“So, this isn’t your dog?” I asked. I got a shake of the head. I figured it meant no. “But it lives here.”
“Sometimes. Yeah. What’s it to you?” He wasn’t very polite. All I wanted was to ask about the dog and here he was being rude. I suspect because it was a little after 2 am. People can be cranky when you pound on their door after midnight.
“Well, I live just across the street over there and he came in my cat door.” He pulled his robe sash a little tighter and said “So?”
“So I’m trying to figure out whose dog this is so I can return him.”
The guy was large, a lot bigger than I and had a short business cut of hair on his head. His robe was scarlet and had a paisley pattern. If nothing else, he was a clothes horse; if it was 1955 and and he was considering the building of a magazine empire featuring scantily clad women in unnatural poses. While shorter, I had style. I scratched my rear end through my sagging Levi Strauss jeans with tasteful torn knees. I was shirtless, what with it being summer and it was warm out. The guy kept looking at me in silence. Finally, he said “…the dog.”
“Yeah. I guess I should downsize my cat door to prevent ambient canines from terrorizing my cat.”
“Maybe you should. “he said. He shut the door. I wandered back over to my house and the dog followed me. I wasn’t one to toss a foundling out, even when it’s warm, so I let him pad into the house behind me. The cat came into the room, slinking as it did when company happened by. The cat was a narcissist and made it a point to favor everyone with an opportunity to pet her. Well, it. I put a stop to her feline feminism early in life. When it comes to sex, you gotta nip that stuff in the bud with youngsters. When the cat realized that I’d not brought in a cat admirer, she got a haughty look and walked back out of the room with her tail erect and all puffy. The dog decided to follow. I went to my couch and thought about the dog.
I woke up with the dog on the bed. He was sprawled upside down between my legs, trapping them under the banket. I roused my cat, Mrs. Miniver with the motion. She had been sleeping next to my pillow. She saw the dog, arched like a Hallowen cat and hissed. It startled me and my legs jereked. The dog flew into the air and landed feet first on the floor, looking annoyed. “Sorry about that,” I conceded. “I was startled.” This seemed to satisfy him and so by way of forgiveness, he hiked his leg and peed on my rug.
An hour later I had finished breakfast, puzzled through the rug shampooer I have been given by my mom sometime back. It was a Rug Doctor, and I always suspected that my mom had rented it and forgot to return it until they charged her credit card for it. With things shipshape, I beckoned to the dog and he followed me outside. We had work to do, namely getting the little guy back home. I’m not sure what sort of dog he was. He looked to be a combination of wire haired terrier and hamster. He stayed close as we knocked on doors up and down the street, skipping over the house I’d tried in the wee hours thinking he lived there. I’d seen him in that yard a few times. My canvass failed to pay off, so I went back home and made some attractive Dog Found posters. I drew a stick picture of a dog and said “Dog found. Reward received with gratitude.” I put my phone number at the bottom. The entire art piece was written with magic marker and the letters and stick dog got a little fuzzy as the ink smeared a little. I took them out and started tacking them to telephone polls. I spent almost two hours trudging up and down the nearby streets and when I got home I was hungry and thirsty. Poster hanging is hard work, especially on a hot summer day.
My phone rang and I pciked it up. “Hello?”
“You the guy who wants to ransom my dog?” asked a fairly unhappy sounding voice. Well, not quite unhappy. What with the string of expletives that followed, I guess I’d have to say the voice belonged to someone angry.
“I’m not ransoming your dog. I just felt that my efforts should be rewarded. I’m not a rich guy.”
“Well, stealing dogs and trying to get money in exchange for returning the animal seems to leads me to think so.” He waited a few beats and when I didn’t reply immediately, he snarled in a way that sounded like he just asked for my address. I told him. Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. Then the doorbell rang and then the knocking continued. It didn’t stop until I threw open the door. I looked out and saw no one. “Hey!” said the phone voice. I looked down and there was a little person standing there looking pretty put out. I was insensitive enough to smile.
“You’re the one who called.” I said. He looked at me like I had an IQ of six and he was trying to explain quantum theory to me. “He came in without invitation and took a spot in the middle of my living room. Well, more like the middle of my house. It was all of 650 square feet and consisted of one large room, a closet and a bathroom. Kitchenette was against the back wall, identified by the giveaway refrigerator and microwave.
