Amy, Emmy, and Leanna lead each of their Tokota’s around the soccer field a few times before they headed into the school. They were just a few among many that were there going out to different schools, the three women had been assigned fourth and fifth grade and Lee was nervous of what to expect. She could recall the horror show that was her own grade school experience and she didn’t exactly relish the idea of going back to deal with bratty preteen’s who might try to purposely antagonize the toko’s. Rica whined at her and tugged on the lead as Lola bounded off with the blessing of Amy to run as fast as possible down the length of the field and back again. “If you promise not to fight you can go, we have another fifteen minutes before we need to go in.” She said patting a hand along the black barred markings on her face.
Unclipping the leash lead from the halter Leanna watched as Ricochet galloped to catch up with the merle. The brown half mane Ramona watched the two race and play but seemed more interested in sticking by Emmy than joining in. “So, do either of you have any expectations?” Leanna asked palming a treat for the pretty brown and holding it out for her.
Mona eagerly grabbed the jerky strip from her hand with a quick swipe of the tongue and edged closer looking for more. “No more, you’ll get some from the kids though.” Emmy chided gently.
The playful growls of the two females running around out in the field lead to Rica flipping over and rolling on her back like a dork. Lola paused in her racing to watch with a slightly confused look at the barred female, who at that moment was content to have her legs in the air and her tongue hanging upside down from her mouth. “Well that’s dignified.” Amy quipped dryly which sent Lee into a fit of giggles.
“Excuse me, we’re ready for you.” A young female teacher’s aide called from the playground.
“Okay, we’ll be right there.” Emmy replied as her sister and Lee whistled for their respective Tokota’s.
“Ready?” Amy asked clipping Lola back on her lead.
Scratching at the cheek fluff of her barred baby Leanna nodded, though she did have to brush some dirt and grass from Rica’s coat. “Yeah, let’s go get ‘em.”
“You make them sound like dangerous, they are just kids.” Emmy joked as the trio’s walked up to the back entrance of the elementary school.
“Famous last words my friend.” Lee chuckled holding the door open for the others once they got inside.
“The classroom itself is too small for all three of your… animal’s so we’ll be moving you to the gymnasium. The student’s are already there so if you would just follow me.” The aide smiled politely but the women could all see the slight fear and trepidation in her eyes regarding the large Tokota’s.
Collectively rolling their eyes knowing the misconception about their animals, the trio fell in line behind the young teacher. Lola and Amy went first since she was the flashiest with her bright merle coat, Ramona and Emmy going next as the half mane was a little unusual with the toko version mohawk, meanwhile Rica and Lee were happy to be last. With her barred tawny pelt Leanna felt like she was like a kind of palate cleanser of the three, though that may be just because she was a little biased. Sneaking another scritch of affection to Ricochet before they came to the propped open set of double doors, and judging by the dull roar of talking from just beyond they were fully prepared to be underwhelmed. Silly tweenagers. Lee snickered as the druid siblings crossed the threshold and the shocked silence that rang out by the time Rica and her followed suit was oh so perfect. Not even trying to hide the smirk she proudly lead Ricochet to the center with the other two, though she turned it into a real smile before Lee turned to address the kids. The teacher who had lead them in was standing in front of a microphone, and the hushed whispers picked up again before she could speak.
“Hello students, as you know we have some very special guest with us this afternoon and they have brought their lovely Tokota’s with them so that we can learn more about them. They are going to talk for a little bit and then we will have a Q and A before we will be allowed to meet them. Isn’t that exciting?” The woman seemed to be trying too hard, almost as if this was her first time speaking.
“Do you think we really make her that uncomfortable?” Lee heard Amy ask her sister in a hushed whisper while the teacher continued talking.
“I think it’s more to do with our girls than anything else.” Emmy replied.
“Can’t imagine why, they are walking balls of floof.” Leanna chimed in.
Emmy chuckled. “I think you are talking about yeti’s, they are really fluffy.”
Lee would have responded again when the clearing throat of the other woman brought her up short. Smiling brightly despite being caught like one of the kids in the bleachers passing a note in class, Lee strode forward taking the mic from the other woman. It was at this point she noticed more than a few other adults hanging around, whether they were parents or staff she wasn’t sure but went into her intro for Tokota’s.
Each of the handlers talked about the breed, what the difference between and normal toko and a dire was, how many mane types there were, the color explosions of coats and markings, and what they could specialize in. The fertility rites, hierarchy statuses, how some handlers even went about trying to tame wild tokos, was a place of particular interest to some. When the Q&A section came up many of the kids were curious about temperaments, some acted like it was a joke which annoyed all of the handlers. One particularly rude boy caught Leanna’s attention with his question. “So is it like, dangerous to own one?” The way he said it was like if wanted one just to look scary and be intimidating, as if it would somehow make him cool by default.
