(A Short Story)
When Rob and Juliette finally sold their townhouse, no one was more shocked than they were. It had been on the market for two months with only one showing—that being a nosy neighbor. They had come to the conclusion that the home wasn’t going to sell and so they would have to learn to be content and ride out their senior years—not necessarily where they would have liked to be—in the quiet small town and low maintenance neighborhood where they lived. And then, out of the blue, came another showing; and then an offer; and then sold. Now what?
They grabbed their laptop and I-pad and began the search. Not long into it, they found two or three homes that would probably fit their needs and their budget. And then Rob came up with a brilliant idea. He asked Juliette, “What if I found a townhouse for sale, only this time in the town you’ve always dreamed of living?” Juliette nodded her head, but didn’t seem excited about the prospect. Rob searched and came up with what seemed like the perfect option; a townhouse smack dab in the middle of Juliette’s favorite town, with a lower price and property taxes than anything they had seen so far. Juliette was excited. Rob—envisioning himself as the knight astride the white steed—was proud of his efforts.
It wasn’t long before his bubble was cruelly burst when Juliette informed him, “Honey, it won’t work. They have a dog limit.”
Rob was incredulous. “What do you mean a dog limit? What kind of limit? You can only have two dogs and no more? Chihuahua’s are allowed, but no Boston Terriers? That sounds silly; a limit on dogs.”
“It’s a weight limit, honey.”
“What? What difference does a dog’s weight make? Don’t tell me they’re going to weigh the dog before we make an offer? Do they have dog scales at the townhouse office?” Rob laughs at his own joke. “No problem, we’ll just put Mac on an exercise regimen. We can make him get on the treadmill and go on a low carb diet. We’ll get him down to fighting weight in no time. We have thirty days from closing right?”
“You don’t understand. The weight limit is thirty-five pounds and Mac weighs ninety-five. If he lost that much he’d be dead.”
“Oh.” Rob is dismayed. He was sure he had come up with the perfect solution. He thinks for a while and comes up with another brilliant idea. “Hey, what if we switched dogs, just until closing? I’m sure someone will loan us their dog.”
Juliette stands and faces him with her hands on her hips, rolls her eyes and says, “You’re certifiable.”
“What? It could work. We borrow a dog, say one that weighs about thirty pounds. We make sure it’s black like Mac and when we go to inspect the house, we bring it along. They see the little mutt and think it’s our dog. Then we give it back.”
“I can see that you’ve really put some thought into this dear. I just have a couple of questions for you; if you don’t mind.”
“No, go ahead. It’s a brilliant plan if you ask me, but go ahead and shoot holes in it. I have an answer for any question you ask.”
“Okay, first question; who has a thirty pound black dog that would be willing to “loan” it to you?”
Rob stares at Juliette for a moment, starts to say something, stops, starts again, stops again, and then says, “I’ll have to get back to you on that. What were your other questions?”
“Okay, let’s just assume someone will loan you their dog so you can perpetrate your fraud on the realtor and home owner’s association; and let’s assume your “dog and pony show” during inspection fools them; what then? How do you get Mac past them once we’ve moved in? Don’t you think it might be a bit obvious that our dog has gained over sixty pounds in just shy of a month?”
“Aren’t you funny? Ha, ha, ha. Every time I come up with an idea, you shoot it down. Why do I even try?”
“I don’t shoot all of your ideas down honey, only the asinine ones.” Juliette is done with the conversation and retreats to the kitchen. Rob follows her and says, “Okay. I have it figured out. Once we get past closing, we move in without Mac and then one night—a moonless night preferably—we sneak him in the back door. No one will be the wiser.”
“Well what about…”
“Hold on, I’m not done. Once he’s in the house, we only take him outside to walk or do his business when it’s dark, or when we’re sure the neighbors aren’t home. If we pull that off for six months or so, then we can trot old Mac out and when they question his size, we just say he gained a little weight; it must be the Lab side of the Labradoodle. What are they going to do, kick us out? We paid for the house and all the paperwork is legit. What could they do?”
Juliette sighs deeply and then says, “Okay honey, you wander around the neighborhood looking for a little black dog weighing approximately thirty pounds and once you’ve located one, then convince the owner that you want to “borrow” it for a while. I’ll go back to online realtor websites and come up with a real solution.”
Rob is defiant and undefeated. “I’ll show you.” He grabs his jacket off the hook and heads out the front door. Juliette smiles as he leaves and opens up her laptop to continue the house search.
Five hours later, Juliette is startled by a pounding on the front door. When she opens the door she sees her husband standing on the front sidewalk and in his arms is a black dog, struggling to free itself from his grip. Rob has leaves in his hair, his shirt and pants are streaked with grass stains, and he has scratches on his face and neck. “What in God’s name is going on Rob?”
Rob shoves his wife aside and says, “Move, I need to get in the house.” Rob repeatedly looks over his shoulder as he moves past his wife and into the house. “Hurry up and shut the door and come into the kitchen.” Rob retreats to the kitchen and Juliette follows him there. Rob has a smug look on his face and says, “I told you I’d get a dog.” He sets the dog down on the floor and the dog runs to the kitchen table, raises a hind leg, and pees on one of the table legs.
Juliette explodes, “Where did you get that dog and why is it peeing on my floor?”
Rob smiles sheepishly and says, “I found him in the neighborhood next to the next neighborhood over.”
