Paperback of Dog On It – Out Today
So here’s the opening of Dog On It.
I could smell him – or rather the booze on his breath,before he even opened the door – but my sense of smell is pretty good, probably better than yours. The key scratched against the lock, finally found the slot. The door opened and in, with a little stumble, came Bernie Little, founder and part-owner (his ex-wife Leda walked off with the rest) of the Little Detective Agency. I’d seen him look worse, but not often.
He mustered a weak smile. “Hey, Chet.”
I raised my tail and let it thump down on the rug, just so, sending a message.
“I’m a little late, sorry. Need to go out?”
Why would that be? Just because my back teeth were floating? But then I thought, what the hell, the poor guy, and I went over and pressed my head against the side of his leg. He scratched between my ears, really digging his fingers in, the way I like. Bliss. How about a little more, down the back of the neck? I hunched my shoulders a bit, giving him the idea. Ah, nice. Very nice.
We went outside, me and Bernie. There were three trees out front, my favorite being a big shady one just perfect for napping under. I lifted my leg against it. Wow. Hadn’t realized I was that close to desperation. The night filled with splashing sounds and I zoned out a little, just listening to them. I managed to stop the flow – not easy – and save some for dampening the rock at the end of the driveway and the wooden fence that separated our property from old man Heydrich’s, next door, plus a squirt or two between the slats. Just doing my job, but don’t get me started on old man Heydrich.
Bernie was gazing up at the sky. A beautiful night – soft breeze, lots of stars, lights twinkling down the canyon, and what was this? A new tennis ball on the lawn. I went over and sniffed it. Not one of mine, not anyone’s I knew.
“Wanna play fetch?”
I pawed the thing. How did it get here? Cooped up all day, but I’d kept an ear cocked; except for when I dozed off, of course.
“Bring it here, Chet.”
I didn’t want to, not with this stranger’s smell on it.
But I never said no to Bernie. I gave the ball a lick or two, making it mine, then took it over to Bernie and dropped it at his feet. Bernie reared back and threw the ball up the canyon road.
“Uh-oh – where’d it go?”
Where’d it go? He really couldn’t see it? That never failed to surprise me, how poorly he saw after the sun went down. I tore after the ball, bouncing up the middle of the road in plain sight, got my back feet way forward and sprang, totally airborne, snaring it on the short hop, the way I like, then wheeling around in one skidding motion and racing full speed, head low, ears flattened by the wind I was making, and dropped it at Bernie’s feet, putting on the brakes at the last moment. If you know something more fun than this, let me in on the secret.
“Got it on the short hop? Couldn’t tell from here.”
I wagged my tail, that quick one-two wag meaning yes, not the over-the-top one that wags itself and can mean lots of things, some of which I’m not too clear on myself.
“Nice.” He picked up the ball and was rearing back again when a car came slowly down the street and stopped in front of us.
The window slid down and a woman leaned out. “Is this thirteen three oh-nine?”
“I’m looking for Bernie Little, the detective.”
“You found him.”
She opened the door, started to get out, then saw me. “Is the dog all right?”
Bernie stiffened. I felt it; he was standing right beside me. “Depends what you mean.”
“You know, is he safe, does he bite? I’m not that comfortable around dogs.”
“He won’t bite you.”
Of course I wouldn’t. But the idea was planted in my head, for sure. I could tell by all the saliva suddenly pooling in my mouth.
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