Fighting the urge to curl her lip she answered truthfully. “For someone inexperienced, yes it is. They are not just like your dog at home, if not trained right they could very easily kill someone. The typical dog is only eighty or so pounds, Lola, Ramona, and Ricochet here are over eight times that. Think about that for a second if you will, these animals are about the same weight as a grizzly bear and often bring them down in hunting. If you don’t train a dog right what does it do? Snaps at you, gets in trouble, and will fight you for dominance. If a poorly trained Tokota does that it is no joke, they could very easily kill a person without much effort.”
Emmy and Amy were nodding to reaffirm this as some of the kids and even adults paled, but many still looked very intrigued. A small voice then called out bringing all focus to her. “But you said you didn’t know much when you started.”
Murmurs of agreement went through the crowd as they all remembered how she had told them how she and her brother had gotten into the breed. “You’re right I did, but I also said that while I was waiting to be approved for my first pups I trained and learned with other owners of the breed would did have the experience I lacked. It takes a lot of work and dedication to work with these animals, just because they look just like ginormous versions of your household pet does not mean they are.” At this point Ramona seemed to reinforce that idea when she sat down and scratched at her ear.
“You wouldn’t want a bear, or tiger, or lion running around your house just because you thought it looked cool right?” Amy added as Lola stood at attention ears constantly twitching and alert to what was going on.
This explanation seemed to settle the more nervous faces while some still remained apprehensive. “With that in mind are you ready to come and meet them?” Emmy asked a set of matching smiles on her and her sibling faces.
The forty or so students sitting in the bleachers stood and climbed down so their teachers could split them into rotating groups of three so they could all see and interact with the different females. Each woman handed out some treats to a few of the more shy kids who were nervous about approaching but were more relaxed once those warm tongues licked palms and faces. At certain points a few even asked to ride them, to which Ramona and Rica were more than happy to oblige. Lola was a little too competitive and high strung for young children to go solo with the merle, and despite the lure of treats was getting antsy. Mona on the other hand was reveling in the attention, the gentle reverent hands as they petted her and said endearments was music to the pretty brown’s ears. Ricochet however was all about the food, if anyone had a snack she devoted her full focus to that person and was willing to be lead around by a girl no older than twelve with a another two on her back. Lee kept a close eye on them and walked just on the opposite side, it wasn’t until she caught a familiar young voice grinding on her ears that she came to a halt.
It was the ignorant boy from earlier and he had now set his sight on Mona. “She looks like a hyena, are there any dire half manes?”
Emmy handled him calmly and cooly, but it was clear he was not giving up and Emmy had had enough. Taking the kids who were on her back off, she challenged him head on and told him if he thought he could handle a dire than a normal would be no problem. His self important smirk dropped a little as he was told to try and command the silver maned toko. “Well go on, if you can handle Ramona then we’ll see.”
Mona just like the golden tawny merle Lola and Rica were submissive in status but that didn’t make them easy to manage. The girl holding on to Ricochet’s lead gasped and clenched her fist tight on the leash. Unlike her, Emmy stepped back letting Mona does as she pleased with the boy, now while she was a good girl she also knew that only three people here were her real commanders. When Ramona flat out ignored him and pulled him nearly off his feet to get closer to another boy with a bit of jerky in his hand, he grew frustrated but no less determined. To stave off humilation or just plain stubbornness Lee couldn’t tell, but only if he got an attitude adjustment maybe then he could truly gain the respect of a Tokota. As Mona continued to ignore him the boy jerked her lead hard and while it got her attention she had lost her gentle look. She didn’t growl, she did not expose her teeth, she barely shifted her stance but the soft gaze Mona had had all day was gone.
In it’s place was a direct challenge and one the middle schooler was unprepared to answer, the green eyes did not blink and had Emmy not stepped in front, it could have gotten ugly. Emmy stared down her girl but it only took a few seconds before Mona was back to normal and sniffing for treats. The druid then turned to look at the shaken preteen, taking the leash from his limp hands. “You are not ready for a full grown Tokota, let alone a dire. Patience is key to training any animal, and you are not developed enough to take on such responsibility. In a few years once you have grown a little more perhaps then, but first you need to master your own emotions. Understand.” He nodded mutely and slunk away.
Her tone had been gentle but also reprimanding, she may not have been his teacher however he had learned a lesson and that was a good thing. Amy felt pride for her sister and for how well Lola had behaved during the whole program, it had been an exciting day and as the kids were leaving the gym to return to their classes. A few adults lingered and now that the kids were gone came to introduce themselves and love on the females. Surprisingly one of the older male teachers admitted he himself owned a Tokota, though he was very old and arthritic so the grey couldn’t come to be a part of the TCA outreach. He talked at length with the women and even walked back out with them to the soccer field to let them release any excess energy before going home.