It was one of those days. Even dogs have them. As frustrating as an empty water bowl and as disconnected as a leash without a hook. Summer had arrived and it was a hot one. I really should have been focused on sniffing out some business but I was so obsessed with scoring a swimming pool for the summer that I couldn’t focus on anything else.
My mind raced as I lay in my redwood doghouse. I replayed the same scene in my head: me, a sparkling pool of water and my favorite red squeaky toy with its feet freshly gnawed off, wafting just out of my reach. Even in my daydream, I could feel the excitement of barking frantically as I tried to rake the red ball in with my outstretched front leg. But it would always be just out of the range of my paw. Finally, with no other option I would jump into the pool and retrieve it. Then I would climb out, shake off and start all over again and again and again.My reverie was interrupted when a tortoise shell colored cat named Babycakes poked her head into my doghouse. She was a neighborhood cat who liked to make the rounds whenever she could slip out unnoticed from her home. I charged out at her barking. As usual, she quickly leapt up onto the roof.
The sloped roof of the doghouse prevented me from getting to her so the best I could do was stand there and bark at her. Even though I was making a racket barking, Babycakes didn’t even flinch. She perched herself on the highest point of the roof and meowed that her mechanical litter box was jammed. She was looking for someone to pull the job. Our conversation didn’t get very far. I wasn’t into doing business with cats. Especially one as light on her feet as she was.
I lifted my upper lip for effect. “I’m a detective, not a mechanic. Scram.” Babycakes got the message. She leapt off the roof and disappeared as stealthily as she had appeared.
Not too long after, Nacho stopped by. He was about eighty pounds of Golden Retriever with a neck like a horse. Nacho was also injury prone and had even had brain surgery as a pup. Today Nacho was sporting one of those dreaded plastic cones around his head. He looked miserable.
My attempt to get a laugh out of Nacho failed. He just stood there panting then lunged for the side of my doghouse and started rubbing his face against it like a mad dog. That was when I noticed the left side of his face was completely shaved down. There on top of his bare skin was a crusty hot spot that needed scratching. Nacho desperately wanted the cone removed so he could really do a number on it.
I had been to Nacho’s backyard before so I knew he had a kiddie pool that he dragged out on the warmer days. It was a pretty tempting barter but I knew I wouldn’t be doing him any favors letting him have at his scabby face. My street cred was good so I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t on the up and up. Nacho was a good kid so I wanted to let him down easy.
“Hey Nacho, why don’t you go fill up that plastic pool of yours? You know, get your mind off itching.”
Nacho hung his head in disappointment in that way that only Golden Retrievers can do. I could hear him panting as he jogged away toward the corner and made the turn.
My neighbor Redford rolled out of bed around noon looking wild-eyed and scruffier than usual. He was a Norwich terrier who, from what I understood, had the good looks of the guy he was named after. In the last week or so, Redford had spent most nights stalking a mouse in his kitchen without any luck.
Desperate to catch the scurrying critter, he had tried to trade his stuffed animals to get me on retainer. He had a pristine collection of plush toys that squeaked, sang, talked and even made wisecracking jokes. It was a solid offer and I was always up for chasing a mouse but I didn’t want the word on the street to be that I was doing pest control.
I hated to turn Redford down again. Turns out I didn’t have to. His sleep deprivation had already gotten the best of him. He was slouched in a sitting position with his eyes closed. In official detective terminology we like to say he was “out cold.”