“I’m taking 426 out,” Dad announced. Same time as last night. “The vet says walking is good for him.”
The cardiologist says walking is good for Dad, too. And Dad has never sneaked down to the basement, catapulted himself off the stairs, and dived head first into another much larger dog’s food bin. (A much larger dog and a much larger food bin, because that antecedent was muddy.). I mean, probably. It doesn’t seem like a thing Dad would do.
But in addition to promoting good health, the tribal elders of Retirement Acres meet every night to discuss all the world’s problems. As they affect Retirement Acres. Mr. Glenn and Bruce attend. Dad and 426 attend. Mr. Frogman attends with his pipe and his coffee cup of bourbon with home-grown mint. Dr. Dentist, having lost his last dog many years ago, attends and takes in the view of Miss Gwen’s handiwork, which is plentiful. The ninja cats perform night recon. Sometimes they’ll all go over and set the ladder back up so Mario can get off the roof. Demon being a cat of habit, he knocks over every ladder he sees. Forget permitting; in Retirement Acres it pays to tell your neighbors when you’re doing high work so they can set 911 in the speed dial.
All of this happens in Mr. Frogman’s yard, where he installed park benches. The benches are an excellent place from which to observe the comings and goings of the neighbors. They are an even better place to watch his immediate neighbors and what can only be called the demilitarized zone between them where the mint plants grow.
It’s a fascinating story full of deceit, treachery, and a backhoe, but it’s not the one we’re here for today.
Mr Glenn brought up the first new business of the night. It was a local affair.
“Bob,” he said, “I’m worried about Bruce.”
The husky in question was playing hide and seek with the ninja cats, which is one of his favorite things in the world. Except the ninja cats don’t play hide and seek; they think that big furry lummox is disrupting their night maneuvers. One slaps at him from inside an azalea. He howls joyously. Found one!
“Because you think the cats will kill him?”
“I keep iodine in the bathroom. I’m worried because he won’t eat.”
426 looked up from his spot in the grass. Being a much smaller dog than he envisions himself to be, he nonetheless does not involve himself in ninja cat business. They’ve slapped the bejeezus out of him once too often. But there’s talk of food now, and if Bruce isn’t eating, he might get some.
“That dog?” Dad asks skeptically, watching Bruce try to uproot a dogwood to shake out the cat.
It’s a truth in Retirement Acres that is unmistakable: despite their walks, most of the dogs in Retirement Acres need to lose weight. Despite the number of times per day they get walked, the only one approaching fit is Bruce, and that’s because he spends so much time chasing the BiscuitMobile.
“You think he’s sick?” Mr Frogman asked, just to be clear.
“He won’t eat,” Mr Glen insisted. Dad and Mr Frogman exchanged a glance which clearly indicate they thought Glen had been in the bourbon himself.
“You put out food for him and he doesn’t eat it?” Dad can’t fathom the idea. He’d had to start locking the basement door after 426 found the bigger dog’s food. He had tried just shutting the door, but it was old and 426 was persistent. He’d bent the door.
“Not exactly,” Mr Glen evaded. “It’s just…”
He paused, at a loss. Everyone knew meals in Mr Glen’s house had been haphazard since Mrs Glen passed away. She had also been diabetic, which had influenced their food choices a great deal. It was a sacrifice he’d been happy to make, but lately he’s all but become the Taco Bell Fourth meal poster child. Not coincidentally, when Taco Bell decided to test their new breakfast menu, they tested it in Retirement Acres. You’re welcome.
“How many cups do you feed him at breakfast,” Dad asked, attempting to come at the problem from a different way. 426 grumbled in the grass. He’d been cut back to half a cup at breakfast and dinner. The intervening time he spent trying to convince everyone in the house he was starving to death. My brother even gave him pity bacon…just like everyone else in the house. Seriously, when we called for Chinese takeout, he wailed so piteously the lady who filled our order threw in an extra egg drop soup for him.
“Soup for starving dog,” she said tersely.
“He’s not starving. He’s 12 pounds overweight. His tummy is bigger than his legs are long.”
“Not to hear him tell,” she insisted. “Starving dog sound alike in every language.”
“Two,” Mr Glen answered. “But the past few days he didn’t eat them.”
“What did you do instead?”
“We went to Bojangles,” Mr Glen said. “I had to run some errands. The girls at the back window gave him his own biscuit.”
“Just to be clear: he ate that?” Mr Frogman, asking the real questions.
“Sure. He loves fried chicken. And biscuits. Sometimes we go to Hardee’s instead.”
Even 426 could see the problem.
“What about at night?” Dad persisted.
“Two cups, but he won’t eat it.”
“I don’t even–”
“But he really likes the sausage pizza from Papa John’s,” Mr Glen continued. “So we ordered that.”
“I’m not sure why you think he’s not eating,” Dad interjected. “He just doesn’t eat dog food.”
Mario passed by with the ladder, returning it to Mr Frogman’s garage. It’s a long story that we don’t have time for, and besides it didn’t work.
“You need to be taking Bruce to the vet,” Mario advised. “I think he’s got a tapeworm.”
“Oh yeah,” Mr Frogman challenged, almost snorting bourbon out his pipe.
“Yeah. I had barbecue for lunch. Bruce came over to help me eat it then still took a sandwich from Miss Peggy later.”
426 flounced in the grass. He never got half of Mario’s barbecue plate.
“How about this,” Dad advised. “For the next few days, just feed him dog food. Don’t take him for drive through, and don’t order from the Chinese place where he can hear you.”
Dad and 426 returned home, where 426 pointedly jumped up in Mom’s lap. He’s way too big to do that, but does it to show his annoyance with whoever else is in the room.
“What’s this about?” Mom asked from under 37 pounds of miffed puppy.
“Bruce,” Dad answered with a rueful shake of his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
A week later found them on the bench again.
“Bob,” Mr Glen started, “this just ain’t working.”
“Go on,” Mr Frogman invited. (You know what? They’re all named Bob.)
“I tried getting Bruce that fancy food,” he explained.
“And even after refusing to take him out, he won’t eat it?”
“He doesn’t like carrots,” Mr Glen explained. “So I have to pick them out.”
“You’re…you’re picking the carrots out of the dog’s food?” Two ninja cats stuck their heads out of the mint plant, giving away their position in shock.
“And he won’t eat it out of the bowl,” Mr Glen continued. “I have to feed him by hand.”
Even the vet agreed after that it was easier for everyone in the Glen household to just go out to eat. Let them know if they can pick you up a biscuit!