Lucy was glad nobody had been around to see her struggle to heft a reluctant 60-pound shepherdish mix into Bran’s enormous claw-footed bathtub. The dog was smelly, itchy, and filthy, and there was no way Lucy could tolerate her inside the house, sweet as her disposition seemed, until they got this business over with. Armed with a stack of towels, a glass pitcher, and some old baby soap she found in Bran’s bathroom closet (the best she could do for the time being), Lucy had managed to scrub her new charge from stem to stern, which also gave her a chance to examine the skin irritation and scabs all over this bedraggled canine. In the end, Charley emerged from her bath smelling less pungent at least, but still itchy, raw, and uncomfortable. The bathroom was drenched and Lucy’s back was in agony; she stood upright and mopped the sizeable puddle on the floor with the spent towels for whatever good they did, using her feet instead of her hands, and then gathered what she could to whisk off to the laundry; Charley lingered just outside the bathroom door watching her, alternately sitting to scratch herself, first behind the ear and then under the arm, and then standing to wag her back end with joy and anticipation, relieved this unpleasantness was over.
“Let’s go get something to eat. Follow me,” she instructed, as if it mattered. Charley was so close on Lucy’s heels she could feel dog toenails scraping her bare skin. “Ow, dammit!” Lucy turned, and Charley stopped in her tracks and cocked her head, which made the one floppy ear flop even more comically.
“Come here, sweet girl; it’s not your fault. But your claws are like daggers. Easy does it, friend.”
Charley darted around the house exploring every corner with her long nose, while Lucy whipped out a pair of mismatched stainless-steel bowls in the kitchen, filling one with water and the other with kibble; soon Charley’s nose led her directly to them. Meanwhile Lucy surveyed the contents of her pantry, and then the old Kelvinator: there was not much in the fridge. Her choices finally boiled down to fettuccine noodles with olive oil and garlic or a peanut butter sandwich.
“I guess we’ll go to the store tomorrow after you meet the vet, sweet Charley.” Lucy gathered what she needed in a single arm to make the sandwich. Charley backed up when Lucy snapped the fridge door shut, again cocking her head to consider this new noise. Then she turned back to her food bowl and licked out the crumbs, swatting at it with her big paw until it flipped over. Satisfied she could extract nothing more from it, she turned to her water bowl and took in big slugs; Lucy noticed that the water dribbled impressively from the corners of Charley’s mouth and all the way across the kitchen floor, leaving a slippery, slug-like trail behind her. Charley didn’t hesitate to levitate effortlessly and place her big paws on the kitchen counter at Lucy’s right elbow to survey the sandwich making, shameless opportunist that she was.
“Nope! Down you go!” Lucy removed Charley’s paws and resumed her sandwich making. The two of them repeated this little bit of kitchen choreography three more times before Charley at last relented and busied herself investigating new corners in the adjoining breakfast room. Lucy followed her in with her plated sandwich just in time to witness Charley squat and pee on the floor.
“NOOOO!” She bellowed, reaching for Charley’s still-stinky collar and leash, which she’d thankfully left just inside the front door. Charley dropped to the floor and wagged her tail in the puddle of pee while Lucy leashed her. Lucy sighed and sat down cross-legged in front of Charley, who stretched herself out long so she could place her silly head directly in Lucy’s lap. Lucy realized she was soaked from the earlier dog bath and could feel herself starting to chill, but all she really wanted to do right at this moment was gently scratch this trusting animal on the top of her scabby head and kiss her on the nose.