Roy DeSoto studied his partner John Gage as the dark-haired man put his tennis shoes on, ready to head home after a slow shift. He seemed different during their time on duty, but the older paramedic couldn't quite put his finger on why. Nothing special had happened in the past twenty-four hours, yet this morning Johnny seemed even happier than usual to be getting off duty.
"You got a big day with a girl planned or something?" Roy asked as Johnny tossed his keys up in the air.
After catching the keys, Gage looked over at his partner, puzzled. "No, why?"
"You just seem too anxious. . .almost elated . . .to be getting out of here. You’re actually more over the top than usual."
"Oh cute!" Johnny gave Roy a disgusted look. "It just so happens, I’ve got someone to go home to for a change.” He noticed Roy’s eyebrows rise up in curiosity. “Not that kind of someone. A puppy . . .you know . . .a pet."
"A puppy? I thought your landlady didn't allow pets.”
"Well, she agreed to this one because someone dumped him on the freeway day before yesterday and I found him wandering on the side of the road. And it’s only temporary till I can find him a permanent home,” he added. He eyed his partner warily. “You wouldn’t want another dog, would ya?”
Roy shook his head. “No thanks. One’s enough.”
“I had a feelin’ you’d say that.”
“How come you didn’t say anything to any of us about rescuing a dog on the freeway?”
Johnny shrugged. “I thought about asking the others if they would adopt him. But after the experience with the kittens, I figured it was hopeless anyway.”
“Well, that’s good of your landlady to kind of change the rule so the dog can have a home for now.”
“Yeah, I thought so too. I do have to keep him as quiet as possible and scoop up after him. . .uh . . .you know. . .outside,” Gage admitted.
“Sounds reasonable. But what’s he gonna do when you’re here on duty for twenty-four hours at a time and he’s there by himself? Like what’s he doing now? You’re gonna go home to a mess.”
“Mrs. Mullins said she’ll watch after him. In fact he’s there now. She’s kind of taken by ‘im, so it’s okay. He's a good puppy, Roy. Very well behaved. It shouldn’t be any problem.”
Roy gave it some thought. “Uh huh,” he said doubtfully. “I think I’d give it a little more time before I’d be so sure on how well behaved this puppy is.”
Johnny shook his head. “Roy, Roy, Roy. It didn't take much time. His personality came shining through as soon as I picked him up.” He beamed. “Besides, how much trouble can a puppy be anyway?"
“How much time have ya got?”
“Ha ha! Don’t forget I did fine with Bonnie and Sam.” The younger man grinned. “Wait till you see the little guy, Roy. Maybe we can come over and visit soon.”
“I'm not sure my own dog would like that, but maybe it can be arranged. How old is the puppy?”
The two started walking out toward the parking lot
“He's about seven weeks old, I think. He still has his baby teeth. The pup looks like a little black bear with brown paws. I should give ‘im a name, I guess, but I’m not sure what to call ‘im for now.”
“How about Freeway?” When he saw Johnny shake his head, Roy passed on offering more name suggestions and opened his car door. “See you tomorrow. Give me a call if you need help with your new friend.”
Johnny nodded as Roy got in his vehicle and drove away.
“Hmmph. Need help with my new friend. I can handle a puppy,” Johnny muttered as he got into his Land Rover and headed for home to get his new foster pet from his landlady Deidra Mullins.
When Johnny arrived at the apartment building, he saw Mrs. Mullins out in front of the office with the puppy. He parked his truck and walked toward the pair.
“How’d he do yesterday?”
The landlady looked up at the approaching man and smiled. “Very well. Only one accident when I picked him up to bring him out. Seems when he sees the great outdoors, he can’t help but let loose.”
The paramedic grimaced as he stepped up beside the two. “Sorry.” Suddenly the puppy was up on its hind legs, front paws on Johnny’s right calf. Wagging its tail, it whimpered for him to pick it up. When he bent down to do so, he noticed a small wet trickle of a stain on his pant leg. “Ah man. You didn’t. . .”
“He’s just excited to see you!” Mrs. Mullins said.
“He could’ve shown it another way.”
“Oh, he’ll grow out of it. It just means he likes you. A lot.”
Grow out of it? Johnny thought. “You mean this is a puppy thing? That’ll happen every time I come home?”
Mrs. Mullins smiled at the distressed look on his face. “It’s just puppy pee.”
Johnny picked up the dog and held him in outstretched arms to look at his face. “What ever happened to just waggin’ your tail and jumping around all excited?” The dog wagged his tail and Johnny brought him against his chest. The pup licked his chin. “Alright, alright. I forgive ya.” He glanced down at the wet stain on his pants. I guess . . . “Thanks again, Mrs. Mullins.”
She reached out to pet the pup. “I enjoyed having him around.”
Johnny smiled as he started toward the apartments.
“Oh, one more thing!” His landlady called out.
The paramedic turned around and waited for the information.
“When I took him out behind the building yesterday, he started yelping, then licking his front left paw. I picked him up to look at it and an ant was on it. Apparently it bit him. He was okay after a few minutes, but I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about him getting near anymore ants.”
“Okay, thanks.” He turned and headed for the apartments again. “So you got wounded,” he said, patting the puppy on the head. “Good thing you’re livin’ with a paramedic. . .for now anyway. ”
First thing when they got into Johnny’s apartment, the paramedic set the pup in the bathtub while he changed out of his uniform and into a pair of gray sweat pants and white t-shirt. Johnny had learned the first day not to let the pup run loose in the apartment. A partially chewed shoe and pee pee puddle on the kitchen floor had taught him that.
He could hear the dog quietly whining as it waited for him to return. “I’m comin’,” Johnny said as he stepped into the bathroom. He looked at the ignored rubber hamburger toy at one end of the tub and the pup at the other. “You know, time would go a lot faster for ya if you just played while ya waited.” The little tail wagged as the dog anticipated being picked up. “Ready for some breakfast?” Johnny asked as he leaned over and brought the pup up to his chest. The two headed toward the kitchen.
Johnny sat down at the table, a bowl of Trix cereal in front of him. He looked over at the puppy busy chewing dog food.
