Joann woke with the sun, as usual. It annoyed John to no end, for regardless what time he went to bed, he'd sleep well up to noon (and sometimes a little bit past) unless Joann woke him earlier; and then he'd be in the bleariest mood for the rest of the day.
She smiled down at the still soundly sleeping form of her husband, reminded how much Cecil followed in his genetic footsteps, and dressed quietly. She walked down to the kitchen to find several of the dogs already sitting in front of their empty dishes, waiting.
That, at least, made for a nice balance. Joann would cover breakfasts and John could cover dinners and last potty breaks, while she herself wound down for her early bedtime. As long and none of them got too rowdy, she could sleep right through John's goodnight kiss and climbing into bed beside her.
It was a single level scoop for each, not just because that was their dietary requirement, but also because John tended to spoil them for dinner. Phyllis, Phineas, Phisher, Phred, and Phrank (the last two John's idea of a joke) chowed down eagerly, while their youngest and smallest Pharaoh, settled down on the floor and ate slowly. Joann let the first five out to romp in the backyard, an acre and then some, until Pharaoh decided she was done nosing the last pieces of kibble around her bowl and was ready to come out, where she did her business and asked to be let back in.
Rolling her eyes as usual, Joann obliged her, knowing Pharaoh was going straight upstairs to snuggle up with John. "I don't know where you came from, little girl, but you're nothing like the rest of them."
Where most people collected animals for self-defense and selfish offense, chemically synthesizing pheromones to enslave the animals, the Rockefellers abstained. While the dogs did provide a fair amount of security for their mostly wooded estate outside Denver, they weren't bound into subservience. The dogs mostly just belonged to themselves, and formed their own pecking order outside of the considerations of their human companions.
Joann leaned against the house, watching the dogs play, and keeping an eye out for anything encroaching on their peaceful little slice of land. The deer mostly kept their distance, especially with John's taste for venison, but elk and moose were regular visitors in the night and pre-dawn hours, occasionally lingering too close to breakfast. The dogs could probably take down a larger creature, but not without some injury that she would wince at but nonetheless insist on handling herself; it was really with the smaller creatures that had a better chance against the dogs, who weren't so much built for speed as stamina.
They were a special bunch, bred for specific genetic traits in a way that was counter-intuitive for most animal collectors in the previous millennia...
The sound of a ringing comm interrupted her reverie, and she whistled for the dogs. They came in eagerly, all tails wagging, fur mussed up, and panting. The comm stopped ringing by the time she got them all herded back inside, but if it was who usually called at this hour, she knew he'd called back.
And in a few minutes, the comm-set rang again, and Joann, smiling at the name and face that popped up, answered. "Good morning Johnson."
"It is a morning, and so far a good one for truth, Joann."
"So far? That doesn't sound good. What's the matter?"
"As far as I can tell, just a new smell on the wind, and I hope that's all it is, but I fear otherwise."
"Where are you now?"
"Up at Shortgrass."
Joann whistled. "That's outside of your normal wandering range, isn't it?"
"By a few hundred miles, maybe."
She laughed. "Just a few hundred miles, then, so not too far, eh?"
Johnson joined her. "No not too far." He grew somber again. "I hope it's just a new smell, a new tide, nothing too big, but if I swung through town on the way back..."
"Oh, please do, you know we have the space, and it would be so good to see you again." Joann couldn't help but smile at his idea of "town," the once busy bustling city of Denver just over the hills and through the woods, her homestead just outside the ever-present haze of light pollution that did more to protect the city from the tides of nature than any of the more vicious defenses.
"John's not up yet, is he?"
"I doubt it, though I could check in on him, see if he wants to talk..."
"No, no sense in making him grumpy and ruining both of your days too. I may call later, or just see him when I stroll through. Any word from Cecil?"
"He's still doing his thing, you know how he is."
"And I know how you are too. This distance, it's not good for either of you."
"Thank you, Dr Birch. Would you like me to tilt my seat back?"
"The spite doesn't suit you Joann. Just... just be careful, please. Just in case it's not just a smell."
"Sorry. I will. Take care of yourself."
She sighed after he signed off. Johnson was good people, she just wished he didn't put himself in such risk with his wandering over hither and yon, acting like a soothseer over a populace that took his work for granted when they noticed it at all; he was an invaluable resource, in more ways than one.
And Cecil... her relationship with Cecil was rocky, somewhere and somewhen a wedge came between them, and she was never quite sure where it came from, just like little Pharaoh, who just came bustling down the stairs and put her heavy head on Joann's thigh. Close behind her followed Joann's husband, John D Rockefeller XII.
"Was that Johnson? How's he doing?"
"He's up at Shortgrass. Feeling a change in the wind."
"Ouch, that's quite a walk."
"I doubt he walked."
"Yeah, well, still. He's not that much younger than I am, getting all the way up to Shortgrass is a rough trip. I hope it's not like the last change in the wind."
"Me too. Me too."