As Mark pulled up to the large ranch house, a woman stepped out onto the porch. He stopped his truck and cut the engine. The concoughany of dogs barking was something else. It sounded like hundreds of them. Mark now understood why the kennel was so far out in the country. It was the only property around for at least five miles.
The woman walked up to the driver’s side and gave a little wave.
“Hi,” he said, offering a hand as he stepped out of the cab, “Mark Jefferies. I called you about the puppies.”
The woman shook his hand. “Erin Eschelbach. That momma?”
Mark turned around to look at his dog, who looked pitifully forlorn. “Yes. That’s her, Agatha Christie, and…” he walked to the back of the truck and opened the hatch, “this is her litter. Minus three. Found homes for three of them.”
Agatha Christie jumped from the cab into the back of the truck and proceeded to tend to her pups.
Erin shook her head, a wry, crooked smile on her face. “Well, at least they’re weaned. You spay her yet?”
Mark nodded. “Soon.”
Erin started again to shake her head, but caught herself and quickly asked, “Why Agatha Christie?”
“The name, you mean?” Mark asked. “When we got her, she would spend hours snooping and sniffing around and she has this uncanny ability to find things. Like, stuff we thought we lost. Spiders under the couch, trash in the bushes. Dead animals. Loves to bring us dead animals.”
Mark thought Erin meant her remark as a genuine compliment, but her disappointment about the puppies was as plain as day in her expression. How many litters had this woman taken into her refuge over the years? From the look on her face, it was clear she considered him part of a never-ending battle.
“The vet said we weren’t supposed to fix her until after her first heat,” Mark offered as an apology. “Said that’s healthier. You know, decreases the risk of cancer and whatever.”
“No offence, Mr. Jefferies, but I got a kennel full of what the vet says. Problem is, for the casual pet owner, the vet don’t ever clearly say what a bitch in heat is to a male that ain’t been neutered. Mighty strong impulses on both their parts that make them do things they don’t normally do, like climb fences and the like.”
“Yeah, well, if it’s any consolation, we feel really bad about this.”
Erin placed her hand on Mark’s arm. He suddenly wished she would give him a hug.
“No worries. We’ll get them settled. They look great. You obviously took good care of them. You’d be horrified what I normally get dropped at my door. Now, from the looks of momma, best you carry the puppies up to the kennel. She trusts you. Keep her in the truck, though. But before we go, let’s let her get one last look at them.”
Prompts this week are: She smiled crookedly; at least a hundred; dogs are barking.