a funny, feel-good story about dogs
It all started because I kept getting fired. I’d had over a dozen jobs in the last year and lost every one of them. Though ‘lost’ probably isn’t quite the right word. It sounds so…sad.
So I thought I’d create my own job. I decided I’d become a dog walker. Well, I was already a dog walker. I took Kessie for a walk several times a day. As she, to all appearances, took her bright green tennis ball for a walk. Don’t leave home without it.
And now we had Snookums too. Snookums was just a little baby. A sweet little bundle of licks and kisses. About twelve weeks. And six pounds. She (too) had me wrapped around her little paw. Her teeny little paw with the still baby pink pad. The one she lifted when she wanted me to carry her. In the snuggly sling thing I wore for just that purpose.
So, since I was already going for walks with Kessie and Snookums, what I meant was that I’d decided to become a professional dog walker. I’d get money to do it. I wouldn’t do it any better, mind you. I’d just get paid for it.
I put up signs in the neighborhood, and within a week I’d received three responses. Not from the dogs, of course. As far as they were concerned, they could walk on their own. Most had been doing so pretty much since birth. Which is more than I can say for members of my own species.
So a week later, Kessie, Snookums, and I were on our way to pick up Hunk. A male doberman who was aptly named, but not quite as big as his owner wanted him to be. Nor, he indicated, with gesture and facial expression, as smart. After a few days with Hunk, however, I decided the guy was wrong—and realized it’s true: it takes one to know one.
While we stopped to get Hunk, Kessie was patient, but indifferent. After all, she had a bright green tennis ball in her mouth. As for Snookums, she peeked with curiosity from the safety of her snuggly thing. At the dog! The BIG DOG!! She squiggled in excitement. She likes nothing better than being part of a pack. Even if it is from the safety of her snuggly thing.
Our next stop was to pick up Little Miss Bo Peep. Little Miss was a female standard poodle. A very white, very clean, standard poodle. So she had outgrown the ‘Little’ but not the ‘Miss’. Where the ‘Bo Peep’ came from, I have no idea.
Kessie was again patient, Snookums was again excited, and Hunk was—interested.
Next stop was for Spunky Doo. Half hound, half clown. Unlike Hunk’s architect and Little Miss Bo Peep’s lawyer, both of whom didn’t have time to walk their dogs, Spunky Doo’s owners did walk him. In the morning before they went to work, in the afternoon as soon as they got home, and again at night. And still Spunky Doo was a one-dog demolition crew. So the idea was that if I walked him during the day, he’d work off the excess energy he’d been channeling into deconstructing the living room furniture. Or maybe the walk would alleviate the boredom that led to his daytime amusements. In any case, if Spunky Doo wasn’t in the house, he couldn’t wreck the house. No argument there.
So things were going rather nicely. We even had the multiple leash thing worked out. After experimenting with several arrangements, we discovered we did best with Hunk and Little Miss together in my left hand, Kessie and Spunky Doo in my right, and Snookums mostly in her snuggly thing. I set her down occasionally, but there was a real concern that she’d get landed on, by Spunky Doo, by mistake. Also, of all the paws she saw from her vantage point at ground level, she wasn’t quite sure yet which ones were hers.
Spunky Doo was clear on that point, but it didn’t seem to help. I must have put his harness on a dozen times. But still he didn’t seem to get it. This paw goes in this hole? Or this one? And my head goes here? No, here. No, wait, I remember. My head goes here. I was paying only half attention once, got him all harnessed up, clipped the leash on, and was set to go, Hunk and Little Miss in my left, Snookums in her snuggly, and Kessie and Spunky Doo in my—wait a minute—Spunky Doo was grinning at me from ear to ear as he was—facing me. That’s not right. (He probably would’ve walked backwards too.)
One day, although I’d noted quite clearly on my signs that I was offering to walk dogs—‘course it could have been because I’d noted that quite clearly—a cat decided to join us. It sauntered over to us, took the lead, and, well, led. Hunk, big male dog as he was, felt compelled to compete with it. I had no idea what the object of the competition was. Let alone the standards of judgment. I suspect Hunk was clueless on this matter as well, because he kept losing. I thought it likely the standards kept changing. The cat would strut, Hunk would strut, then the cat would give him a scathing look, and he’d know he’d lost. He’d hang his head and put his tail between his legs. Then the cat would resume strutting, Hunk would resume strutting, and he’d lose again. Each time, Hunk would stick his chest out even further, lift his head even higher—and lose even more dismally. Little Miss was not impressed.
