Authors: W. Bruce Cameron
I was now so accustomed to the roar of noise outside that I scarcely noticed it, though I still found the tantalizing odors compelling. The leaves were starting to drop off of some of the trees and swish along the sidewalk, propelled by cooling breezes. We walked several blocks as the night fell, and there were a lot of people out, plus many dogs, so I kept my guard up.
Finally we went up to some doors. CJ fiddled with something on the wall and said, “It’s CJ!” and then there was a buzzing noise and we went into the building and my girl carried me up a few flights of stairs. A door opened at the end of a hall and a man stepped out.
“Hi!” he called.
When we got closer, I smelled who it was: Trent!
I was astounded, because I had never thought we’d ever see him again. But humans can arrange for whatever they want to happen, which was how, for example, CJ always managed to find me when she needed me.
Trent and CJ hugged while I stood on my hind legs and reached up to him. Then he laughed and reached down and picked me up.
“Careful…,” CJ warned.
“Who is this?” he asked, laughing delightedly as I licked his face. I was so happy to see him! I squirmed in his arms, wanting to press in more closely.
“That’s Max. I can’t believe how he’s acting. He’s never like this. He doesn’t like most people.”
“He’s such a sweetie. Kind of dog is he?”
“A Chorkie, half Chihuahua, half Yorkie. That’s the best guess, anyway. Wow, I love what you’ve done with the place!”
Trent laughed and set me down. He lived in the best house ever: there was not a single piece of furniture anywhere. I could race around and around unimpeded.
“I’ve got stuff on order,” Trent said. “Open some wine? God, it is so great to see you!”
I explored the house while he and CJ sat and talked. There were two other rooms, equally empty. I found myself sniffing for Rocky, but there was no sign of him. My brother must no longer be alive. I wondered why Trent didn’t have a new dog; didn’t people need dogs?
“So how’s the new job?” CJ asked.
“It’s a great firm. I already was doing some work co-financing with them when I was in San Francisco, so it’s a natural fit. How about you? How’s the acting?”
“I’ve been in a couple of workshops. I love it. There’s something about being onstage, having everyone listen to me, laugh at my lines, applauding … it’s the greatest.”
“How odd that Gloria’s child would want to perform so that people would pay attention to her,” Trent said. “Who could have predicted something like that?”
“And how interesting that an investment banker wants to give me free psychotherapy.”
Trent laughed. The sound was exactly the same as I remembered. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ve been in therapy myself—if you live in California, it’s mandatory. It helped, though, with some stuff.”
“I’m sorry about Rocky.”
At the sound of my brother’s name, I paused, looking at them for a moment before I resumed exploring.
“Yeah. Rocky. Such a good dog. Stomach torsion—vet says it happens a lot with bigger dogs.”
I caught sadness coming off of Trent and raced across the floor and sailed into his lap. Trent caught me and kissed my head. “So how did you come to get Max?”
“My place is right down from where they had this dog adoption in Central Park.”
“Wait, you live by the park? Your acting must be going
“Well, no. I mean yes, I live in a fabulous place, but I’m house- and pet-sitting for this guy Barry. He manages some boxer dude who is training for a fight in Africa.”
“This puppy is the cutest little guy in the world,” Trent said.
“I know, isn’t he? He sure likes
“Hey, let’s order food. Just looking at you is making me hungry.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” CJ said sharply. I jumped out of Trent’s lap and went over to her.
“You’re so thin, CJ.”
“I’m an actress,
“Leave this alone, Trent.”
He sighed. “We used to confide in each other,” he said after a moment.
“I’ve got things under control. That’s all you need to know.”
“You only let me get so close, and no closer, CJ.”
“More therapy talk?”
“Come on. I miss you. I miss our conversations.”
“Me, too,” CJ said softly. “But there are some things I don’t want to talk about with anybody.”
They were quiet for a minute. I put my feet on CJ’s knees, and she lifted me up and kissed my nose. I wagged.
After more talking, a man came and brought bags of food. I loved the generous people who sometimes arrived with warm, delicious-smelling meals and handed them over and then left so that people could eat and feed their dogs! We all sat on the floor together and CJ and Trent ate from the bags and gave me a tiny piece of chicken that I ate and a vegetable that I spat out.