“Brutus!” he snapped loudly. The dog took one look and peed on the rug again. While it was busy, the little guy grabbed the dog under his arm and made for the door. The dog left a trailing line of urine describing his route.
“The dog is named Brutus?
He stopped at the door. “So?” Wow. He was awfully snappish.
“He doesn’t look like a Brutus.” I said. He didn’t.
“Hey man, shut up.” he said. You’re gonna upset him. He’s sensitive about his height.” I decided that made two of them.
The dog started to wriggle furiously, objecting to being held. I intuited that he wanted to be put down. “He doesn’t look too happy to see you. Are you sure that’s your dog?”
“I know the little shit’s name don’t I?” About that time the dog won his freedom and as soon as he hit the floor he ran to me and hid behind my legs,
“So, call him. If he comes, I’ll believe you.” The guy looked even more irritated and he called the dog by name. It didn’t budge. He tried again. “This is not helping your case.” I said to him.
“Gimme the damn dog, man.” He tried to look ferocious, but truthfully it made him look constipated. I shook my head. I’m real big on following my instincts.
“Fine.” he said. “It ain’t my dog, but I know the lady what owns him and I know she’ll cough up to get him back. I could use the bucks, man. Gimme the dog.”
“If you know who it belongs to, tell me.”
“I’m not tellin’ you. You’ll cut me out of the reward.” He was right. I’d stiff him like starch on a collar. I needed money to buy more carpet shampoo. But I swore an oath on my dead sister’s grave, forgetting to mention I was an only child.
“I’ll split it. Kings X.”
“Cross your heart and hope to die?”
“I’m gonna blacken your eye.” I said. He considered this and decided to tell me. It was the old lady who lived on the block right behind my house. We all headed out. I led the way followed by Brutus who was followed my my new reward partner. We went out the backdoor and across the yard to the elderly woman’s place. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. Shorty pushed past me and tried the knob. It turned freely and he stepped right in like he owned the place.
I followed him into a nicely appointed living room that was obviously decorated when Eisenhower was in office. He yelled out “Hey! Lady!” and there was motion in a chair facing away from us. In front of it was a television tuned to a soap opera. The volume was very low. A white haired woman strained herself erect and leaned on a cane. She looked a bit frightened. “We found your dog. We brought him here and I figure you we us a little something.”
The lady hobbled toward us looking tentative, right up until she startyed beating the midget with her cane. “Whoa, whoa!” I yelled and tried to grab the cane. It smacked me and I jerked my hands back. She packed a whallop with the cane.
“Thieves and robbers!” she yelled. I waved my hands in the air in surrender and started to explain that we were returning her dog. She feinted a blow with the cane. “Is that right?” She sounded dubious.
“Cross my heart,” I said. Shorty rolled his eyes. The lady stopped and called the dog. His name was, ugh, Percival. “Christ, no wonder he’s so small. A name like that would make any dog too frightened to grow.” Staying small and cute was his only survival tool. It wasn’t a very good strategy. He wasn’t that cute. Bu the dog immediately ran to her and jumped up. She caught him on the fly and hugged him while he tried to lick the wrinkles from her cheeks.
“So, what’s the reward for bringing the dog?” asked Shorty. The woman thought for a moment and then brightened.
“Would you care for a macaroon?” she nodded to a plate of cookies. I thanked he but begged off on the cookie.
“No money?” asked Shorty? “That sucks.” He went to the plate on the table and shoved cookies in his pockets. He didn’t get them all. Not like he didn’t try.
“Well, I guess this is a happy ending.” I said cheerfully. Shorty glared at me and left the house. He went through the front door. The woman came over and grabbed my arm and led me to an overstuffed chair and told me to please sit. She smelled a bit like mothballs, or maybe eucalyptus. I gently pried her grip from my arm and started backing to the door. “Nice to meet you.” I said. She didn’t reply. Instead she picked up her little dog and disappeared into another room. I suspected that the dog was about to get some macaroons. I snuck out the back door and went back home. I was in my kitchen, putting dishes in the dishwasher and noticed the dog was back. He sat on the linoleum and wagged his tail.
“Crap.” I picked him up and took him back to the old lady’s house. I opened the still unlocked back door and gently pitched the dog inside and shut the door before he could could escape again. I went home and nailed the kitty door closed. I prided myself on my ingenuity until a week later I noticed that my house smelled a lot like cat pee.