Putting on the Dog

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Authors: Cynthia Baxter
already dashed off. No matter; as I neared my booth, I understood what she was talking about. Standing inside, glancing around nervously, was a serious-looking girl about twelve or thirteen, with straight brown hair and hazel eyes. Stick-thin, she was dressed in a striped shirt and flowered shorts that even I could tell didn’t go together. Every few seconds, she slid the thick eyeglasses she wore up the bridge of her nose. Overall, she had the gawky look of someone whose body hadn’t yet decided upon its long-term plan.
    Max and Lou bounded over to her, eager to introduce themselves. As soon as she noticed them, her face lit up.
    “Hey, you cute little doggies!” She crouched down to their level, laughing gleefully as they both climbed all over her in a manic effort to cover her face with dog saliva. “Hey, cut that out!” she protested between giggles. “You’re getting me all wet!”
    “Sorry!” I cried as I jogged over. “Whenever they’re out in public, they act like they’re the most attention-starved beasts in the universe. You’d never guess they’re really the most spoiled.” I reached for my wild canines’ collars so I could pull them off her.
    “They’re okay,” she insisted. “I love dogs. I really wish I had one, but my parents won’t let me. They say our lives are too complicated.”
    Much to the dismay of both my Westie and my Dalmatian, the girl stood up. It only took another two seconds before they resumed harassing her; Lou nudged her hand roughly with his nose in a desperate attempt at prolonging physical contact, and Max tried to climb up her leg.
    She glanced at me shyly, grinning. For the first time, I noticed that her teeth were covered with shiny metal braces. “They really like me!”
    I wasn’t about to tell her they were shameless at soliciting affection from any living, breathing being they encountered. Instead, I nodded. “I’ll say they do. You have a real way with dogs. If you want, you can pick up Max. Lou’ll go nuts, but that’s the price you pay for being a Dalmatian. When you weigh sixty-six pounds, only weight lifters can carry you around like a baby.”
    “Hey, Maxie,” the girl cooed, reaching for the crazed Westie. “Want me to hold you? Come here, little doggie.”
    Max was more than happy to comply. When she started to scratch his belly as she cradled him gently in her arms, pure ecstasy was written all over his furry face.
    “What happened to Max’s tail?” the girl asked earnestly. “He’s hardly got any of it left!”
    “Both my dogs lived with other people before they came to live with me. Their original owners weren’t exactly the nicest people in the world, so somewhere along the line, Max lost part of his tail. Lou had an accident, too. See? He lost an eye.”
    “You poor things!” she whispered.
    “By the way, I’m Dr. Popper,” I said. “I’m supposed to stand in this booth all day, handing out advice.”
    “My name’s Emily Bolger.” Once again, she jabbed at her thick glasses. “I’m your volunteer helper.”
    “Emily, huh? I had a feeling that was your name.”
    “ Really? How?”
    “Your name tag.”
    She grinned. “Oh, yeah. Forgot.”
    “Glad to have you aboard, Emily. Thanks for helping out.”
    She studied me for a few seconds. “Are you really a veterinarian?”
    “Got the diploma to prove it. And the scars.”
    “Huh?”
    “Just joking. What about you? What do you do, when you’re not volunteering at charity dog shows?”
    “Nothing much. I’m still just a kid, you know?”
    “I guess I noticed that. Do you live around here?”
    “Not really. I kind of don’t live anywhere. My dad has a summer place out here, but he really lives in California and New York. My mom lives in a bunch of places, too. Paris, mostly. And me, well, I don’t spend much time at any of their houses because I go to boarding school in Virginia during the year.”
    “Do you like boarding school?”
    She shrugged, sending her

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