“You know, ya really need a name.”
Apparently not as concerned, the little animal kept eating.
“Let’s see. . .” He studied the pup hoping a name would come to mind. None did. “Maybe I need to get to know ya better.”
Johnny finished his cereal, then sat back and watched the dog eat the rest of its food. When it was done, Gage pushed back his chair and got to his feet.
“I’ll bet you could use some good exercise after that big meal. Whatcha say we go for a walk?”
The little dog wagged its tail as he stared at Johnny.
“I’ll take that as a yes. There’s a park we can drive to not far from here. Jus’ let me get my shoes and socks on.”
As Johnny walked out of the kitchen, the pup followed close at his heels, then ran in front of him, jumping about in excitement.
“Whoa.” The paramedic caught him and put him in the tub. The little dog started whimpering as soon as Johnny turned away. Giving in, he took him back out and the two went into the bedroom.
Gage quickly grabbed what he needed, then sat down on the edge of his bed. “I think I’ve got your name figured out. Since you like to follow me around so much, Shadow seems to fit.” He took a second look at the dog when he noticed it squatting.
A little wet spot was visible on the rug after Shadow cowered back. “Bad boy!” Johnny scorned, pointing a finger. He walked over in stocking feet and picked up the pup, taking him into the bathroom again. When he saw the sad brown eyes staring up at him from the white porcelain tub, Johnny’s anger diminished considerably. “I’d better watch it or you’ll have me wrapped around your little paw in no time.”
Soon Johnny was on his hands and knees on his bedroom floor trying to blot up the small stain with an old t-shirt.
Guess I’ll have to invest in a rug cleaner of some kind. What was it I said to Roy? How much trouble can a puppy be. . .? Maybe with a little luck, we’ll meet his new owner while we’re out and I won’t have to worry about it anymore.
A sudden yelping sound had him on his feet and dashing to the bathroom. When he got into the room, he shook his head in disbelief. Shadow had part of his right front paw wedged underneath the edge of the drain plug that was attached to the inside of the drain opening.
“How did you manage to do this?” Johnny asked as he carefully freed the foot. The pup licked at its paw and his hand as the paramedic checked it over. “Man, you sure know how to find trouble.” He sat back on his heels and reached out to pet the pup’s head. “If you can avoid anymore problems, I’ll get my shoes on and we’ll go.”
Shadow went about happily playing with the rubber hamburger in the tub.
Johnny glanced at Shadow as the pup stood on the passenger seat, his front paws on the door as he peered out the open window of the Land Rover with his snout tilted up. The little dog’s head just reached evenly with the bottom edge of the opening, thus he mainly could only watch what towered above the truck, nothing at ground level.
“Not much to see, is there?” The paramedic said with a smile. But the smile faded when he saw Shadow start to heave.
Oh no. . .
Gage quickly pulled off to the side of the street, jumped out and hurried to get around the front of his Land Rover. The paramedic nearly collided with a car as the driver attempted to pull into an empty space just in front of him. Both paused a few seconds, waiting for the other to make the next move. Johnny gave the driver a brief apologetic grin and wave, then continued to the other side of the Rover. He opened the door, hoping he wasn’t too late. Luckily Shadow was still just looking uncomfortable as the little dog continued to heave, unaware of what lay ahead of him. Johnny plopped the pup on the ground just in time for it to vomit the earlier dog food breakfast onto the sidewalk. A few passersby shot the pair disgusted glares. Johnny gave a sheepish shrug to the onlookers as he squatted down by his pet.
“What’re ya tryin’ to do, get me killed?” He whispered. Sad brown eyes looked up at him; little black ears that normally stood vertical folded down and back against the pup’s head. Johnny once again found it easy to forgive. “Ah man, that’s okay. It’s not all your fault. If I’d been thinkin’ more clearly, I could’ve slid over and out with you instead of jumping into the street.” He smiled as Shadow’s tail began to wag, his ears once again pointing skyward. “Well, you’re gonna hafta wait in the Rover while I clean up this. . .mess,” Johnny said with a grimace. He picked up the dog and placed him in the truck, then closed the door. After getting an old rag from the rear of the vehicle to pick up the previously eaten dog food and tossing the bundle in a trash can a half block away, Johnny got back into the Land Rover and pulled into the street.
“I hope things go better at the park.”
Feeling much better, Shadow was already preoccupied with his efforts to look out the window.
Johnny pulled his Land Rover into the parking lot of the outdoor recreation area. With the place not very busy, he found an empty space for the Land Rover right away.
“I forgot you’d need a leash, but I guess since there aren’t a lot of people here, we should be okay.”
As if in agreement, Shadow licked his right forearm.
Gage gathered the pup under his arm and together they made their way over to a pedestrian path nearby. With Shadow on the ground, Johnny took up a jogging pace as the pup ran a few feet ahead of him, occasionally coming back and jumping around the man in excitement.
Johnny was enjoying the quiet time with the pup. It was a nice change from the pressure he’d felt with the last two dogs he’d taken care of. With Paula Slaton’s dog Bonnie, Johnny had not been able to even sleep in his own bed. . .at home and at the station.
"You know, Shadow, keeping you was one of the smartest things I've ever done." He grinned as he watched his pup run along just in front of him.
Suddenly a chipmunk ran across the walkway, causing Shadow to give immediate chase. Caught by surprise, Johnny began to chase after the two small animals. The chipmunk and Shadow were both small enough that they were easily able to dart in under the bushes that were in the park. Johnny was having to run around the larger bushes and hurtle over the smaller ones. He finally lost sight of the two animals, and looked around desperately trying to spot any sign of his dog.
"Shadow!" Gage hollered. "Shadow. . .Here, boy!"
Not getting a response, he kept walking in the direction he last saw them going and kept calling out as he went along. "Shadow! C'mere, boy!"
Suddenly, Johnny heard a whimpering noise off in the distance behind some bushes. As he got closer, he realized it was Shadow. He broke into a run until he reached a point on the other side where he could see the pup. Johnny came to an abrupt halt when he spotted Shadow, his back against a rock and small garden snake curled up by the bush in front of him. Shadow was quivering and whimpering in fright while he stared at the snake.
