Sid now followed me placidly across the rest of the front room, through the open archway, and into a little room with an examining table and a scales that covered most of the rest of the floor. I stood at one end of the scales, leaned down, tapped it with one hand, and said, “Hup.” This used to work with the Ghastlies, when they were in the mood. Sid, of course, went carefully around the scales and stood beside me.
“You get on it and we’ll weigh you,” said Jim, “and then you can try to persuade Sid to join you.”
I dumped my knapsack and the leather jacket, got on the scales and as Jim opened his mouth I said, “I don’t want to know. I keep finding myself at Eats ordering more food. Besides, I’m wearing All Stars. They’re a good ten pounds, right?”
“Absolutely,” said Jim. “Sequins weigh a lot. Okay, I’m ready for your skinny dog.”
“Hey, kiddo,” I said to Sid. “Come on up, the view’s great.” Sid put her forefeet on the scales and stopped. I pulled the cheese out of my pocket, bit off a chunk, and held it out toward my dog. Sid’s ears pricked, and her rear legs joined her forelegs on the scales.
“She needs to hold still long enough for the read out to settle down.”
I held the cheese in front of her nose again. “Flump.” She sat. I gave her the cheese. She remained sitting, staring at the hand that had had the cheese in it. I got the cheese out again, bit off another chunk (her eyes watched this performance closely) and gave her that one too. It was good cheese. I’d have to buy more, so I got to swallow some.
“Forty-six and a half pounds,” said Jim. “That’s pathetic. Phantom, you idiot, you had half the town putting food out for you, why didn’t you eat any of it?”
I heard the phone ring in the office, and Callie answer it.
“She needs to gain twenty-five, thirty pounds,” said Jim, “for her frame. I wonder who her daddy was? She’s tall for a Saluki.”
“And it may just be having lived out over the winter and being in bad condition,” I said, “but it seems to me she has too much rough hair for a Saluki too.” In the grip of Saluki fever when I was a kid, I’d managed to pet a few Salukis at dog shows I’d accompanied my mother to. They had been creamed and coiffed to a high gloss, of course, but I thought even thirty pounds heavier and well brushed Sid was still going to have more coat than they did.
“Deerhound?” said Jim.
“That’s what I was wondering,” I said.
Jim started to laugh. “I hope you like a challenge.”
“Deerhounds are very sweet, friendly, affectionate dogs,” I said, with dignity. I liked Deerhounds too.
“Yes, and about as trainable as a piano,” said Jim. “Rather like Salukis that way, in fact.”
Callie appeared in the doorway again but this time I didn’t flinch. She was a friendly smiling woman again instead of a bringer of doom. “She’s going to be a beautiful dog,” she said to me. “Don’t mind Jim. If it’s not a working dog—and preferably over a hundred pounds, four feet tall at the shoulder and drooling—it is a lesser being.”
“Piffle,” said Jim. “Best dog I ever owned was a Pekinese.”
“The attraction of novelty,” said Callie. “And the second-smallest dog you’ve ever owned is a Mastiff. Kes,” she went on, “Bridget rang up from Eats, wanting to know if you’d turned up here okay, so I told her that you had, and that Sid was officially yours. She said to tell you if you put your head out the window you’d hear cheering.”
I thought of Bridget opening up the (freezing) courtyard and feeding us both scrambled eggs and started feeling all misty-eyed again. “Well, tell them not to cheer so loud they’ll hear anything at the Friendly Campfire. Sid is there on false pretenses—but I’m moving out as soon as we get back there, so it should be okay.”
“Jan’s extended family contains about a dozen retired greyhounds and a lot of little stuff,” said Jim. “Dogs, cats, goldfish, turtles. Rabbits. Parakeets. I forget. I wouldn’t worry too much.” We’d climbed back down off the scales and Jim approached us with a syringe. “Well, sweetheart,” he said, rubbed a bit of Sid’s (matted) shoulder briskly, and stuck the needle in. Sid looked mildly surprised but no more.
I wrote a disturbingly large check for the meds and fancy vitamins, the prospective bloodwork and the change of details for Sid’s chip number, filled out a new patient form, forgot Rose Manor’s zip code—“Don’t worry,” said Callie, “Cold Valley is enough”—agreed to ring up in a few days and see if the lab results were back yet . . . and prepared to totter out the way we had come. “Thanks,” I said, and meant it.
“You’re very welcome,” said Callie.
I was as tired as if . . . I’d just got divorced, moved to the other side of the planet and got a dog. I kept thinking, What if Mrs Tornado had wanted her back?
But she didn’t. I had a dog.
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