Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another installment of my unnamed novel

Tina had inherited her father's work ethic, but she was too risk averse to start her own business, so instead, she was the manager of a successful dog training school - dog daycare - kennel facility. The Dog House took care of up to 40 dogs in the daycare section each of their three facilities, with locations in central and Eastern Connecticut. Tina worked almost every day, either hanging out with the dogs, doing paperwork, or teaching training classes. She was a firm proponent of positive reinforcement training, and had introduced some new techniques to the owner of the company, Tabitha "Tabby" Hunter.

Tabby was a Shar-Pei enthusiast with a lot of time and money on her hands. When she was training a newly acquired puppy, she decided that there was not a satisfactory school for dog training around. She spoiled her dogs, and couldn't make herself pull a choke chain on one of her little darlings. So she hired a consultant to research less negative training theories, and the consultant introduced Tabby and Tina after meeting a friend of Tina's father who had hired Tina to train his new puppy and raved about her ability to communicate with dogs. Tina had helped Tabby create a curriculum for positively based training methods, and had helped Tabby pick out an appropriate space for the first Dog House facility. The first class Tina led was a puppy kindergarten class, basically designed to help socialize new puppies and begin the process of training the owners how to train their dogs with loving guidance rather than harsh authoritarianism.

Tina loved the fact that she could bring Rosco and Bela with her to work. She arrived early in the day, although Laura usually opened the building up.

"Good morning, Laura!" Tina said. Laura Carvalho, Tina’s co-worker, was a tiny woman, standing just under 5 feet tall, and thin, although she had that wiry appearance that suggested strength.

"Mornin', and good morning you little boogers!" Laura said, as she kneeled down and greeted Rosco and Bela. "You guys ready to go to school?" Laura asked the dogs, as she did every morning, and as they did every morning, Rosco and Bela wiggled their tails and Bela barked excitedly. Laura gave each of the dogs a treat and led them to the play area. She returned after handing the dogs off to the two teenaged girls who were working for minimum wage as dog sitters.

"So," Tina said, "who's here?"

"Digby, Buckley, Snow and Frosty, and we're waiting for a bunch more, including Cyrus," a word that caused Tina to scrunch up her nose and say "Ew." Cyrus was a spaniel mix, a high strung dog and devoted coprophage. Tina had been trying everything she could think of to stop Cyrus from eating his own shit, but nothing seemed to work.

"You know," Tina said, "before I worked here, I never thought that there might be some dogs I don't like, but I don't really like Cyrus."

"Oh, he's not so bad," Laura said. "He's no Silver, anyway." Tina laughed at the mention of Silver, one of the most difficult dogs she'd ever dealt with. Silver, a dolorous looking bloodhouse/border collie cross, had become a student of The Dog House after being spectacularly destructive at the home of his owner, a very nice but rather clueless about dogs woman named Bonnie. When Bonnie's children went away to college, she felt lonely at home with just herself and her husband, so she decided she would get that dog she always wanted. But she never really researched how much work a dog would be. Bonnie left Silver confined in the kitchen during the day while she was at work, and one evening, Tina received a call from Bonnie, who was sobbing so much Tina could hardly make out what Bonnie wanted. Eventually, Tina pieced together the story. Silver, being a rather intelligent dog, had been chewing on the cabinets and the chairs while Bonnie was at work, and Bonnie just decided to let it go, since the kitchen was in need of remodeli ng and both items were scheduled to be replaced. But Silver apparently got bored with chewing on the same old stuff, and started working on the refrigerator. At some point while Silver was chewing, he managed to open the refrigerator, and started eating everything he could get his mouth around. After Silver was done pillaging the fridge, he leaped over the barrier that kept him out of the newly decorated living room, and threw up all over the couch.

At first, Bonnie wanted to sell the dog or give it to the pound. Tina talked her into signing up for some obedience classes, and suggested that Silver might benefit from being occupied during the day as well. Silver became a regular at the Dog House after that, but he was such a bright and stubborn dog that Tina had to work hard to stay a step ahead of him.

Tina went into the small office behind the main counter. In addition to all the dog day care services, they sold some retail items, include some specialty dog foods and toys, and various dog spoiling items that were more for the owner's entertainment than the dog's pleasure, like sweaters and little boots. Tina also occasionally offered private coaching for persistent bad dog behaviors, like dogs that didn't seem to be able to be housetrained, barkers or biters.

She was working on some paperwork when the Laura buzzed the office extension from the main desk. "There's a reporter on line 2," Laura said.

"Thanks, Laura," Tina said as she took the call.

"I swear, the Senator and I are just friends," Tina said as she picked up the phone, knowing that her best friend Kell was on the other end.

"I'm done looking for a boyfriend," Kell said.

"You're done as in you've found him or you're done as in no more men? Or have you decided to become a lesbian?" Tina teased.

"I'm not kidding, Tina," Kell said. Tina was surprised to hear the serious tone in her friend's voice.

"What happened?" Tina asked, suddenly concerned. Kell was a frequent dater, going through men like Kleenex during allergy season. She usually followed up a date with a post mortem call to Tina, but Kell rarely seemed serious, either in looking for a partner or in complaining about her dates.

"He picked up another woman while I was in the bathroom," Kell said. "I came back to the table and he was sitting across from this little Bratz doll, with collagen lips and D cup sized implants on a size zero body."

"What a prick!" Tina said, outraged on her friend's behalf.

"And this little human equivalent of a vaginal wart had the nerve to call me Plus Size Barbie!" Kell continued. "I've been dating for a lot of years, and I've had some great times, and I've had some clunkers, but lately, it feels like I'm actively seeking punishment by going on dates! So I did some thinking last night. I'm a sexy, intelligent woman, I have a great career that I love, and I have a wide selection of sex toys available to me. What more do I need?"

Tina, good friend, said "I can’t think of anything."

"Tiiiiny," Kell whined, using Tina's brothers' nickname for her, "I need someone to take care of me when I'm old and crumbling, that's what I need."

"Kell, I'll always be here to take care of you," Tina said.

"I need someone to warm up my side of the bed in January before I get under the covers," Kell continued.

"Get a dog," Tina offered.

"Tina," Kell said, sounding tired. "I'm lonely. I'm getting older. I haven't ruled out children. Everyone tells me they love me - you're gorgeous, you're dynamic, you're funny, you're intelligent...why doesn't anyone want me?"

Tina couldn't remember a time when her friend sounded so low, so lacking in confidence. Tina wasn't quite sure what to say to her.

"Fuck anyone who doesn't want you," Tina said. "Anyone who would turn you down is just stupid, that's all." Tina knew her friend had trouble compromising, but Tina also knew the rewards of friendship with Kell, and it was truly worth the trouble, in her opinion. Kell was a person who stood by you no matter what, and would always be honest with you.

"Aauggghhhh," Kell exclaimed. "Damn, my editor is staring at me, I have to go. Can we get together tonight?"

Tina knew she was supposed to go to her aunt's dress shop to look at wedding dresses, but she thought her friend would need her more. "Sure, I just have to cancel my dress appointment at Zia Dinella's." She felt slightly relieved to once again put off the appointment, but her hopes were dashed when Kell replied, "no reason we can't bitch while we're shopping. I'll meet you at D's at 6ish?"

"Okay," Tina said, with some reluctance. "We'll solve your problems and find my wedding gown before my mother can complain anymore,"

"Of course," Kell said sarcastically, "and then we'll solve world hunger and end the proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Tina laughed. "Bye, chiquita," she said.

"Adios," Kell replied.

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