Johnny shook his head. "You crazy dog. It's only a little snake." He picked up the pup and carried him back to the pathway. When he set Shadow down again, he put the leash back on the dog, but Shadow was still too scared to move. Johnny sighed again and picked the puppy up. Cradling him in one arm, he took him back to the Land Rover.
On the drive home, Johnny kept glancing at Shadow, wondering if they were going to have a repeat performance of the upset stomach. Much to the paramedic’s relief, it was an uneventful trip.
Once back at the apartment, he let the little dog do his business before taking him inside again. But not more than twenty-five minutes later, he caught Shadow getting in position to go again.
“Oh no ya don’t,” Johnny sad as he picked the young dog up. “We’re avoiding anymore accidents if I have to spend the rest of the day outside with ya.”
Little did Johnny know, the remainder of his day would indeed center on frequent puppy potty breaks.
Roy came into the locker room at the station and smiled at the worn look on his partner’s face as he sat on the edge of the bench.
“I take it you found out how much trouble a puppy can be?”
The younger man shook his head. “I don’t get it.”
“How a little dog can have to go to the bathroom so many times in a day when he hasn’t even drank that much water in between. I mean,” he began with a wave of his arm, “I must’ve taken him out every thirty minutes, give or take a few. And if he ran around the apartment playing, it made it even worse. By the time I’d open the door, he’d see the outside and that alone triggered a response. ‘Course, I guess I was kinda warned about that. . .”
Roy smiled as he opened his locker. “At least he’s telling you when he needs to go.”
Johnny shook his head. “It’s only because I was right there when he started to squat that I avoided him having another accident. He doesn’t tell me a thing. Well, except when he’s hungry or thirsty, of course, because then it’s to his advantage.”
“He will. It just takes time.”
“How long was it before your dog was housebroke?”
Roy paused, his uniform shirt in his hands. “I don’t remember. He’s six years old.”
“I can’t wait till someone takes Shadow.”
“Well, I had to name ‘im something.”
“Where’ve I heard that before?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. . .and I did give Sam away after I named her if you recall.”
Roy buttoned his shirt. “You’re right. But this seems a little different.”
“The only thing that’s different is this dog’s a boy and my landlady is in agreement to let ‘im stay for a short time.”
“Let who stay?” Chet wondered, as he walked into the room from the dorm. “You get a roommate, Gage?”
“He got a dog,” Roy explained. Right away he could tell by the shocked look on his partner’s face that he shouldn’t have opened his mouth. “Kind of. . .”
“A dog? Again? John, when will ya learn--”
“I don’t own him, Chet. He’s just stayin’ with me till I find ‘im a home.”
“You sure are a sucker for a pretty face. Who was the chick who talked you into it this time?”
“It wasn’t a chick. I found him wandering out on the side of the freeway. With no one around to claim the little guy, I figured he was abandoned.”
Johnny expected a smart remark from the fireman. But instead Chet seemed to turn sincere.
“I’d take him, but I can’t have pets either. How old is he? Maybe I can ask around.”
“He’s about seven weeks old. He’s black with brown paws. He’ll be gettin’ his shots tomorrow, so if you talk to anyone, be sure and let ‘em know that’ll be taken care of.”
“Sure. I’ll go call a friend of mine now. I think I’ve got time,” Chet said looking at his watch.
As Kelly turned to leave, Johnny made a comment to Roy. “You know, the dog’s afraid of snakes. He got cornered by a garden snake yesterday in the park.”
Chet stopped in his tracks and faced Gage. “Your dog is afraid of snakes? What’dya do, tell him about the rattler that bit ya?”
Johnny scowled at Chet, annoyed. “Don’t even bring that up. It’s probably because he hadn’t seen one before, so he was spooked.”
“Face it, Gage; you’re already rubbin’ off on the dog. I sure hope my friend wants him or next thing ya know, he’ll be striking out with the female dogs in the park, too.”
“I don’t strike out with chicks in the park.”
“Johnny doesn’t normally go to the park to hang out. Not till he got the dog,” Roy added. Again he could tell his partner didn’t appreciate the ‘help’. DeSoto shrugged and carried on getting dressed.
“But if he did, he’d have been striking out,” Chet commented.
“I would not.” Johnny argued. When he saw the smirk on Chet’s face, he sighed. “Kelly, why do you always know how to get under my skin?” he muttered.
Chet shrugged. “You’re an easy target.”
“That was a rhetorical question, Chet” Gage said wryly. He watched as the fireman went into the dorm to use the phone. “I’m not sure I wanna turn Shadow over to someone who hangs out with Chet.”
Roy shook his head. Johnny was forgetting that he himself sometimes hung out with their shiftmate.
Johnny and Roy joined Mike Stoker and Marco Lopez in the dayroom as they waited for Captain Stanley to start roll call. The men from the previous shift were yet to return from a response to an early morning house fire.
Marco looked beyond the two paramedics as they entered the room. “Have you seen Chet?”
Both men nodded, Roy answering. “He’s in the dorm making a phone call.”
“At this time in the morning? What did he do, have a hot date last night that he can’t stay away from?”
“No, he’s trying to find a home for Johnny’s puppy.” As soon as the senior paramedic said the words, he realized he’d done it again. The disbelieving stare from his partner only confirmed his thoughts. “I guess I let the cat. . .er, puppy out of the bag again.”
“Roy. . .”
“A puppy? What happened? Did Paula talk you into another one?”
Johnny sighed. “What is it with you guys? You think I’d do anything for a pretty chick?”
Mike, Marco and Roy answered in unison. “Yes.”
Gage scowled and opened his mouth to comment, when Hank Stanley stepped into the doorway and motioned for them to follow him.
“Roll call, guys. Let’s get this over with before C-shift gets back.”
“I hope Chet gets off the phone real soon, or Cap’s not gonna be very happy.”
Johnny glanced at Marco. “Well, no one better blame me if he doesn’t. Roy was the one who told him about Shadow.”
Leading the way, Roy rolled his eyes. Somehow I knew I’d end up in the middle of this. . .
