Tala Chapter 2
Hank acted like nothing more than a regular dog since that day in the park in Cincinnati. No more words in my head, no stopping of time, no hazy heat waves rising around us. He was just a dog.
But oh, what a dog!
He was all shepherd, double-coated with soft and shaggy fur unfurling down his neck, a black saddle draped over a salt and pepper coat, and a long, bushy tail. He wore a black mask with waggly eyebrows, crazy big ears on top of a proud head and his soft brown eyes missed nothing, least of all me.
Hank was my very own living, breathing shadow. He went every where I went, never letting me out of his sight. If it were just he and I, he would trot ahead of me but if we were mingling with others, he crowded my personal space, standing so close to me that his fur would tickle me if my legs were bare. He usually smiles, but if he doesn’t like the smell of a situation, he stops smiling, ducks his head, and issues a low back-up-bitch growl. I’d back the fuck up if I were on the receiving end of that growl.
Since he refused to leave my side after our first meeting, I took him to a vet to check for a microchip. Dr. Green ran a busy practice down the street from my place, so I walked Hank in that afternoon and asked her to give him the once over and scan him so I could take him home. She walked us into an exam room and Hank jumped up on the stainless steel examination table and promptly melted into it.
Dr. Green’s big brown eyes rose above her Gucci eye glasses, cocking one eyebrow. “Where did you find this clown?”
I looked at Hank, the picture of contentment, his head resting between his front paws, his brown eyes bouncing between the doc and me like a Kit Cat Klock. “Um, well, he kinda came out of nowhere, Doc, and followed me home.” I didn’t want to share the weird time-shift experience with the vet. I still wasn’t sure what I’d seen or what I’d heard, and I sure as shit wasn’t going to brag my potential crazy to the nice doc.
She shrugged and started laying hands on the mutt. She listened to his heart, dug into his hips, checked his eyes, ears, nails, and pads. Hank weighed in at 92 pounds and her scan found no sign of a chip. “If you don’t want to keep him, I can keep him here for a few days, check in with my rescue contacts to see if anyone is missing him or if anyone wants him.” At these words, Hank jumped off the table and sat on top of my boots, craning his head to look up at me, and whined.
I looked down at him. God, this dog really was a clown. Where had he come from? “Well, doc, looks like he wants to roll with me for a while, so I guess I’ll take him home and feed the poor guy. Maybe you can check in with your contacts and let me know if you find his owner?”
Dr. Green looked at me and then at Hank, and then at me again, looking a bit like a Kit Cat Klock herself. “Well sure, I can do that. Looks like he has his heart set on going home with you anyway. Don’t feed him too much. He’s in prime shape and I’d guess him around three years old, but you gotta watch the weight on these Shepherds. They’re prone to hip dysplasia as they age, so don’t let him get fat on you, no matter how much he begs. Give him a cup and a half of kibble in the morning and another in the evening and keep the people-food to a minimum.” She dug through one of her cabinets and handed me a small box. “Give him one of these chews every thirty days. It’s a heartworm preventative. It’s beef flavored and he’ll love it.”
Hank and I trotted out of Dr. Green’s office and then down the street to my Jeep. I took him home that night, thinking for sure someone would claim him soon. I’ve since gone through twenty-eight heartworm pills waiting on someone to claim him.
The slam of a car door interrupted my reverie of Hank, causing him to jump off the bed and fly to the front door. But he didn’t bark. Hank never barked, preferring to sneak up on your stupid ass like he was Special Forces. I jumped out of bed and pulled a t-shirt over my head and managed to shrug into some shorts without falling while running down the hallway to the door. I peaked out the window and saw Clyde standing on my porch, his dirty blonde hair sticking out of the sides of his dirty baseball cap. He saw me peaking through the window and smiled his greasy smile back at me. He scooted through the door as I opened it, calling, “Hey, Tala” as he stepped into my living room.
Clyde was my boss. Kind of. Sort of. I didn’t really have a boss, but he called the shots when I was on the road. “Hey, Clyde,” I answered back. “What brings you over? I thought I was meeting you at the garage later this morning. And why don’t ya sit down?” I was not a short woman but Clyde was six foot five to my five ten and I hated it when he stood over me. I walked into the kitchen for a bottle of spring water. “You want some water? Coffee?”
Clyde shook his head, removed his ballcap, looked it the grease marks on the bill, put it back on. He grimaced; his watery blue eyes sad when he looked at me. “Tala, something’s come up. I know you were planning on driving to Cleveland today, but I need you to go south today. My mom’s sick and it’s not good. I gotta get to the hospital and it’s in Cleveland, so we’re trading.” He played it off like he was telling me but it sure sounded like he was asking me.
“Sure, no problem, Clyde, whatever you need. Your momma going to be okay?”
Clyde looked down at his dusty boots and then back up at me. “I have no idea, Tala. She had a stroke.”
I lost my mother when I was five. I missed a whole lifetime with her. Clyde was close to his mother, close to everyone in his big family. My heart hurt for him. I leaned into him and gave him a big hug. “I’m sorry, Lean Bean. I’m so sorry. Whatever I can do, just let me know.” Hank wriggled between us, shaking his tail and chuffing for a hand from Clyde, one of his fave humans.
Clyde hugged me back, hard. It felt like he’d never let me go. When he finally did, he squatted to show some love to Hank. “Thanks, Tallie, I’ll keep you posted.”
He turned to leave and just as he opened the door, he said, “Yo, don’t hate me, but Bobby’s waiting down at the garage. He was gonna ride with me, probably thinks he’s going to ride with you now.” Then he ran out the door before the water bottle hit him.