared me,” he commented, out of breath.
He patted the dog, who sat down next to him and waited to catch his breath.
“You must be a stray doggie, huh, why are you around these parts?”.
The dog just looked at him with the most sincere expression. Now, he wanted to find his way home, not only for his own sake but also for the animal’s. So, he stood up and walked again, but found neither the way nor anyone.
And unfortunately, it was getting darker and darker and darker. He had a small flashlight in his bag, as mandated by his scout training, but it wouldn’t last long. Still, he was sure someone would find him soon.
“They must be scouring the forest and calling me,” he thought. “Dude, let’s wait here and see if we can hear my group’s call,” Edward said to the dog and sat down near another tree.
It started to get cold, so he took the advice Mr. David had given them a little while ago and started a small fire to keep warm. Unfortunately, they didn’t hear anything, and it got colder and colder.
“Come on, buddy,” he said to the dog and moved on. Finally, he discovered a small rock formation that could serve as a shelter. So he went in there.
Eduardo lit another small fire and sat down near the dog, who curled up next to him. Despite his best efforts to stay alert, the 11-year-old boy fell asleep.
At some point, he heard growling and his eyes snapped open. The fire was out and he couldn’t see anything. But he noticed the dog at the entrance to his makeshift shelter.
It was growling at something Eduardo couldn’t see very well. But there was another animal growling back at him. The boy wiped his eyes and tried to see what was out there that had the stray dog so alert and angry.
When his eyes focused, he saw what looked like a large fox, and the boy thanked God he was not alone. He heard that foxes were not dangerous, but this one looked different.
Eventually, the fox left and the dog stopped growling, but remained alert for a while longer. After a few minutes, it relaxed and returned to Edward’s side, providing him with much-needed warmth.
But despite being warmer now, the boy began to cry. He couldn’t believe that no one had found him yet.
What if no one had noticed he was gone? What about his friends, weren’t they looking for him? His mother might be the only one really worried. Suddenly, he felt the dog’s wet tongue licking at his tears and he burst out laughing.
“There, there. Thank you. Thank you for protecting me and keeping me company,” he said to the dog and hugged it.
In his desperation to find his group, Eduardo had wandered farther and farther from the original trail. So, he was lost in the forest for two days with only the stray dog for company and some food and water he had in his bag.
However, he stayed close to the rock shelter after finding it and tried to remain as quiet as possible and, fortunately, was awakened by his mother’s cries that second morning in the forest.
“EDUARDO! EDUARDO! Oh my God! My baby!” the mother cried.
When she saw him she ran to hug her little boy. Eduardo’s eyes clouded over, even though he knew there were other people with her. But he hugged his mother like never before and apologized for walking away from the group.
“I’m so sorry, Mom!”
When her emotions calmed down, Octavia wanted to leave, but Edward explained what the dog had done for him.
“He kept me warm, defended me from wild animals and was my companion. Please, we can’t leave him here, Mom,” the boy pleaded, and his mother was only too happy to say yes.
“Let’s go home quickly,” she said, and they began the long walk to their starting point two days ago. Eduardo couldn’t believe how far he had strayed.
Once home, he took a warm bath and the dog never left his side. They ate dinner, and his mother prepared a bowl for the animal and kissed his head. “Thank you for keeping my son safe,” he heard her tell him.
“Can we keep him?” asked Edward when Octavia sat down with him for dinner.
“Ah, that dog is family now,” she nodded. “Pick a name.”
Edward smiled and named him Explorer.