Hank eyed his men after looking over his notes and letting his arm holding the clipboard drop to his side. “Where’s Kelly?”
The men exchanged glances, but were spared giving an explanation when the stocky fireman came running out of the dorm. “Sorry, Cap,” Chet said as he got in line beside Roy. He looked across Desoto to Johnny. “He said no.”
“Sorry. If I think of anyone else who might--”
The sound of Captain Stanley clearing his throat interrupted the conversation. Both Johnny and Chet looked to their supervisor. “Do you mind? I’m trying to conduct roll call.”
“Yes, sir/sorry, Cap,” came the responses.
“What’re you two up to, anyway?”
“Chet’s trying to find Johnny’s puppy a home,” Marco interjected.
Hank raised his eyebrows and pulled back in surprise. “Don’t tell me Paula Slaton’s here again.”
Johnny sighed as Roy grinned. Even Cap figures there has to be a girl involved, each man thought to himself.
After several more unsuccessful tries to find Shadow a home during the shift, Johnny was resigned to the fact that he’d have the little dog for at least a couple more days. As he and Roy returned from their last call before getting off shift, the two talked about what lay ahead.
“So you’re taking Shadow to the vet today?”
“Yeah, the appointment’s at 9:30.”
Roy took a quick glance at his partner, then returned his eyes to the road. “What’re you doing after that?”
“I dunno. I guess I could always install a revolving door on the apartment to save wear and tear on the doorknob from turning it all day,” Johnny said sarcastically.
“I’ve been thinking. Jennifer would be a good playmate for Shadow.”
Johnny’s face lit up as he turned in his seat. “You’re gonna adopt ‘im?”
“No, but you’re welcome to bring him over after you get done at the vet if you want to.”
“If I want to? Roy! This--” The younger man could tell by DeSoto’s expression that he was sounding a little more enthused than he’d planned. “I mean, I love the pup. . .he’s a cute dog. But I think he’ll really like playin’ with Jennifer.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he’s the only one who’ll be happy, huh?”
“What about your dog?” Gage asked, ignoring the comment.
“We’ll introduce them slowly. If he takes to Shadow, no problem. If he doesn’t like him, he can chew on a bone awhile in the laundry room. It won’t hurt ‘im.”
“Well, alright then. . .good deal.”
Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay. After turning the keys over to B-Shift, the two men headed for the locker room, then the parking lot.
Johnny pulled into a parking space near his apartment and got out of his Land Rover. Across the way he saw the familiar sight of Mrs. Mullins and Shadow in the grassy section of yard directly in front of the office.
The paramedic waved as he made his way over to the pair. Remembering how it had gone the last time he returned from work, Johnny stood just beyond where Shadow could reach while on the leash. He kept an eye on the dog, wanting to make sure Shadow got the ‘excited puppy peeing’ out of his system before he was able to get closer.
“I’ll say one thing for sure,” Mrs. Mullins commented with a smile.
“He sure draws the attention to himself with the other tenants.”
“Favorable attention, I hope.”
“Oh yes. The ones that have been down early this morning to pay their rent have really been great about it. One might even have a friend who can take him off your hands.”
“That’s great news.” He said the words easy enough. But Johnny had to wonder, if it was such good news, why was he feeling so uneasy at hearing it? Having noticed the little dog did his potty business, Johnny was sure he’d be safe from getting peed on. He stepped closer and leaned over to pat Shadow on the head. Much to the paramedic’s dismay, the pup stood up with front paws on his left leg and a sudden trickle of fluid ran down the outside of his pants just a little above the hem.
“Ahhhh. . .”
“I guess he’s still happy to see you.”
Johnny looked down at the puppy. “You must have a bottomless bladder. That’s all I can figure.”
He picked Shadow up and carried him toward the apartment after thanking Mrs. Mullins for once again pet sitting.
After Johnny changed clothes, and he and Shadow had breakfast, it was time to leave for the vet. Gage took the pup down to the parking lot where the animal once again relieved himself.
“Well, I can certainly tell the vet you aren’t dehydrated.”
He put the dog beside him in the passenger seat, then proceeded to back out of the parking space and head for the street.
“Now, don’t worry,” the paramedic assured. “It’s all routine stuff. A coupla--”
He stopped in mid sentence when he noticed Shadow was heaving again.
Johnny brought the vehicle to a halt on the side of the road, only this time not soon enough. The little dog was expelling the contents of his stomach all over the floor below.
“Ah man. . .did ya hafta do that?”
The poor pup looked like he was as miserable with it as his temporary owner.
“Never mind,” Johnny said with a sigh, putting the Land Rover in gear and driving back into traffic. “I’ll see if they have something at the vet’s office to clean it up. At least you missed the seat.” I’ll have to have the doc look to see what’s making him sick. . .
Gage stood inside the examination room at the veterinarians, trying to keep Shadow calm while the puppy was being checked over.
“Did you feed him just before you brought him in?”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, we both had breakfast. . .but he didn’t eat any people food,” he quickly added.
“Doesn’t matter. As a rule it’s best not to feed a dog too soon before traveling in a car. They don’t have time for the food to settle.”
“Makes sense. And I like that reason a whole lot better than the ones I thought of.”
The vet smiled. “Most people do.”
Johnny glanced around. “So do you have any paper towels I could use to clean up the floor of my Rover?”
“Sure, just ask my receptionist. She’ll get some for you.”
The paramedic looked at Shadow, who seemed like he was more then ready to get off the stark metal table and back to the comfortable setting of Johnny’s apartment. The pup hadn’t liked getting his shots at all. And being prodded here and there now wasn’t helping.
“Don’t worry, Shad. The day’s gonna get better. Just wait’ll we get to Roy’s.”
The sad puppy eyes had Gage hoping things would indeed go good at the DeSotos’.
Johnny pulled into the driveway at Roy’s house, parking behind the station wagon Joanne DeSoto drove most of the time. Having held his breath off and on while driving over due to the lingering odor of previously eaten dog food in his truck, the paramedic climbed out of his Land Rover and exhaled; he then inhaled deeply, taking in the fresh air.
Shadow stepped over to the driver’s seat and stood waiting to be taken out.