“What’s her name?” CJ asked at one point.
“Wait, Liesl? You’re dating one of the Von Trapps?” CJ laughed.
“She’s German. I mean, she lives in Tribeca, but she came over from Europe when she was nine.”
“Tribeca. Huh. So you’ve been coming to New York and not calling me?”
“A little,” Trent admitted.
“That’s it. Max, attack. Go for the throat.”
I heard my name but didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. CJ was gesturing toward Trent, so I padded over to him and he bent down and I licked his face, and they both laughed.
When we left, Trent and CJ stood at the door and hugged for a long time, and the love flowed between them. I realized right then that what would be best for CJ was if we left Sneakers and Duke behind and came to live here in the fun place with no furniture, where she and Trent could love each other. CJ needed a mate, the way Ethan had needed Hannah, and Trent needed a dog.
If the other two pets had to come, though, we’d need to at least get a couch so Sneakers had something to hide under.
“I’m so, so glad to see you,” Trent said.
“Okay, we’ll do this all the time, now that I’m moving here. I promise.”
“Really? Sit on the floor and have dinner?”
“Maybe the four of us can get together. Liesl and Gregg, I mean.”
“Sure,” CJ said.
Trent pulled back, looking at her. “What?”
“It’s nothing. It’s … Gregg’s not … His family situation isn’t fully resolved yet.”
“Are you kidding me?” Trent said loudly.
“You can’t seriously be saying—”
CJ put a hand on his mouth. “Don’t. This was so nice. Please. Please? I know you care about me, Trent. But I can’t stand your judgment.”
judged you, CJ.”
“Well, that’s what it feels like.”
“Okay,” Trent said. “Okay.”
CJ was a little sad, then. The two of us walked out of the place and back home.
We were all in the dog park as usual. Duke and Sally were over sniffing a big white dog whose name was Bring Me the Ball Tony. Bring Me the Ball Tony was more interested in trying to climb on Sally’s back than in paying attention to his owner. I was trying to engage a male dog my size who looked very much like my mother, with the same face and coloring, and I finally managed to persuade him to give chase, so naturally Beevis came running up, growling, his lips back and his ears stiff. My playmate was instantly cowed and shrank away from the aggression, but I turned and snapped at Beevis to let him know he was pushing me too far. Instead of backing away, Beevis came straight at me.
I heard CJ yelling, “No!” but Beevis went up on his rear legs and I followed and his teeth slashed at me, trying to wound me. I bit back and caught a fold of skin in my mouth and then my girl was there, using her legs to push us apart. “No!” she yelled again. She scooped me up and I kept snarling and snapping as Beevis tried to reach me. CJ turned, using her body to block him. “Stop it, Beevis! No, Max, no!”
Then Duke came charging up, reacting to the distress in CJ’s voice. He clearly didn’t understand what was going on, but his appearance made Beevis back off.
“Oh, Max, your ear,” CJ said. I could feel her anxious despair and kept my focus on Beevis, who was circling around uneasily. When I smelled the blood it wasn’t immediately clear it was mine, but I felt the sting when CJ put her hand on my ear. She pulled some paper out of her bag and pressed it against the side of my head.
CJ carried me as we walked all of the dogs home. At Sally’s house we had to wait a little bit before her person arrived. “I’m so sorry, there was a dog fight. Is it okay to drop Sally back off a little early?” CJ asked.
At Beevis’s house, CJ told the man who answered the door, “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to walk Beevis anymore. He fights with the other dogs.”
“He does not,” the man said. “Not unless the other dog starts it.”
I felt CJ getting angry, and even though my ear was sore, I gave the man a growl. Beevis, for his part, was happy to be home and wagged, going inside without a backward glance.
When we got home CJ let Duke in but then left with me in her arms, still pressing her hand to my ear. We went to a Vet—I knew that’s what he was because he put me on a metal table and petted me and I could smell a lot of dogs on his clothes. There was a sting in my ear and then he tugged on it a little bit. CJ watched the whole time.
“It’s not bad at all. You did the right thing by keeping pressure on it, though. They can bleed a lot,” the Vet said.
“Oh, Max. Why do you have to growl at everybody?” CJ asked.
