Callie, no longer smiling, took the gadget from Jim and disappeared again. Jim began to inspect . . . did I still get to call her Sid? Maybe I’d better call her the Phantom like everyone else, to get used to . . . I was having trouble not crying. I pinched the bridge of my nose hard, and scowled ferociously.
Jim took several minutes to go over his new client. I was pretending not to strain to hear Callie in the office. I could hear her voice, and pauses while—presumably—someone on the other end of the phone said something. I knew there was a database for microchip numbers, but I didn’t know how long it took to track one down. Sid wasn’t entirely at her ease as Jim gently prodded her, but she didn’t look either hostile or frightened, and the beautiful red leather lead hung slack between us.
He paused over one foreleg, running his hand up and down it several times and breathing out a small ‘hmmph’. Then he fished a stethoscope out of one of his doctor-coat pockets, and let Sid sniff that before he burrowed gently through her matted coat to listen to her heart and lungs. His face relaxed as he listened. Finally he said, “She seems to be in remarkably good shape considering what her life has been recently. I doubt she’s two years old yet. She’s had a broken foreleg but it seems to have healed very well—it must have happened before she ran away. Her teeth are fine. If she’ll let me, I’ll take a blood sample and check what vaccinations she needs. Her heart and lungs sound clear, but we should start her on heart worm meds immediately, and keep a close eye on her for a while. I’d also like to weigh her—I guess she needs to put on about half again what she weighs now. We can see if she’ll walk a few steps—the machine’s just there—but it’s not worth stressing her if she doesn’t want to. But as she’s standing here I don’t see anything wrong with her that food and a good brushing won’t cure. I’m not even finding fleas, but I’m too old to kneel on the floor this long, so I may be missing something.”
He glanced toward the office. “If the chip info has been kept current, Callie should be able to locate . . . right away. Occasionally it takes a day or two. I’d ask you to bring her back in a week and we’d see where we are—I assume you’ve had dogs before? I can tell you which food I’d recommend and give you some supplements and so on—but I’d entirely understand if you wanted to take her to the shelter now, immediately, before you—er—get too fond of her. In case she’s got a home to go to.”
In case she’s got a home to go to.
Waiting. Not my best trick. “I don’t know,” I said. I thought about it. Or I tried to think about it. The synapses seemed to have frozen with the sound of that beep. “It’s already too late,” realising this was true as I said it. I’d been telling myself that this was all still kind of a joke—that it would make a great story to tell Norah, especially the lunatic aspects, which were most of them. But it was a part of the general post-divorce lunacy of creating a new life. I didn’t have to take it seriously. I still didn’t have to keep Sid, and this was, in fact, a damn silly way to acquire a dog. But my heart didn’t care. It took Sid seriously. I’d found the town I was moving to by sticking a pin in a map. Why should finding my dog be any more sensible? “But giving her back will just get worse if I . . .” Sid turned her head and looked at me, flattened her ears and waved her tail. She thought she was going home with me. How was I going to give her away, now or when they found out who the microchip was listed to?
Callie had been silent for about a minute, and then she asked a question. There was a pause, and the tone of Callie’s voice changed when she spoke again. I was staring toward the office. I couldn’t help it. “Kes —” said Jim.
The creak of Callie’s chair, and then she appeared in the doorway again. She had the phone against her ear. “Just a moment, please, I am going to let you talk to the vet,” she said. She took the phone away from her ear, and as she walked toward us I could hear the voice on the other end of the line going gibber gibber gibber. Whoever it was was clearly excited.
“The Phantom’s owner would like to speak to you,” said Callie, and handed the phone to Jim.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.