“Hello,” said Jim. “This is Jim Cuthburt.” Gibber. “Yes, I’m the vet.”
The volume at the other end of the line increased. Jim listened for a few seconds, and then held the phone away from his ear for a few more seconds. The blood was thudding in my own ears so hard I couldn’t hear any of what was being said. Jim put the phone back against his ear again and said, “I see.” Pause. “I see.” He glanced at me but I couldn’t read his expression. “The woman who brought her in —”
Gibber gibber gibber GIBBER.
“Very well,” said Jim. “I’ll tell her.” Gibber. “Thank you. You’ve been very informative. I appreciate your being so—er—explicit.” He ended the connection and handed the phone back to Callie.
I wanted to say for pity’s sake tell me but my mouth seemed to be glued together.
“Well,” said Jim, looking at Sid. “Your previous owner seems to have found you a bit of a challenge.”
Previous? I thought, but my mouth still wasn’t working.
Jim looked at me. “You have a dog, if you want her,” he said.
I breathed a very long tremulous sigh. Very long. I didn’t think my lungs were that big.
Sid, as if she’d been waiting the outcome of the phone call also, and assumed that ‘you have a dog if you want her’—or possibly my sigh—was sufficient, stretched out her front legs and lay down. She put her head on her paws.
“But I did tell Mrs Tornado that I would pass on what she said. Roughly speaking she—er—seems to feel that the Duchess —”
Duchess? I thought. No wonder Sid hadn’t been happy. There were duchess dogs out there. Sid wasn’t one of them.
“Is—er—incorrigible. ‘Devil dog’ is—er—the phrase she used.”
I looked at Sid, who had shut her eyes. She looked like a dog that needed a lot of food and brushing and attention. She did not look incorrigible.
“It is possible that her—incorrigibility—may return as she regains condition. But . . .”
I finally got my jaws unstuck. “I’ll take my chances,” I said. “It’s also possible that Mrs Tornado and Sid just didn’t get along.” Duchess I thought.
“Yes,” said Jim. “That occurred to me also. And it is also true that a dog who has been through something like the last few months may not be the same dog afterward that she was before. And adolescence in dogs can be as trying as it sometimes is in humans. Your Sid will turn two in August.”
“Did she have any specifics about my devil dog?”
“Well, she broke her leg jumping out a second-story window. Apparently she spent the first year and a half of her life trying to run away—and finally succeeded four months ago. Mrs Tornado lives in Ohio, so your Sid certainly put some miles in before she decided—er—to settle in New Iceland. The—er—Duchess was also—er—very resistant to even basic training.”
I thought of holding a piece of cheese in front of her nose and saying ‘sit’. Sid, just by the way, was a dumb name for a dog, because she’s not going to be able to differentiate ‘Sid’ from ‘sit’. Fine. I’d think of something else for ‘sit’. ‘Flump,’ possibly. Sid was her name. Like she was my dog. If she had resisted learning ‘sit’ from Mrs Tornado she had nothing to unlearn.
“But Mrs T also mentioned that her mother is a Saluki, and Salukis are often—er—resistant to standard training methods.”
Oh, Salukis. There was a whole fairy-tale mythology about Salukis, which are possibly the oldest breed of domestic dog. I had been madly in love with the Saluki myth while I was a teenager, and being regularly bitten by the Ghastly Chan Two backstage at dog shows. “Who—or what—is her dad?”
“Unknown. Her mother escaped for a night when, as it turned out, she was in season. Which might suggest that Sid’s wanderlust is in the genes, except that her mother came home again the next day, and proved to have been in season by being pregnant. Her mother is a championship Saluki, and while I have no excuse for this hypothesis, except that I would like to see Sid in a happy home, it is possible that Mrs Tornado liked the idea of having a cheap half-champion puppy with a mystery father better than she liked the reality.”
I have a dog, I thought. I have a dog. I felt my face blooming in an enormous smile. I looked at Jim and discovered that he was looking at me. He smiled back.
“Whatever,” I said. “I have a dog.” The words tasted like champagne and chocolate in my mouth. I stood up and Sid stood up at once too. Jim got more slowly to his feet. “Oof,” he said. “Now that her future is assured, shall we see if she’ll come and stand on the scales?”
* * *
* Happy Thanksgiving. As a hellgoddess, I am a wuss.
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