“I’m gonna hafta leave the windows open to air this thing out,” Johnny commented more to himself than the dog. “I hope it doesn’t last for a few days.”
The pup started whining as he looked down at the ground and tried to position himself to jump. Johnny reached in and picked his charge up. “Relax. We’re goin’, we’re goin’.”
Suddenly the front door of the house flew open and five-year-old Jennifer DeSoto raced outside, her eyes on the pup in Johnny’s arms.
“Can I hold ‘im? Can I puleeeeze?” She asked, reaching upward when she was near the two.
“Uh. . .I think it might be better if you wait till he gets settled down a little.”
Jennifer looked at the relaxed little dog. “He looks kinda seddled ta me.”
“Yeah, well. . .that’s ‘cause he’s in my arms and he’s used to me.” The paramedic hoped that did the trick. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea for a five-year-old to carry a young puppy. . .At least not mine. . .er, this one.
Jennifer was about to try a new approach when her dad came out to greet his partner, saving Gage from having to think of another excuse.
“Well, I see you two survived the vet.”
“Yeah. The worst part was the ride there.”
“Oh? What happened?”
“He threw up.” Johnny noticed Jennifer take a step back with a look of disgust on her face. The dark-haired paramedic couldn’t help but grin. His expression changed back to a more serious one as he went on to explain. “I fed him breakfast just before we left and his stomach didn’t have time to settle so he got sick.”
“Bet that did a number on your interior.”
“Not too bad. It all ended up on the floor, so I got most of it out. I just need to hose off the mat better later and spray a little freshener inside.”
Roy reached out and patted the pup. “Hey there, kiddo. You’re a little cutie.”
“I thought I was a cutie, Daddy. . .” Jennifer pouted.
“You are. But he is too. . .in a doggy sort of way.”
Johnny knew better than to ask Roy if he wanted the dog now that he’d seen him since Jennifer was present. It was the ultimate no-no to ask a life-altering question of a parent when their kids were nearby. And the few times he’d done it, Johnny had been made aware of the long time it took to correct the mistake. Instead he just grinned at his partner as Roy kept glancing at Shadow as they walked toward the house.
“So did he check out healthy?”
“Sure did. The vet was surprised there was no sign of worms since most pups get them. So far, so good.”
“Uh huh. Quiet, cute. ..healthy. . .will be house broken.”
“Was that directed at me or yourself?”
Jennifer walked beside Johnny, reaching up to pat Shadow’s nose when she could manage it.
Roy and Johnny sat out on the back patio as Jennifer and the two dogs played together. The DeSoto’s German Shepard was friendly with the puppy, only growling on occasion when Shadow would get carried away with his playful biting. The sound of Jennifer’s giggles carried throughout the yard.
“Man, this is the happiest I’ve seen ‘im. And Jennifer,” Gage commented.
“Yeah, well, he’s not staying.”
“Roy, how can you say that? I mean, just look. . .your daughter adores him. I’ll bet Chris will too if we’re still here when he and Joanne get back from the eye doctor. I tell ya. . .you wouldn’t have any regrets.”
“I might when he gets to be a dog.”
Johnny gave his friend a strange look.
“All puppies grow up to be dogs,” Roy explained. “That theory has saved me from having to feed an extra mouth around here many times. Every time we go in a pet store, as a matter of fact. They do cost money to feed. . .and then there’s the trips to the vet. . .neutering. . .”
“Yeah. . . “
Johnny looked across the yard to where Shadow was jumping playfully about. “I forgot about that. Man, if he only knew what was in his future, I doubt he’d be feeling so carefree right now.”
Roy glanced at Gage and waved for him to follow. “They’re doing fine. You wanna see that book on photography I was telling you about?”
“Sure.” The younger man took one more look at Shadow and the others, then followed Roy into the house.
The two paramedics sat at the kitchen table as Johnny browsed through the book. Jennifer’s giggles could still be heard as she played with the dogs. Roy cleared his throat, then asked another question.
“So how do you keep Shadow from having accidents in your apartment at night?”
“He sleeps in the tub. I put newspaper at one end and he goes on that.”
“And he doesn’t whine all night?”
“Nope. I gave him some toys. One’s a brown stuffed bear he sucks on. So he’s pretty quiet till I get up.”
“Hmmm. . .you’re lucky. I think Mayor cried all night when we first got him.”
“Don’t forget Paula’s dog, Bonnie, who had me sleepin’ with her to keep her quiet. I know I’m lucky.” He waited a minute, then couldn’t help but ask, “Roy, if you aren’t interested, why all the dog questions?”
The conversation was interrupted when Jennifer came running through the room. Both men looked on, puzzled expressions on their faces. In less than a minute, she was back with a large towel balled up in her arms.
“What’re you doing?” Roy wondered.
She continued on toward the back door.
“What do you need the towel for?”
“Nuthin’. Nuthin’s wrong, Daddy.”
“I didn’t say anything was--”
Roy and Johnny looked at one another, each with a comprehending expression on his face. Both were on their feet and heading toward the back door, right behind Jennifer.
“Jennifer, what--” Roy stopped when he saw why she wanted the towel.
Shadow was sitting on the grass, soaking wet, a garden hose nearby. With sad puppy eyes he looked to his temporary owner.
“I washed ‘im off,” the little girl explained. “He looked hot.”
Gage walked over and looked down at the wet pup. Big brown eyes looked up at him with a ‘help’ in there somewhere. "Ah man . . .Shadow, couldn't you’ve run? Or yelped for help?" He groaned.
Despite the fact he was going to have to scold his daughter about hosing someone else’s pet, Roy was grinning inside. As bad as he felt for the pup, it was kind of funny to see him looking like a drowned rat. Kind of like. . . “You know, maybe Chet was on to something.”
Johnny looked over his shoulder. “Whataya mean?”
“Maybe Shadow is starting to take after you.”
DeSoto held up a hand to stop his partner. “Think about it. Right now he does kind of look like you after the Phantom’s hit you with a water bomb. . .just a bit wetter. And you’ve gotten sick a couple of times when you were being taken into Rampart. And then there’s the snake. . .you’re not comfortable around ‘em now either.”