We eventually got to the dog park. “Well, here we are at the dog park,” I said pointedly to the cat. It gave me a scathing look. I gave it the finger and took a moment to decide which way we wanted to go. Some guy walking three dogs approached me, as I stood there with my five, and, after a moment, said “You’ve got me beat!” Took me a minute, but then I understood—and introduced him to the cat.
After a few weeks, we all got tired of the dog park. And frustrated with the whole leash thing. There was really no need to keep anyone leashed except Hunk, and that was only because people freaked out when they saw an unleashed male doberman. And Spunky Doo, because he’d take off. In a heartbeat. Not because he didn’t like being with us. But just because he had to be everywhere at once. People kept giving me dirty looks when they realized Little Miss and Kessie weren’t leashed. Even an unleashed Snookums was cause for serious moral disapprobation. So I decided it was time for a field trip.
To a field. There was one near my place—it was relatively large and surrounded by quiet streets. The dogs could get some real running time and still be safe. I hadn’t used my car for a bit, so I went out and opened all the doors to get rid of the stuffy smell. Shook out the dog blanket in the back seat and moved out a few things to make room for Hunk, Little Miss, and Spunky Doo. Then I went back in the house to get Kessie, who was all set with her tennis ball in her mouth, and Snookums, who was now seven pounds.
When we got back out to the car, there was a large dog sitting in the passenger seat, nice as you please, ready to go. Looked like a lab cross. Blond. Kessie took one look and bounded into the car all happy to meet him. That doesn’t usually happen. Snookums is the social butterfly. Kessie isn’t interested in other dogs. She’s got her tennis ball. I followed her into the car and checked his tag. Chum. Phone number, no address. I pulled out my cell phone and called his people, but there was no answer. Well, okay, sure you can come. He thumped his tail.
We picked up Hunk, then Little Miss, then Spunky Doo. All three got into the back seat, Hunk claiming the open window on the driver’s side, Spunky Doo, the one on the passenger side. Little Miss sat primly between them. Kessie had claimed the prime spot—my lap, with her nose to the air vent, my hand wrapped around her chest, holding her steady as she leaned into it, breathing in a kaleidoscope—and Chum was in the seat beside us. Snookums was—car sick. All over Little Miss. She was not impressed. Hunk licked it off her. Eew. That impressed her.
Ten minutes later, we pulled into the field. Yippee!! Woohoo!! Free!! We’re free!! We’re free at last!! Thank God Almighty, we’re—yeah, yeah. Kessie knew the score because we’d been coming here for years. She carefully put her tennis ball into my hand, then assumed her ready position—sprinter’s crouch in the starting blocks. I threw the ball and she raced after it, leaving Asafa Powell or whoever currently held the 100M record in the dust. (And she’s not even black.) She trotted back with it, put it snugly into my hand, and got ready again. I threw it again. She raced after it, trotted back with it, put it into my hand again. We could do this for hours. Had done so, on many occasions.
Snookums, on the other hand, wasn’t much of a ball chaser. She’d run after it, but when it stopped, she stopped. She wasn’t much of a tug of war player either. Actually I hadn’t yet figured out how to play with her. Didn’t know what her natural desires were. But today, she trotted off without hesitation, and did whatever it is that puppies do in fields—chase butterflies and birds or something.
Chum, in the meantime, had found one of the million tennis balls Kessie had lost there. Turns out he was a ball dog too. No wonder it was love at first sight. Especially since he understood he was not, ever, under any condition, to go after Kessie’s ball.
Hunk and Little Miss were pretty much sidewalk and dog park dogs, so we were a bit uncertain at first about what to expect. They ventured a short distance away, then returned to me when I called; I told them what good dogs they were. They ventured out again on their own, returned when I called, and were again told that they were very good dogs. Thus assured, they were soon running full out to the end and back with relative abandon.
Spunky Doo needed no such assurance. He was beside himself with joy. (And already convinced he was a good dog.) He didn’t know where to go first. So he tore off to the right, then tore off to the left, then ran straight ahead, then turned, kicking up dust, and ran straight—into me. Knocked me flat on my ass. Kessie carefully put her tennis ball into my hand.
