Rutherford watched Brent Field, Amanda, and Purple Lips leave the backstage area for supper and a good night's rest before the final judging tomorrow. Brent had certainly put that snooty man in his place. The nerve, threatening Vlad with disqualification and calling him a bad boy. Brent calmly reminded him that cosmetic enhancement (apricot hair dye) was also grounds for dismissal from the fierce competition. The two men reached an uneasy compromise.
Rutherford was wide awake; he had slept well that day. His blood sugar was normal and he was filled with energy and excitement. The noble bloodhound paced in his cage, locked up for the first time in his life. He had always run free on his strong hound legs, chasing rabbits, and sometimes accompanied the Master in his transformed bat form, to watch Rutherford fly high in the night sky.
"Vlad, my boy, are you restless?"
And how! Vlad howled.
An apricot poodle joined his howl. Me, too. Soon the room filled with noises of yapping little dogs and deep-throated barks from large dogs.
"Hey, keep it down," a woman yelled. "Some of us need our beauty sleep."
Rutherford glanced towards the woman. Obviously, she wasn't referring to her pedigreed dog. Rutherford opened Vlad's cage, put on his leash, and walked to the exercise room with its generous array of human and doggie treadmills. Sir FooFoo de Fiji opened his cage door, left unlocked by his owner, since his dog had perfect manners and discipline.
"Okay, fellow, knock yourself out."
Vlad challenged Sir FooFoo with a low bark, and soon the bloodhound's big, heavy paws slapped the treadmill. Sir FooFoo walked rapidly, not to be outdone, though he was a smaller dog. Sir FooFoo looked at Vlad. Vlad looked at Sir FooFoo. Neither dog would quit first.
Rutherford laughed. The dogs sure seemed to be enjoying themselves. The door opened, and in walked a woman followed by an Irish setter. The dog's long legs went on forever, her long red fur flowed as if she were a doggie Fabio. She smelled like summer flowers.
Vlad and Sir FooFoo stared, unaware they'd stopped walked and almost got sucked into the front of the treadmill. Woof! Woof! Wow! Rutherford hit the off switch on the treadmill, smiling at the two Romeos.
"What a beautiful dog, Madam," said Rutherford.
"Thank you, this is her first dog show. She's really restless and nervous; what tremendous tension," she told Rutherford. The Irish setter walked to another treadmill, careful not to look their way.
Vlad and Sir FooFoo stared. She likes me.
You, who? She looked straight at me, gave me 'the look.'
Rutherford bowed. "May I introduce you to my bloodhound, Vlad, and his friend, Sir FooFoo de Fiji. I'm Rutherford." He kissed her hand.
She smiled and said, "I'm Sophia, and my beautiful darling is Sophie Lauren Bridgitte Lollobridgida."
"Good luck to you both, Madam." He led both dogs back to their cages.
By 5 a.m., the two dogs and exhausted Master fell asleep amidst alternating snores and sighs. Brent arrived an hour later to relieve the Master who must return to his coffin in the pickup's converted tool box. A gentle touch awoke Rutherford. His tired eyes sparkled as he saw Amanda brushing dry shampoo through Vlad's short liver-and-tan fur. Rutherford sighed. Amanda was such a good friend, always made him feel alive. He missed so much of life, being a creature of the night. This was one of the times he wished he could live a normal, but short, life with another mortal, in addition to his sole friend, loyal guardian, Brent Field. He patted Vlad's head and told him, "Do us proud, boy."
Brent Field walked closer to the dog and looked into his eyes. "Are your eyes bloodshot?" Vlad whimpered. Oh, my head. What truck ran over me?
Sir FooFoo waited for his master to arrive. The apricot poodle opened his cage, walked to Vlad's area, and pushed Brent's cooler over with his nose. The cooler popped open, and the dog chased a beer can rolling away. He bit the can, and amber liquid ran down his mouth and onto the floor. Vlad escaped his grooming and ran over to lick up the escaping bubbly liquid.
Brent said, "Oh, I see, the hair of the dog that bit you."
Sir FooFoo licked his lips. Ooh, my head hurts.
I had the wildest dream, Vlad sighed with delight at its pleasant memory.
Sir FooFoo looked up. Uh, oh, my master is here.
In a short time, dogs and trainers stood in the show arena, breathlessly awaiting final examination. Vlad stood proud. The judge announced, "Ah, here we have the noble bloodhound. Notice his distinctive, rare coloring, that white on his chest and feet. His ears are very long and thin and set very low on the skull. These dogs have excellent noses and are often used in tracking and rescue work. They are also faithful companions. Ladies and gentlemen, Vlad the bloodhound."
The judge continued, "Next, we have two-year champion Sir FooFoo de Fiji. He has the extremely rare apricot coloring. He is standard size with bright, clear eyes. Ladies and gentlemen, the poodle. Will he win for the third year?"
Vlad and Sir FooFoo stood tall and proud, looking confident for the judge.
"Ladies and gentlemen, what an amazing feat -- the Irish setter, Sophie Lauren Bridgitte Lollabridgida, in the finals at her first competition. Her red fur is luxurious, shiny and silky."
The crowd sat in silence, waiting for the judge's semi-finalist announcement. He pointed to Sir FooFoo. His master beamed with pride. The judge looked at the dogs slowly and carefully, then pointed to the Irish setter. The crowd cheered.
The two finalists stood side by side, seeming to absorb the drama from the crowd seeming to hold its collective breaths. Sir FooFoo's owner's eyes grew large. He whispered to his dog, "Oh, no, not zee slouchee."
Vlad looked at Sir FooFoo. Is that a twinkle in your eye, old boy?
The judge handed the ribbon to Sophie's owner.
Vlad wagged his tail and nodded to the poodle. The crowd cheered. Brent bent down to pat Vlad on the head, who rolled over to get his belly rubbed. "Vlad, you did very well in your first dog show. Rutherford would be so proud of his faithful friend." Brent waved to Amanda and Purple Lips standing and cheering in the crowd.
Sophie stood tall and proud and looked at Sir FooFoo.
Wow, she winked at me.
"Let's go home, Vlad, to the real world. How would you like to run through the woods and smell like a real dog?" Brent asked him. Vlad barked his excited approval.
-- Beverly Pauley
To purchase a copy of Beverly's book, Gothic Bedtime Stories, contact her at P. O. Box 803, Alderson, WV, 24910 or by email: hbpoe(at)excite.com. The cost of the book is $15.00 -- mention the Piker Press for free shipping.