“You found him! What do you mean you found him?”
“Well, I saw him on the other side of a hedge and when I crawled through, he started running away. I chased him for a while, but the little guy was hard to catch. After a few falls, I finally got a hold of him. We tussled for a while and he finally gave up and I brought him home.”
Juliette is suspicious. “So, he was just standing in a neighbor’s yard? And you just found him?”
“Well, I went around our neighborhood, the next one over, and the one next to that and knocked on doors to see if anyone had a black dog within our specifications. I found two or three that matched the description, but for some reason they wouldn’t loan me their dogs. I had almost given up when I saw this stray on the other side of the hedge…”
“Stray huh? Then why the collar with his name on it—Pookie—and the rhinestone studded leash?”
Rob looks down at the dog on the floor and studies the leash and collar and then says, “That doesn’t mean anything. He could still be a stray. He might have run away from his owner and I just happened to find him wandering around the neighborhood.”
A frown appears on Juliette’s face and her lips are pursed as she says, “So, ‘wandering around the neighborhood’ is the same as being on the other side of a hedge in someone’s back yard; in your mind anyway?”
Before Rob can answer, a pounding is heard on the front door. Juliette looks at Rob, but he avoids eye contact. As she moves to open the front door, she hears, “Open up. Police.”
When Juliette opens the door, she looks over her shoulder for her husband, but he’s disappeared. “Hello officer. What can I do for you?”
“Ma’am, we’re just trying to clear up a dispute with one of your neighbors and I needed to talk with your husband. Is he around?”
Juliette hesitates. “He was here…just a minute ago. But he’s gone now.”
“You mind if I look around?”
“No, go ahead officer.”
As the policeman walks through the house, Juliette’s eyes are drawn to the pee on the kitchen floor, and then she is startled and let’s out a gasp when she notices part of the “stray” dog’s leash protruding from the attic door above the hallway. The officer stops and says, “Everything okay Ma’am?” Juliette lowers her eyes and hopes the officer didn’t notice what she noticed. “Yes, everything’s fine.” She tries to lead him quickly through the house, but he’s curious, and when he gets to the kitchen he says, “What’s that smell? It smells like dog urine.”
“Yes officer. Our dog was having trouble holding it in, and we just put him out in the backyard. I haven’t cleaned up his mess just yet.”
The officer looks out the back window and shakes his head and then begins to leave. He stops at the front door, hands Juliette a business card and says, “When your husband shows up, have him call me. I have a few questions.”
“Will do officer.” Juliette shuts the front door and walks straight to the hallway. She reaches up and pulls the cord attached to the attic stairway and down tumble the stairs, with Rob and the black dog not far behind.
Rob quickly recovers from the hard fall and in a wounded voice says, “Why did you have to go and do that Juliette? That hurts. You could have knocked first.”
Juliette sticks a finger in Rob’s face and says, “You stole that dog didn’t you? You walked into…”
“Well, actually I crawled into the…”
Raising her voice, Juliette cuts him off. You stole the neighbor’s dog, right out of their yard, and now the police are after you.”
“I can put him back if you want me to.”
“You’re darn right you’re going to put him back; and in a hurry buster.”
Rob hangs his head, looks down at the dog and says, “C’mon Pookie, I’ll take you home.”
“Clean up the pee first.”
After Rob cleans up, he heads out the door and as Juliette shuts it behind him, she mutters, “I married an idiot.”
As Rob walks the dog home—all the while keeping a wary eye out for any suspicious police activity—he decides to put the dog back exactly where he found him. It’s dark by the time he arrives at the house. He sneaks around to the back and locates the entry point in the hedge from earlier in the day and then crawls through with little Pookie in tow.
Once through the hedge, Rob pats little Pookie’s behind and says, “Now go find Mommy and Daddy.” For a moment he lies on the ground and looks into the yard. In the glow of the porch light, the yard looks different from what he remembers. He can’t put his finger on it, but something is different. As he glances around the yard, he notices a small doghouse with “Pookie” written over the door. And then he notices for the first time a second doghouse, only this one is three times larger than Pookie’s, and over the door is the name, “Killer”. The next thing that happens is a blur of sharp teeth, ripped clothing, deep growling, and pain in various parts of his upper torso; and then shouting and crying—his crying. The last thing he remembers is being placed in the back of an ambulance.
Juliette hears a knock on the door and as she opens it, she recognizes the same police officer from earlier in the day. The look on his face tells her that he’s not in the mood for frivolity, so she gets right to the point. “Are you looking for my husband?”
The officer doesn’t crack a smile and says, “No, we found your husband. I just need you to come down to the hospital with me. He’s been asking for you?”
Entering the hospital room, she sees Rob—at least she thinks its Rob—wrapped from head to toe in bandages. A nurse whispers, “He’s on sedatives, but you can talk to him.”
Juliette approaches the bed and leans in close to her husband. “Hi honey, how you feeling?” She can only hear a muffled sound in return. Juliette reaches out and gently clasps her husband’s gauze wrapped hands and says, “The officer said that you should only get six months in jail and then probation for another six.” She pauses and then says, “I’ll be sure to come and visit.” Rob moans and then Juliette says, “Oh, I called the realtor and she told me they agreed to make an exception for us. They’re waving the weight restriction for Mac. Isn’t that great news? Mac and I should be moved into the townhouse about the time you get out of prison.”