Then I saw my sweet little Snookums in the distance playing with something. Tossing it in the air, again and again, so—gleefully. It was bigger than a butterfly. It was bigger than a bird. It was—a rabbit. An ex-rabbit. (I hoped.) She trotted over to me, carrying it, more or less, in her mouth, tripping over whatever was trailing—eew. She had blood, and whatever, all over her muzzle. But she was oh so very proud. Baby’s first kill. She was not, no way, giving it to me, mind you—she was just showing me. She wasn’t done playing with it yet. My gruesome little Snookums.
Meanwhile, Spunky Doo was still tearing around in all directions, right, left, forward, backward, up—what? Did he just—? Yes, he did. He just chased a squirrel up a tree. Scrambled right up the trunk to the first branch, and then lunged up—to the second branch—made it! Oh. He looked down. That’s a bit of a jump. Now what, he looked at me. Yeah. Duh. Now what. For a second it looked like he thought about jumping down. NO! Damn it, what was the word for ‘Stay!’ his owners had taught him? It was something I knew I’d never remember in an emergency. “Stay! Stay Put! Freeze! Don’t Move! Wait! Be Still!”—ah—“Remain Immobile!” He looked at me, and then, somewhat impossibly, lay down on the branch, legs dangling on either side.
I looked around. And saw no ladders nearby. Not that Spunky Doo would know how to use one. I sighed, then pulled out my cell phone and dialed 911.
“What is the nature of your emergency?”
“I have a dog stuck in a tree.”
“I’m sorry. You have a dog stuck in a tree?”
The operator paused.
“I meant your name.”
“Oh, sorry.” I gave my name, phone number, and location. By now, the other dogs had gathered around. This was too good to miss. An opinion validated when they heard the firetruck siren. And saw people streaming out of their houses to come see.
The truck pulled into the field near the tree. An extra-full crew of firefighters disembarked, took in the situation, then tried hard not to laugh. They held a brief consultation. And took some photographs. Then they decided that getting Spunky Doo into the basket on the end of the crane might be tricky. So the plan was, instead, to ease him over the branch into a net which they would then lower with the crane.
They positioned their truck.
“Remain immobile!” I shouted up at Spunky Doo. They all looked at me. I shrugged.
Once up there, they realized that one guy in the basket would not be able to get Spunky Doo safely into the net. But, the one guy also confirmed, there was no room for Spunky Doo in the basket. Down came the crane with basket. Out came the guy. Back up went the empty basket.
They all looked at me. What? Oh.
“Jump!” I shouted up at Spunky Doo. “Hop! Leap!” No response. “Eject!”
Spunky Doo looked at me. What? Oh.
He looked down into the basket now positioned right under him. He looked at me. He looked at the firefighters. Who had their cameras ready. Then he lunged into the basket, face first. A cheer went up from the crowd. Unfortunately his hindquarters kind of got stuck and he didn’t have any wiggle room. The crane started lowering the basket, Spunky Doo’s ass end in the breeze. Cameras flashed.
As soon as the basket hit the ground, one of the guys opened the door, and Spunky Doo flopped out—but then couldn’t decide whether to prance around or put his tail between his legs. So he pranced around with his tail between his legs. I thanked the firetruck crew, and they left. After a few more photographs, posed shots with Spunky Doo. The neighbors trailed away as well.
“Okay! Field trip’s over!” Kessie trotted to the car, ball in mouth, Chum behind her, ditto. Hunk and Little Miss, and Spunky Doo, of course, and—wait a minute, where was Snookums?
“Snookums!” I called out. No Snookums. I called again, “Snookums!” Then just before panic took over, I saw the tall grass move in the distance. Had to be her. “Snookums!” The grass moved again. Not much further from the first place. Was she hurt? “Snookums” I started running toward the moving grass. Suddenly it dawned on me. She was trying to bring the rabbit with her. Eew.
“Leave it!” The grass continued to move. “Drop it!” Still moved. “Let go!” By now, I had reached her. She was insistent. She would not leave the rabbit. I was insistent. I would not touch it.
The others came to see what the problem was. Hunk was the first to understand. He walked over to Snookums and before I knew it, took a bite. I heard the soft crunch of cartilage. He gave the rabbit’s ear to Snookums. Little Miss was impressed. Snookums was delighted, and ready to come home.
