Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dog crazy

A black Mercedes S-class sedan with Ontario plates was parked in front of the entrance to the kennel and spa when I arrived this morning to pick up Bonnie and Billy Ray, our elderly dachshunds who had been boarded overnight.

Standing in front of the check-in desk, cradling a fluffy white dog with a pink bow atop its head, was the owner of this magnificent feat of German engineering, a woman who looked remarkably like Sarah Palin, down to the rimless glasses. She – the woman, not the dog – was wearing a tennis outfit, diamond earrings in a cross-cross pattern and, on her left hand, a solitaire roughly the size of a robin’s egg. A Nordstrom's shopping bag was atop the check-in counter.

“Here’s her water dish,” she said, reaching into the bag and handing the dish to the clerk, a frizzy-haired woman about my age. The bowl was engraved with the dog’s name. Evelyn.

“And here’s her water,” she said, removing a bottle of Nestle Pure Life. “Please make sure your people don’t give her tap water by mistake. This is all she drinks and she needs to stay hydrated, especially now that we’re back in Florida.”

“Okay,” the attendant said, nodding her head.

“And here’s her food dish and food,” Evelyn’s mother announced, pulling from the bag a tiny ceramic bowl and two plastic containers. “She gets the chicken for lunch – she eats around noon, just before she goes down for her nap – and the turkey snack around 4:30. You’ll need to keep it refrigerated, of course.”

“Of course,” the attendant replied.

“Do you have a microwave?”

“Yes, in the break room,” the attendant said.

“Well, she won’t eat cold food so you’ll need to nuke it, but just for three or four seconds. It needs to be at room temperature or even a tiny bit warmer, but not hot. Please, please make sure the bowl isn’t hot to the touch before you give it to her.”

“All right,” the attendant said.

“And she gets one of these vitamins with her lunch,” the woman said, handing the attendant a bottle. “You’ll have to open the capsule and mix it in with her food.”

“One vitamin at lunch, break open capsule and mix with food,” the attendant repeated, typing into her computer.

“She was just groomed yesterday,” the woman said. “I tried to remove the bow but it’s clipped on so tight with a rubber band, and I’m afraid she’ll lose it. It’s adorable, don’t you think?”

“If she loses it, we’ll put another one on her,” the attendant said, ignoring the question. “We’re a full service grooming salon.”

“If you have to do that, make sure it’s pink. Evie likes pink, don’t you?” she asked the dog. I half expected Evelyn to reply. 

“Oh my God!” the woman shrieked, as if she had been goosed. “I forgot her bed! How could I have done that? I'll run out to the car and get it.” She turned and, clutching Evelyn like a running back clutches a football, exited.

She returned a moment later with a tiny doggy bed in a leopard skin print. “Here you go,” she said, handing it to the attendant. “What time is nap time?”

“From noon to two,” the attendant told her. “That’s perfect – exactly her schedule, isn’t it Evie?” the woman asked Evelyn, who yawned.

Is there anything else?” the attendant asked solicitously.

“I can’t think of it but if I remember something I’ll call you,” the woman replied, kissing Evelyn repeatedly, as if she were going off to war, and handing her over the counter into the attendant’s arms.

The attendant rang a bell and spoke into a loudspeaker. “We have a check-in.”

A sullen-looking tattooed girl with a nose ring appeared from the back room and took the dog from the clerk.

“Isn’t she the sweetest thing you ever saw?” the woman asked, watching Evelyn disappear into the back room from which, when the door opened, the already shrill sound of dogs barking became almost deafening, but she wasn’t addressing the attendant or me. She was talking to herself, as if she were watching Jesus walk on water.

“What time are you picking her up?” the attendant asked.

“I’m going to try to be here by five-thirty but it may be closer to six if there’s traffic.”

“OK, we’ll see you then.”

The woman turned, went out the door, and got into her Mercedes.

“You're here for Bonnie and Billy Ray, right?" the attendant asked me.

"Yes," I said. "And I hope you’ll remember in the future that they prefer Fiji Water, not plain old Nestle. That was absolutely amazing."

“I could write a book about these people,” the clerk replied with a weary smile.

“I bet you could,” I told her, as Bonnie and Billy led the tattooed girl out of the back room, straining their leashes to get out of that place so they could return to their lives and try to forget that, for 24 hours, someone may have actually considered them to be – horrors – animals.

“What took you so long?” my wife said when I returned with the dogs who, having no idea whether they had been boarded for one day or one year, started yelping with joy when they saw her, just like the dogs in those youtube videos when their soldier masters return from overseas. 

“I thought nobody could possibly be crazier about their dogs than we are," I told her between yelps. “But I was wrong."

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