“Now wait a minute. . .”
Roy walked over and picked up the now shivering puppy and held him in out stretched arms. He had Jennifer place the towel over Shadow, then wrapped him up and handed him over to Johnny. “You’ve been in his situation before,” he teased. “Give him some advice.”
The younger man shook his head, then looked down at the pup in his arms. Shadow was still trembling, and looking rather pathetic. Johnny sighed. “I don’t s’pose you’d take him out of guilt.”
“I didn’t think so.”
Deciding Shadow was safer with adult supervision, Roy and Johnny played with Jennifer and the two dogs until Joanne got home with Chris. Anxious to see the puppy his dad’s partner had agreed to bring over, the young boy raced around the rear left corner of the house, opening the chain link gate that led to back yard.
Joanne followed several feet behind, hoping she wasn’t coming home to the news that they owned two dogs now. Entering the yard, she took a look at Gage’s smiling face as he stood watching the kids run with Shadow and Mayor, and shook her head.
So help me, if Roy told him we’ll take the puppy. . .
She casually walked over beside the two men and simply said, “No.”
“I’m giving my answer to Johnny about us adopting the pup. No.”
Gage frowned. “Man, you and Roy are a hard sell. I’ll bet the kids’d love to have him as a pet.”
“Yeah, especially when I end up feeding him and taking him out for walks.”
“And potty training him,” Roy added.
Joanne looked sharply at her husband. “He’s not. . .”
He shook his head.
“Now I’m really glad he’s just here to visit.”
“Ah, Joanne,” Johnny groaned teasingly. He walked over to where Shadow stood panting near the patio edge and picked him up. He then carried the pup over to the couple. Gage gently held Shadow’s chin in his fingers so that the little guy was facing directly toward them. “How can you say ‘no’ to a cutie like this?”
Again he frowned. He then put the puppy back down and sighed. “I guess it’s you and me still. Joanne was our last hope here. . .”
Shadow ran off to join the kids before Johnny had the words ‘was our’ out. “I’m glad to see you’re so concerned,” he called out to the departing pup.
The dark-haired paramedic just turned his back to the yard and opened his mouth to say something to the DeSotos when suddenly there was a yelp, and the kids started hollering for help.
“What happened?” he asked as he ran to check on his pet.
Chris and Jennifer shrugged. “He just yelped and started limping,” the boy explained.
Roy and Joanne joined the group as Johnny squatted down to examine Shadow’s front right paw. It was curled up and the dog was holding it off the ground. When he forced the pads apart to look between them, Gage saw a red ant down inside. “Ah ha. He must’ve stepped on a . . .ouch! Ow! Man!” He quickly picked up the pup and jumped back in one swift movement. “What the. . .?”
Roy leaned forward. “An ant pile. And you two were almost right on top of it. I’ll have to get the Diazinon out from the shed.”
“Great. I didn’t notice it with the grass kinda hiding it.” Johnny swatted at a few more ants that were crawling on his shoes. He then rubbed at the two bites on his ankle. “Man, they hurt.”
“C’mon inside and I’ll give you something to put on them,” Joanne offered. “Bring Shadow. Maybe we can put a cold cloth on his paw.”
Roy glanced over his shoulder as he headed for the shed. “You know this just reinforces Chet’s theory.”
The younger man shook his head. “This has nothing to do with us being alike.” He looked at the whimpering pup in his arms with the still curled up paw, then down at the area where he could feel the sting from the ant bites. He’s not even my dog. . .
Johnny applied ointment to the ant bites, then looked up at Joanne with the puppy lying on her lap, a cool damp cloth being held on his sore foot. The dark-haired paramedic smiled.
Maybe she’ll change her mind. . .
“My land lady didn’t think he’d get near ants again.”
Joanne took her eyes off of Shadow and brought her attention to Johnny. “Again?”
He nodded. “A few days ago, he got bit by one and I guess he was hurtin’ for quite a while. Either that or he milked it for all it was worth,” Gage snorted. “She figured he’d run at the first sight of one now.”
She stroked Shadow’s head as the dog sighed. “Well, he probably didn’t see them in the grass either. Did ya, boy?”
Johnny couldn’t stop smirking. It seemed as if the vulnerable puppy was winning Joanne over.
She pulled the cloth away and ‘tisk’d’ at the little paw that was still curled up in pain. Shadow whimpered and tried to lick at the foot.
“Awe, you poor little guy.”
“Hey, what about me? He’s not the only one who could use some sympathy here,” Johnny teased.
Joanne shook her head. “You’re a big boy. You can handle it.”
“Sounds like something Dixie would say,” Roy stated as he came into the kitchen. He looked around, noticing two people he expected to see with the wounded puppy were missing. “Where’re the kids?”
“In the other room making get well cards for Shadow.”
Roy rolled his eyes. As Joanne’s words sank in, he got a feeling something else was going on. “You haven’t changed your mind on adopting the dog, have you?”
Both he and Johnny waited anxiously for her reply, each hoping for a different answer. Joanne patted Shadow’s head again. “No.” She looked at their guest. “I’m sorry, Johnny, but a puppy’s a lot of work and expense. I just don’t think it would be a good idea for us.”
Gage nodded in understanding. “It’s okay, Joanne.” He reached out and tapped Shadow on the nose. “We’ll keep lookin’ for someone who’s ready for a puppy.”
The woman glanced at her husband. Both felt bad in a sense, but they knew it would be a commitment that would radically change things around the house.
On the way home Johnny tried to think of who else he could ask about taking Shadow.
I don’t wanna give him to just anyone.
The paramedic decided he would call the various fire stations in the area and leave word that Shadow still needed a home. Glancing at the puppy in the seat next to him, Johnny shook his head. The little dog was still whimpering and licking at his front paw.
“Either you got bit a lot worse than I did, or you really do milk this attention getting stuff.”
A slight tail wag had him thinking his companion knew exactly what he was talking about.
The next day, Johnny decided to take Shadow on a hike. After a long drive made even more so with doggy potty breaks along the way, the two arrived near the Angeles National Forest.