Or not. Not in the car. No way. I have to admit, I empathized with her: motion sickness is not pleasant. This time, Chum resolved the situation. He gently picked her up, rabbit ear flopping—okay, and a little bit dripping—from her mouth. He set her gently into the front passenger seat and climbed in after her.
We dropped off Hunk and Spunky Doo with no problem, but Little Miss’s person was home. She peered in at the passenger side then drew back quickly as Snookums put her little front paws on the window, barely reaching, to proudly show the somewhat unidentifiable object in her mouth, blood and whatever smeared on her—well, smeared on her.
“She got into some strawberry syrup and—”
Big Miss waited.
“Some beige pudding,” I finished lamely.
Our next trip was to the beach. Fewer trees. No rabbits. It was a longer drive, though, so it was a whole day thing. No problem, said Hunk’s guy. Okay, said Big Miss, a little cautiously. Sure, said Spunky Doo’s people—please. And Chum? He had gone home on his own after the field trip, but I’d remembered his number.
“Oh, he’d love to go to the beach with you! I’ll get his beach ball out.” His beach ball? Turns out it was a severely waterlogged rubber ball. Essentially a sponge ball. Chum was waiting at the door, his beach ball in his mouth, clearly understanding he was GOING TO THE WATER!! Of course. He was part lab.
Little Miss was also waiting at the door. In a bikini. Oh my god. It was an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny bikini. A yellow, polka dot bikini.
Hunk pretended not to notice. As did Chum. Spunky Doo wouldn’t have noticed in any case. And Kessie didn’t really care what other people wore. She had a bright green tennis ball in her mouth. And Snookums—Snookums threw up. I pulled over and with Little Miss’ permission, and I suspect, her approval, took off her bikini and used it to clean up Snookum’s throw-up.
Half an hour later, we arrived. I parked the car and let the dogs out. Yippee!! Woohoo! That was me, this time. I love sun, sand, and sea. Again, Kessie knew what she wanted. She’d been here before. She put her ball in my hand, got ready, then tore off down the runway of hard packed sand by the water’s edge, racing after her ball. Sheer bliss.
Chum put his beach ball down at my feet, then looked expectantly out to the water. Of course! I threw it out as far as I could. He heard the plop, noted its position, then threw himself into the waves after it.
This was Snookums’ first time at the beach. What would she do? Turned out she was fascinated by the water’s edge. She toddled along the edge, beside me, as I walked along on the firm part. Splish, splash, plunk, plunk. She was very focused. On what, exactly, I wondered. Shiny grains of sand, perhaps? Rotten bits of fish?
Spunky Doo was running ahead and back, barking at the waves. Little Miss was walking on the other side of me, careful not to get her tootsies wet, lifting them higher than was really necessary. And Hunk. Hunk was a surprise. I don’t think dobermans are known for their swimming ability. And suddenly he was out there, howling, and yipping, and squealing, and splashing at the surface with his huge paws, having the time of his life, and gulping water, and—oh my god, was he drowning? I looked at Chum, who, as part lab, was our designated Lifeguard. Until this moment, he had been repeatedly plowing through the waves with masterful and determined strokes after his soggy and increasingly forlorn beach ball. But upon hearing Hunk, he stopped, looked, and listened. And then resumed plowing through the waves with masterful and determined strokes. After his soggy and increasingly forlorn beach ball. Okay then. Little Miss had also looked to Chum. She understood he was not concerned, but she wasn’t entirely convinced. She kept her eye on Hunk as she walked beside me.
Apparently Spunky Doo didn’t get the memo. He dove into the water after Hunk. Whether he intended to rescue him or just join in the goofiness, we’ll never know. We do know that once Spunky Doo reached Hunk, the rescue situation had to be reassessed. Again Chum stopped, looked, and listened. I looked attentively at Chum. As did Little Miss. Even Snookums paused. (Kessie used the moment to put her ball securely into my hand.) But by then Hunk had extricated himself from Spunky Doo and had struggled ashore, muttering. (Dumb ass dog, no doubt.)
Okay, it was definitely time for ice cream. We headed to the ice cream place down the beach a bit. I loved it, because they gave tasters—little plastic spoons with a dollop of whatever flavor you wanted to try before deciding which one you really wanted.
One Mint ice cream cone for Kessie, please. And Snookums liked Butter Pecan. Though she leaves all the pecan bits. First time that happened, I thought she’d lost all of her puppy teeth at once.
