Who: Charlie, Royce, Rosemary What: Royce gets a bath and Rosemary wakes to a killer headache When: Sunday afternoon, September 27 Where: New Hope Veterinary Clinic
Despite the dropping fall temperature, the weekend of the big county-wide New Hope Veterinary Clinic Dog Wash turned out to be delightfully sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep the canine groomers cool. Dog owners from miles away lined up inside the reception area and along the streets, chatting idly to each other about themselves, their pets, and their children's accomplishments.
Inside, Doc was registering pet owners, checking their tags, and handing them business cards with numbers written on the back. The number represented their order in line for dog washing. As much as Doc normally disliked dealing with patients, his alternative was to put his hands all over dirty, smelly, feces-encrusted dogs. Much fun as that sounded, he ordered Charlie to manage the fuzzy patients as well as keep an eye on those two workers from the Pound that were known for hiding behind the shed and reading magazines.
Through the back door was where the action took place. Normally, it was a private parking space for all employees working in the strip, but Charlie didn't have a car, and Doc always parked right out front, anyway. The only thing back there nowadays was the large shed Doc bought on sale and rigged with cages to house the animals they cared for.
Today, the parking lot saw more activity than usual. Each of the three parking spots allotted to the clinic served as a washing station, set up with its own hose, wash tub, carton of dog shampoo and dog washer. Charlie and Tom the animal control guy each took their own space and the two shelter employees took the last one. Jake was standing by the shed, alternating between bringing one of the shelter dogs kept in the cages and one of the house pets from the clinic. It was an effective system that helped them all get through about a dozen dogs every hour.
Charlie just finished toweling down a 160lb Great Dane named Max. Max was found about three months ago with more fleas than a circus and a number of bald patches from scratching, but now, he was happy, he was healthy, and he had Charlie on her back, licking her face joyously.
"Okay, okay, okay!" Charlie laughed, shoving him off of her. Next to the crate of shampoo was a box of Milkbones, and she happily gave one to Max. Max swallowed the thing whole and barked his approval. "Alright, yeah, yeah, you're welcome. Hey Jake, can you take him and bring me another dog?"
"Sure thing, Charlie," Jake said, approaching her station with a leash. He clipped the attachment to Max's collar and clicked his tongue to get the big dog's attention. Max barked and trotted next to him back to the shed. Inside, Max was coerced with a bowl of dog food back into his cage, where he was left. "Alright, then, who's next?"
The cage next to Max's was dark save for a pair of glowing golden eyes. Jake leaned down to peer in closer.
The dog was large, for sure, but not nearly Max's bulk, with coarse, russet fur and long, thin limbs. Its coat was thick with dirt and mud caked its paws- definitely a great candidate for a bath.
"Guess you're up next, buddy," Jake said, turning the lock and opening the cage door. There didn't appear to be any sort of a collar on the beast, so he improvised and looped the leash around itself to make a noose to gently hang over the dog's head. "Come on, boy, let's get you shiny and clean."
Charlie swiped the back of her hand over her forehead and took another swig from her water bottle. Even though it couldn't have been any higher than 70 degrees, the dogs were energetic enough to work her into a bit of a light sweat. She removed her windbreaker and tied it around her waist, then turned up the volume on her Walkman. The tape was an assortment of different songs she liked on the radio that she recorded for herself to listen to while at work. Right now, Savage Garden was crooning softly in her ear, and she hummed along to its tune while she waited for her next client.
"Here you go, Charlie," Jake said cheerfully. "A handsome young stud that's just waiting to have your hands all over him."
She laughed. "Honestly, Jake, if you weren't so good at your job, I'd say you should go for the comedy route- you're a riot, really."
"Yeah, yeah, tomato, tomahto," Jake said, laughing. He tied the dog to the leash post in front of her station and went on to collect Tom's finished dog.
Charlie fiddled with her Walkman to get to a song she liked before leaning down to pick up her hose. "Okay, big guy, time to get you- oh crap."