Johnny parked in a dirt lot along the road and walked around to the passenger side of his Land Rover. He opened the door and lifted Shadow out, placing him on the ground. While the little dog sniffed around the immediate area, the paramedic went to the rear of the vehicle and got out a backpack with snack food for both he and Shadow, as well as a canteen and his camera.
After closing the back end of the Land Rover, Johnny looked down at the pup. He was sitting in anticipation.
Gage smiled. “You ready, boy?”
The answer was an obvious ‘yes’ as the small dog wagged his tail. The two headed for a nearby trail, Shadow staying close to Johnny’s heals as they explored the outdoors.
Not long into the adventure, Johnny stopped to take a swig from his canteen when he noticed Shadow take a bite of gravel off the ground.
“What’re ya doin’?” he asked, as if he’d get an answer. He squatted down and quickly opened the pup’s mouth. “Spit it out, man! You aren’t supposed to eat that stuff!”
When nothing came out and the little dog struggled to get free, Johnny picked him up and looked inside his mouth. Nothing but some remnants of dirt. . . “Man, ya dumb dog. Why’dya’ go and eat the gravel for? Why didn’t ya just let me know you were hungry? Man, this can’t be good.”
As if in answer, Shadow started to heave. Johnny sighed and put the pup on the ground again and watched as he vomited up some pebbles. The animal appeared to be more than uncomfortable with the situation. He took a few steps before heaving and throwing up again.
“Man, how much did ya eat, Shad?” Realizing he was still questioning something that couldn’t begin to answer, Johnny decided they’d have to call it quits as far as the hike went and make a call to the vet.
As they walked back to the Land Rover, Shadow stayed even closer to his temporary owner’s feet, almost tripping the paramedic up a couple of times. Johnny looked down at his companion and shook his head. “I can’t believe you ate gravel.”
The puppy’s sad eyes glanced up at Johnny, then focused on the path ahead. Walking several minutes after another brief stop to vomit a few more pebbles, the vehicle was finally in sight.
Once they were situated inside, Gage looked over at his passenger. “It’s gonna be a long drive home if I gotta stop every time you look like your gonna be sick.”
Shadow laid down on the seat and let out a loud sigh.
Johnny pulled the Land Rover over to the side of the road when Shadow began to act like he was going to be sick again. He quickly got the dog out of the car and sure enough. . .the little guy vomited, just missing Johnny’s shoes. Only this time there wasn’t any sign of pebbles or dirt. It was mostly just saliva.
Gage grabbed his canteen from the seat and opened it up, pouring some into his cupped hand. He held it out for Shadow to drink. As he watched the puppy lap up the liquid, he made conversation with his little buddy.
“Looks like you may’ve gotten most of the gravel out of your stomach. I guess if you keep improving, we can skip the vet.”
The puppy continued to lick Johnny’s wet hand, the puddle of water already gone. He then looked up and whimpered, glancing to the hand and back to the paramedic’s face again.
“Okay, just a little more. We do wanna make it home before too long, you know.”
Shadow wagged his tail as he watched more water go into the still cupped hand. While the little dog drank his serving, Johnny put the canteen to his own mouth and took a swig.
Many miles and a few puppy potty breaks later, Johnny and Shadow were home. As he opened the front door to his apartment, the paramedic set Shadow down on the floor and stepped inside.
“Well, whata we do with the rest of the day?” he asked. Although quite a bit of it had gone by. It was late afternoon already.
Feeling like he needed some exercise after the long period of time traveling to and from The Angeles National Forest, Johnny raised his arms above his head and stretched; he then bent over and touched his toes.
Shadow sat staring in curiosity, his head cocked to the side.
Johnny noticed the pup and snorted. “Relax. I’m just gettin’ a few kinks out.” He got down on the floor and began to do a sit-up when Shadow suddenly pounced on his stomach, causing the paramedic to lay back in surprise.
“Hey. . .”
The little dog took off and ran the full parameter of the room, darting along the edges of the furniture, before returning to Johnny on the floor. He then pounced again, this time playfully on the man’s chest.
Johnny snickered and patted the pup’s head. “I guess we both needed some exercise after that long ride. Looks like you’re gonna be okay too. Good deal.”
The two wrestled on the floor a bit, Gage finally feeling like he was getting the hang of owning a dog. Only problem was, he didn’t. Shoving that thought aside, he continued to play with the puppy. Both were enjoying the game until suddenly Shadow’s sharp baby teeth raked across the back of Johnny’s hand.
The play stopped as he inspected the wounds while the dog watched with sad eyes.
“Doesn’t look too bad, boy. Just hurts like hell.”
Shadow’s reaction was to run to the door, his bladder problems more important to him than a few scratches. Johnny got to his feet and picked the dog up. As soon as the outdoors came into view, and while still in the medic’s arms, the puppy piddled on his best friend.
“Oh man! You were doin’ so good ‘til now!”
Well, there’s no need to take him outside now. . .
Stepping back inside, Johnny put down the dog, and looked at the wet stain on his shirt and jeans. “You know, I need to take a shower before we do anything else.”
The puppy followed alongside down the hall and into the bathroom. The paramedic shut the door behind them so as to keep his apartment from getting torn apart while he cleaned up. He handed Shadow the rubber hamburger and toy bear to play with while he showered.
The soap stung as it hit the scratches on his hand. Johnny found himself sucking in air as he quickly rinsed the suds off. Man, that hurts!
All of a sudden he felt something hit his feet. He looked down to see the rubber hamburger in the tub. The paramedic sighed and tossed it out through a crack between the wall and the shower curtain. It wasn’t but twenty seconds later and here came the hamburger again, out from under the bottom of the curtain.
“Man, would ya knock it off?” he asked as he tossed it over the top of the rod. “We’ll play again, just lemme get done!”
A minute later, the stuffed bear slipped into the tub. Johnny bent over to pick it up, when he noticed the curtain moving near the bottom edge. Much to his surprise, Shadow suddenly managed to pop in the same way the bear had.
“Now, wait a minute. . .how’d you. . .?” Never mind the how, he thought. I’m now taking a shower with a dog!