Chum, what would you like? I asked for a taster of Very Cherry. No. Of course not, what was I thinking. Not Hawaiian Pineapple or Tangerine Orange either. Ah. I asked for a taster of Peanut Butter Swirl. Bingo. One Peanut Butter Swirl, please.
Little Miss, let me see…French Vanilla? Yes, got it in one! She delicately licked the spoon clean then politely waited for her cone.
Hunk…Tiger Tail Licorice? Oddly enough, yes, he liked it. ‘Course, he also liked the little plastic spoon. Double scoop of that one, please. Better have lots of coating for that spoon.
Spunky Doo, what do you want? Amaretto, Praline Delight, Peachy Keen, Triple Chocolate Brownie Fudge—woof. No, sorry, you can’t have that one—dogs can’t have chocolate. Terrific Toffee, Candy Floss, Espresso Express—woof. I looked at him. I looked at the mile long beach. What the hell, if not now, when? Okay, one small cone of Espresso Express for Spunky Doo.
I ordered the Triple Chocolate Brownie Fudge for myself. Spunky Doo stared at me. Because I can, I told him.
The neat thing about having ice cream cones at the beach, if you’re a dog, is that they can be stuck into the sand for easy consumption. And the water nearby makes for easy clean up. Unnecessary this time, however, as Snookums went around and took care of everyone’s ice cream face.
We started to head back. Actually, Spunky Doo had already headed back, returned, headed back again, and returned again. When he started out a third time, Hunk accidentally stretched out his foreleg and Spunky Doo went flying. I saw him grin. Hunk, I mean. Though Spunky Doo was probably also grinning.
After a little bit, Snookums got in front of me and lifted her cute little pink paw. Carry me, I’m tired, I’m just a little baby. I picked her up, eight pounds now, and put her in her snuggly thing, where, much as she tried, she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
Good idea, I thought. I headed to a shaded spot, and sat down. Almost immediately Hunk, Little Miss, and Chum dug holes to get to the cool sand, then curled up in them. Spunky Doo also dug a hole—and curled up beside it. I got comfy too. Kessie was curled up on my left, with her ball—and Chum’s beach ball—how did that happen? And Snookums was still nestled in her snuggly thing on my right, fast asleep, wagging her tail as she dreamt. How sweet is that?
After a while, I woke up. What? I hadn’t intended to fall asleep! I quickly counted the dogs—one, two, three, four, five, six, whew! Wait a minute—seven, eight, nine—what the—fourteen dogs were curled up and mostly asleep all around me. Snookums was awake and giggling at me from ear to ear. Aha! She’s the one responsible for this! Probably invited every passing dog to come join us.
As she then demonstrated. The largest german shepherd I’d ever seen came our way. I snuck a look at Hunk. He was still asleep. Good. Snookums toddled over to the shepherd, all happy, and did her thing: she squiggled into a sort of log roll, ending up belly up under the dog’s jaws. At first I was dismayed when I saw that this so-called submission behavior was her norm. But then I realized it was just her way of getting all the competitive stuff out of the way as quickly as possible—yes, yes, you can be the alpha dog, I’m a happy little beta, now LET’S PLAY!!
The shepherd didn’t play. It opened its mouth. My, what big teeth you have. Hunk was still asleep. Not good. Then the shepherd, unbelievably, put his jaws around Snookums’ whole head. Snookums’ whole head was in his mouth. What to do?
I took my cue from her. She didn’t seem to mind. Maybe it was a sign of affection. After all, he wasn’t biting down. And if she was really afraid, she’d have run to me and flown into my open arms. Literally. Once I wasn’t expecting it—she had been afraid of a garbage can—and I wasn’t ready. She thumped into my chest and I had to scramble to catch her as she tumbled down. But she wasn’t running. She squiggled a bit more, then reached out a paw, a cute little baby paw, to touch the shepherd’s mouth. He licked her. My, what a big tongue you have. She giggled. Then he decided to lay down beside her. Okay then. But he wasn’t going to fit into the car, I told her.
Our next outing was to the toy store. The one that lets you bring your dogs inside. With the understanding that you’ll keep your dog leashed, I know, but trust me, keeping all six leashed would have been—worse.
So we went in after I made sure they understood they could each buy one thing. One thing, got it? Okay.