“You want us to go ahead and neuter him, long as you’re here?”
“Um, yeah, I guess. Does that mean that Max will have to spend the night?”
“Sure, but you can pick him up in the morning.”
“Okay. All right, Max, you’re going to stay here for the night.”
I heard my name and heard the slight sadness and thumped my tail.
CJ left, which I did not like at all, but the Vet petted me and I fell into a sleep so deep I lost all track of time. When I awoke, it was morning and I was in a cage, wearing a stupid, stiff collar that surrounded my face and funneled all noises and smells directly into my senses.
was all I thought to myself. I had long given up trying to understand why people liked to put their dogs in such ridiculous situations.
CJ arrived and the Vet let me out of the cage and handed me to her. I was tired and just wanted to fall asleep in my girl’s arms. As we left we stopped by the front door to talk to a lady, who smelled like lemons. She said something to CJ.
“What? I … I don’t have that much,” CJ said. She was upset, so I growled at the lemon lady.
“We take credit cards.”
“I don’t have that much room on my card. Can I give you forty now, and the rest when I get paid?”
“We expect payment at the time of service.”
There was a sadness inside CJ, fighting to get out. I licked her face. “It’s all I have on me right now,” CJ whispered.
Whatever was making her unhappy was obviously Beevis’s fault.
She handed over some papers and the lemon lady handed some papers back and then we left the sad Vet’s office. I wanted to get down and squirmed, but CJ held me tight.
Both Duke and Sneakers wanted to smell my stupid collar and to put their noses on my ear, which I could feel had something stuck to it. I growled a little at Duke, but Sneakers purred at me, so I let her sniff. It was very strange having her cat face inside the small space formed by the stupid collar.
For a few days, I wasn’t allowed to go for a walk with Duke, which made me unhappy. Sneakers, though, was delighted, and would come out from under the bed to play with me and when I lay in the sun would curl up next to me, purring. I liked sleeping with Sneakers but felt like a bad dog who had to wear a stupid collar and Stay instead of going for a walk.
One morning CJ took off my collar, washed my ear, and then, when she put Duke on the leash, she snapped one on me, too. I was going for a walk! We went and picked up all the usual dogs, except neither Sally nor Beevis was there anymore. I didn’t miss Beevis, but Duke seemed sad without Sally.
Some days CJ wouldn’t get out of bed to walk dogs, so Duke and I would wake her up. Then she still wouldn’t walk all the dogs, though she would take both Duke and myself out. Those were my favorite days and I wished they could all be like that. On one such day, CJ used sharp-smelling chemicals on the floors and furniture and ran the machine on the floor that made Duke bark and Sneakers hide. When CJ was finished and put the machine away, Duke tore around the living room as if he’d just been let out of his crate.
I had no choice but to give chase. Excited, Duke bowed down to me, enticing me to wrestle. I climbed on top of him and we played for a while, and then the front door opened. I barked, so Duke barked, too. A man came inside, shouting “Duke!” followed by two other men who put suitcases on the floor and then left. I ran up to the stranger, snarling, while Duke wagged his tail and sniffed at the man’s hands.
“Max!” CJ called. She picked me up just as I was thinking about grabbing the man’s pants in my teeth, since he was ignoring me and just petting Duke, who was welcoming him even though the man had walked into CJ’s place without permission. Duke just didn’t understand the whole concept of protection—it was a good thing I was there.
“Welcome home, Barry.”
“Hi, CJ. Hey, Duke, you miss me? Miss me, boy?” He knelt down and hugged Duke, who wagged but then came over to smell CJ, perpetually jealous that she would pick me up to cuddle but never him.
“He doesn’t seem like he missed me at all,” the man said. He smelled like oils and fruits. When he looked me in the eye, I growled.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” CJ said. “Six months seems like forever to a dog.”
“Okay, but I could have put him in a kennel. I paid for a person to stay with him in this house.”
“He doesn’t know that, Barry.”
“Who’s this? I thought you said a kitten.”
“Right, this is Max. It’s a long story. Max, be nice.”
Though I was suspicious of the man, CJ seemed okay with him, so when she dropped me to the floor I went back to wrestling with Duke.