Good Dog, Sparky

Please Note: This is (sort of) a true story.  Names, dog breeds, cities, careers, etc., have all been changed (insert theme from “Dragnet” here) to protect my friends’ privacy.

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Reginald and Sarah live in a sweet little two-story home in San Diego.  Sarah had found the place, oh, a dozen years ago.  It had needed quite a bit of work.  Over the years, they had fixed the place up nicely.  Reg (rhymes with “vej”) – as he is known to his friends – loves gardening.  Sarah, who is a professional graphics designer, has a real flair for interior design.  They are both pretty handy with tools and, since they are personable and intelligent people, have over the years built a good network of friends and acquaintances in the greater San Diego area.

Reg had founded a specialty tea importing company in the early 1990’s.  “T-Reg” was fairly successful and enabled them to have a comfortable if not affluent life.  But having one’s own business is a time-consuming proposition.  Between the demands of T-Reg and the restoration of their home and one or two hobbies, the time had never seemed “just right” for children.

Sarah and Reg are happy, healthy, and middle-aged.

Dan and Nicky are friends of Reg and Sarah’s.  They are about the same age as their San Diego friends. Nicky, like Sarah, is also an interior designer.  In fact the two women had met in design school, where they’d become life-long friends.  Dan, in his younger days, had been a motorcycle racer: track, mostly, but occasional motocross.  

Eventually, Dan’s injuries accumulated to the point where he realized that he needed to do something a little less physically demanding (and damaging).  He leveraged some of his racing contacts into a motorcycle sales position, where he’d excelled.  He was enthusiastic about the products, new the business inside and out.  Dan is also a bit of a trickster.  

Nicky and Dan live in the Sacramento area, and they have a dog.  The dog’s name is “Sparky”.  Sparky is a very smart, energetic Jack Russell Terrier.

The two couples genuinely enjoy hanging out together and usually get together several times each year.  When their schedules permit it, they sometimes vacation together.  The one bit of, oh, non-congruence in their friendship revolves around Sparky.  Reg and Sarah don’t mind dogs, but they really aren’t what you’d call “dog people.”  They notice Sparky when they come to Sacramento, but they never really interact with him, except to make polite noises when Dan demonstrates Sparky’s latest trick or clever behavior.

So when Nicky and Dan come to San Diego for a visit, they generally board Sparky or hire a neighbor to come over and look after him.  

Unfortunately, Sparky had gotten hurt just a few days before a long-planned visit south.  Dan had been training him to do some jumps and one of the hoops had fallen.  It wasn’t serious, but Sparky had a cut on his right hind leg that needed tending.

So Dan called and asked if they might this time bring Sparky with them to visit Reg and Sarah in San Diego.  Truth be known, Dan expected so hear a hearty, “Sure!  Bring him along.  I’m sure he’ll have a fun visiting too!”

Instead, the line got very quiet.

After a pause, Reg said, “Well… I suppose that’d be okay.  He’s well-trained and all, right?”

“Sure he is.  He’s not a pup; he’s a smart dog.  Loves to hang out with people.”

“Okay… um, where will he sleep?”

“We’ll bring his dog carrier.  He’s used to it and we’ll put it in the guest bedroom with us.  Hey, thanks a lot.  This’ll be great!”

“Oh… well, can he, er, go all night without needing to…”

“What? Go outside?  Sure.  He’s in his prime.  Great self control.  No worries there!”

“Well, that sounds fine.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.  Fine, then.  We’ll look forward to er, Sparky being part of the party.”

So you see where this is going, don’t you?

Dan was uncharacteristically quiet after he hung up the phone.  After a few minutes, he chuckled, then laughed out loud.  Nicky looked up from her book and raised an eyebrow.  Dan just shook his head and laughed some more.  Then he grabbed his car keys.

“Be right back.  Just thought of something to bring.”

“Don’t bring a bunch of stuff.  We are only staying weekend.”