This was Snookums’ first time, and she was a little afraid, so I had to go with her to pick out her toy. I set her down, and she toddled up and down the aisles, looking back to make sure I was still with her, to make sure she was still with me. We went right through the stuffed toys aisle, and through the treats aisle, past the grooming aids, and the fashion accessories to—the cat section? There she discovered a bin full of squeaky mouse toys. She didn’t just stick her head in and get one. Of course not. She jumped right into the bin. All nine pounds of her. Once in, she pounced—squeak!—and pounced again—squeak! She giggled at me. And pounced again—squeak! I reached down and picked her up, one moist squeaky mouse in her mouth. She burrowed into her snuggly thing, completely disappearing. Squeak! Okay, one down, five to go.
We found Hunk and Little Miss at the collar and leash display, sitting politely, though with controlled interest, waiting for me to get what they had their eyes on. They couldn’t reach—well, they could, but they weren’t going to. Good dogs. I moved my hand—squeak!—from one item to the next until I got a bark. From Little Miss. At the thick black leather studded collar. Okaaay. A few seconds later, Hunk barked. I had my hand on the pink rhinestone encrusted collar. Hm. Either they’re engaged or they’re experimenting with cross-dressing. Then again, far be it for me to our stupid gender categories on dogs.
Chum came trotting around the corner, a smallish basketball in his mouth. Of course. He’s a ball dog. Or maybe he’d just watched Air Bud a lot.
Kessie found us next, dragging something, with great effort, ass end in the air. I couldn’t see what—ah—a 100-pack of bright fluorescent green tennis balls.
Okay, off to the checkout. We stood in line. Squeak! The cashier smiled, as she dealt with the customer ahead of us. Squeak! She smiled again and snuck a glance at the lump in the snuggly thing that was Snookums. Then it was our turn.
“Hi, how are—” Squeak! “What have you got in there?” She babytalked to Snookums. “Let me see,” she coaxed, “what have you got?” Squeak! She gently pulled back a corner of the snuggly. A teeny little nose appeared. Then a teeny little muzzle appeared, jaws clamped tight. “Have you got a mouse?” Snookums shook her head back and forth, a tail hanging out of her mouth.
“Do you need me to get the tag for you?” I asked.
She looked at our line-up. “It’s only a buck. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, thanks.” I reached down then to get Kessie’s bag of tennis balls. She wouldn’t let go. Silly me. What was I thinking? I picked her up then, still holding on to her bag of tennis balls, and set her on the conveyor belt. She stood there, the bag as big as her. The cashier activated the belt. Surf city, here we come! She scanned the tag as Kess went by.
Chum was next in line. He put his paws up, set his basketball carefully onto the belt, and gently rolled it toward the cashier with his nose. Okay, he had watched Air Bud. A lot.
Hunk and Little Miss walked past next, each with the other’s collar—or not. They graciously allowed me to take the collars, get them scanned, then give them back.
Then we heard a crash over in the stuffed toy section. Spunky Doo—where was Spunky Doo? Dare I call him? And hear half a dozen more crashes as he came racing to answer my call? No, give him another couple seconds. We heard another crash, a little closer. That made just two, please note. Then we saw him bounding around the corner and—what the—? He was wearing his toy. A giant purple furry octopus was somehow wrapped around his neck, its garish head appearing to rise out of his own, making him look like some ridiculous two-headed cartoon alien. And he had a huge caveman rawhide bone in his mouth. Must’ve been three feet across. That was two things. But okay. The brontosaurus bone was probably going to save a dining room set. He got in line with us at the checkout, relieved to have made it in time. With no idea how ridiculous he looked. Then again, given the grin on his face, he was probably perfectly aware of how ridiculous he looked.
Seeing that it was his turn, he eagerly stepped forward. Whack! The brontosaurus bone wouldn’t fit. Spunky Doo backed up and stepped forward again. Whack! Oddly enough, it still wouldn’t fit. He backed up and stepped forward a third time. Whack! (Then again, about that dining room set…) Hunk, until now sitting patiently beside Little Miss on the other side of the checkout, lay down. This was going to take some time.
“If we don’t help him, how many more times do you think he’ll do that?” The cashier asked, barely concealing her laughter. Good question.
Spunky Doo backed up again. “No, wait!” I reached out my hand. He looked at it curiously, then he looked up at me, then back down at my hand, the octopus head bobbing up and down as he did so. What? Hunk groaned.
“Give. Let Go. Release.” No response. “Look, it won’t fit sideways, give it to me, and I’ll carry it through for you, the other way.” Oh. Why didn’t you say that?
So we got Spunky Doo through the checkout and then headed out to my car. Once there, everyone looked pointedly at Spunky Doo’s brontosaurus bone, then at the car, then at the bone, then at me. Right. Someone’s liable to get knocked out. Probably me. I opened the trunk and put the bone inside. Spunky Doo jumped in after it, his purple octopus head bobbing up and down. No—okay, yeah—no, get in the back seat, you.
Our last outing as a group was to the dog show. ‘Course, I didn’t know it was our last group outing. Then again, I didn’t know dogs shouldn’t be taken to dog shows. Go figure.
The show was held at the city’s huge arena. Inside, different areas of the arena were marked off for different shows or competitions or whatever. The first one we came to was the puppy agility course. You know the course I’m talking about: it has various obstacles the dogs have to jump over, climb through, walk across, run around, and so on. We all settled into the bleachers to watch the first group of puppies. Five of them were let loose at the starting line and given various encouragements to more or less head off in the right direction.
One simply had no idea. It sat down. Two scampered off together toward the first obstacle, but then got tangled up before they got there. They snarled and snapped at each other—they couldn’t wait to be big dogs. Which would probably happen next week. The fourth puppy stopped to piddle. Then forgot what it was supposed to be doing. The fifth one ran into the obstacle. Fell down, laughed. The sixth little one made it to the obstacle, and even made it over, but was then so delighted with itself it had to run over to—us. See what I did? Did you see? I climbed over it! I did! Unfortunately, leaving the course gets you disqualified. However, if you’re not formally entered in the first place… We all congratulated Snookums. Yes, we did see! We know! And not only did you climb over the obstacle, you did it with a mouse in your mouth! What a clever little puppy! Then we stuffed her into her snuggly thing and moved on to the next area.
Which was the tennis ball relay race. Two dogs race to jump on a springboard, which releases a tennis ball, which they catch, then race back with, so the next dog on their team can race down the stretch to the springboard, and so on, four dogs to a team. We settled into the bleachers to watch. Kessie leaned forward, her interest rather—intense. Suddenly I felt her gently put her ball into my hand, but before I could tell her this was not the time nor place, she shot off the bleachers, and in an amazing feat of speed, timing, and coordination, intercepted the tennis ball in mid-fire and flew back to her spot in the bleachers. Leaving the border collie—the breed reputed to be the genius of the species, I might point out—staring dumbly at the hole, waiting for the ball to pop out. Kessie put her newly acquired ball into my hand. I looked around innocently as I slipped it into Snookums’ snuggly—squeak! Then Kess shot off the bleachers again. I put the second ball into the snuggly—squeak!—then grabbed her just as she crouched for her third launch, and moved us all quickly to the next area.
It was the show portion of the show. We were in time for the poodle class. First one poodle, then another, strutted down the runway, all fluffed and shaved and manicured and be-ribboned. Cameras flashed. Hunk started howling. His equivalent to a wolf whistle, I guess. ‘Cuz it distracted Contestant #3. Contestant #4 actually ‘lost her carriage’—or whatever the correct dog show phrase is for ‘tripped’. Then Contestant #5 howled—at Little Miss. Well. Hunk was confused. He didn’t know poodles came in male. Or that male dogs did the show thing. (Though, of course, if any male dog did, it would be a male poodle.) So he didn’t know whether he wanted to howl at the next contestant or attack the previous one. His next howl had a growl at the end. Well, that got Contestant #6 all excited. She hit the floor, paws down, rump up, in the classic invitation-to-play posture. Well, okay, the classic invitation to—her rump was facing Hunk.
Then Contestant #7 was announced.
“No, sorry,” the announcer stumbled to correct himself, “there doesn’t seem to be a—”
I don’t know where she got the bonnet from, let alone who helped her put it on. No, wait. Yes I do. It was on backwards. But there she was. Too sexy for Milan, too sexy for Milan, and as she did her little turn on the catwalk, Hunk lost it. He let out a howl as he flew off the bleachers straight to Little Miss. Cameras flashed. They made the third page, local news. Same day as Spunky Doo.