“Right.”

Dan was indeed gone only a few minutes.  When he returned, he got busy packing the car.  This occupied the better part of an hour.  Later, he and Nicky (and Sparky of course) spent a pleasant evening and turned in early.  First thing in the morning, they and Sparky were in the car heading south.

It’s almost a straight shot down Interstate 5 from Sacramento to San Diego.  In good traffic conditions, you can make the trip in well under 8 hours.  Our intrepid travelers made it in 7 1/2, including pit stops.  When they arrived at Reg & Sarah’s place, there were many hugs and kisses all around.  Sparky, happy to be out of his carrier and able to romp trotted all around the two couples emitting the occasional cheerful bark.  Had Sparky been in top form, he would probably have circled the yard at top speed and performed a few impromptu tricks.  As it was, he settled for a more sedate display of enthusiasm.

Despite Reg’s unspoken misgivings, Sparky was a great houseguest.  The dog was indeed well-trained and – like many Jack Russels – was excruciatingly cute.  The weekend passed uneventfully (with regards to the canine addition to the party) and all too quickly.  By mid-afternoon on Sunday, the car was again packed.  Sparky was again in his carrier.  Again, there were hugs and kisses all around, and the travelers headed north.

Dan seemed uncharacteristically quiet on the return trip.  Two hours into the trip, Nicky, who was taking a turn at the wheel, asked if he were feeling well.

“Oh, I’m fine,” came the brief reply.

“Well, you’re kind of quiet.”

“Am I?”

“Yes, you are.  Did something happen that I should know about?”

“Well… remember when I ran out to the store right before we packed the car on Thursday night?”

“Hmmm… yes, I do remember.  You said you thought of something to bring.”

“Right.  It was sort of a joke on Reg, but he didn’t react at all.”

“Exactly what sort of a trick, Dan?” Nicky wanted to know. Suddenly, it got cooler in the car.  In his carrier, Sparky pricked up his ears.  He recognized that tone of voice and knew that something was up.

“Oh, well.  Nothing much…”

“Dan…”  The temperature is now dropping precipitously.

“Oh.  Do you know those rubber dog turds?”

“Rubber what?!”

“Rubber dog turds.  You can get ‘em at Phil’s Novelty & Magic in the mall.  It’s a little store sort of near Macy’s…”

“Dan.  You didn’t!”

“Well… I thought it’d be funny.  After I got all our stuff out of the guest room, I left a rubber dog turd in the room… in plain sight of the hall.”

“Oh, Dan!  That’s awful.  How old are you?  That’s humor fit for an ill-behaved middle-schooler.  You know that was the first time we’ve ever brought Sparky with us on a visit!”

“Yeah, well, it’s not that big a deal.”

Just then Dan’s cell phone rang.  It was Reg.  Reg was half-laughing and half annoyed.  He had indeed noticed the fake dog deposit.  Not wanting to embarrass his guests, he carefully picked it up with a tissue and flushed it down the toilet.  Oops.

No more than 15 minutes after Nicky, Dan, and Sparky had hit the road, a toilet backed up at Sarah & Reg’s.  They’d called a plumber who’d arrived about an hour later and immediately located the rubber dog turd right near the cleanout.  The plumber had obviously been a bit puzzled, but he was used to finding odd things in drains.

Dan, now more than a little sheepish (and very conscious of Nicky’s icy stare) apologized profusely for his ill-considered practical joke.  He insisted that Reg send him the bill for the plumber.  Reg argued but eventually allowed himself to be convinced and promised to send it along.  After a few more back-and-forth pleasantries, they hung up.

It was quiet in the car for a while.  Then Dan, unable to dampen his natural spirits, started laughing.  After a while, Nicky gave up being irritated and even she smiled a little.

Dan leaned over his shoulder.  “Good dog, Sparky,” he whispered.

© Michael C. Glaviano 2009 - 2016