“Oooooh noooo. You’re not stayin’ in here.” He picked the wet puppy up under the front legs and placed him out on the floor. Peeking around the curtain, he said, “Stay out of the shower!” The bear soon joined the dog.
Just when he thought Shadow had gotten the hint, the bear, followed by the little dog, joined him in the shower again. Johnny sighed as the pup started licking up water. Soapy water.
“Wait! You’re gonna make yourself sick!”
He hurriedly picked up the dog and placed him on the floor again, this time not worrying about the toy bear that was soaked. The paramedic quickly rinsed off and stepped out just in time to see how Shadow climbed in the tub.
The little puppy stood on his hind legs, his front paws on the edge of the tub. He then stretched his neck, pushing his head forward, while he hopped with both feet leaving the ground. With just enough leverage and a lot of determination, not to mention a tiny bit of growth over the past few days, the little dog managed to get to a near teetering point and then slide in over the side.
Johnny shook his head. “So much for the tub being a safe place to keep ya.”
He’d have to think of a more secure place to put the pup when nightfall came.
Shortly after drying off, the two buddies were in the livingroom; Johnny nursing his sore hand and Shadow whimpering on occasion, obviously feeling some sort of discomfort.
“Look, I didn’t tell ya to drink soapy water. Heck, I didn’t even invite you in for a joint shower.”
Another whimper as the pup shifted positions, his once again sad eyes looking up at his friend.
“Would you stop?” Johnny sighed. “Look, I called the animal emergency clinic and they said other than a stomach ache, you should be fine.”
Shadow didn’t move, except for a few blinks.
“Ah what the hell. C’mon.” Johnny held out his hands and picked him up when the puppy was near the couch. The little guy snuggled in a small space beside him. “Just promise me one thing. . .you’ll let me know if anything wants to come out either end before it makes its exit.”
He had to hope the pup would.
An hour later, Johnny woke with a start. He relaxed when he noticed Shadow was still asleep against him on the couch. The paramedic glanced at his watch.
Oh man! I slept *that* long?
He quickly felt around to make sure the furniture and his sweat pants were still dry near where Shadow was curled up. Breathing a sigh of relief that they were, he slipped on his shoes and took the still-sleepy puppy out for a potty break.
Shadow staggered a bit before squatting and relieving himself. Johnny looked up at his apartment and then returned his gaze to the puppy. The little guy was heading toward the steps.
“Hey, who’s callin’ the shots here?” He grinned.
After picking the animal up, Johnny started to climb the stairs. I must be losin' my mind. I think I'm actually gonna miss this when he's gone.. . .
Later in the evening, Johnny was putting Shadow to bed. Since he knew the puppy could now most likely get out of the tub on his own since he was able to get in easily enough, he decided to start the little guy in the usual spot, but close the bathroom door so as to keep him contained in the one room just in case. Newspapers were spread on the floor at one end, with hopes they’d be used by the dog if he was wandering and needed to piddle.
“Okay, let’s see. I’ve got the towels and wash cloth out of reach; the trash can in the hall so you can’t tip it over and make a mess; toilet brush under the sink where it can’t get chewed on. . .I think that covers everything.”
Shadow looked up from the tub, his bear and rubber hamburger beside him, and wagged his tail. Johnny patted the pup’s head, then turned out the light. Only a small round nightlight dimly illuminated the room.
“G’night.” The paramedic closed the door, ready to get some sleep himself. “I’m glad he’s not the type to whine when he’s alone.”
Johnny’s alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning. His usual time to get up was 6:15, but since having a dog to take care of, he’d started setting his alarm for an earlier time. He sat on the edge of the bed and ran a hand through his messy hair as he yawned.
“Man, I wouldn’t mind sleeping in today if I didn’t have to go to work.”
Gage got to his feet and made his way to the bathroom. When he opened the door, his lower jaw dropped down in shock.
“What’dya’ do? Oh man! I don’t believe this!”
The toilet paper roll was empty and the white paper was strung all over the room. A portion of it was chewed and shredded. The newspaper that was meant to be used as a potty was torn into pieces and they were scattered here and there, including in the tub, where Shadow’s bowl of water had been spilled, soaking them.
But Johnny had to admit, on a lighter note, Shadow’s ‘nature calls’ were confined inside the tub as well. That would make for an easy clean up in that regard.
But the paper!
“Youuuu. . .” Johnny squinted his eyes at the animal. “Oh man! What a mess!” He groaned as he walked over to the little puppy with its ears down in shame. “If dogs could be grounded,” he grumbled, “Man, you would be for life!”
“Well, c’mon,” Gage said in resignation. “Let’s go outside and see what you can do. . .then I’ll clean up this mess.” As the little dog followed him into the livingroom, the man turned around and pointed a finger at him. “You’d better be good for Mrs. Mullins today.”
Shadow hurried to the front door, as if to change the subject.
Later in the morning, the men of A-Shift lined up for roll call. Roy looked nervously at his watch. His partner was no where in sight.
Cap isn’t gonna like this. . .
Hank Stanley looked over his notes on the clip board while Chet questioned Roy, his voice hushed. “Where’s Gage?”
“I don’t know,” the senior paramedic whispered, glancing over his shoulder at the rear lot. “I hope he gets here soon.”
When the captain looked up from his notes, Roy asked, “Should I try calling Johnny? I think he might be running a little late.”
“That’s okay. John is going to be a bit late. He called about ten minutes ago. Seems he had a couple of problems crop up. Dwyer’s gonna stick around until he gets here.”
The senior paramedic breathed a sigh of relief. At least this way he’ll stay out of trouble. . .*here* anyway.
Johnny hurried into the rear entrance of the station. He was thirty minutes late. And although the captain was fine with his tardiness since he’d called in, the paramedic knew explaining the rest of the situation wasn’t going to be easy.
He opened the door to the locker room a crack and slowly peeked inside. When he saw that the room was empty of any crew members, Johnny stepped inside and made his way to his locker.
“Now sit still,” he said to Shadow, who’d been wrapped up in a flannel shirt, just his eyes and nose sticking out, and cradled in Gage’s left arm. Now free of the material, the little dog wagged his tail as he sniffed the interior of the cabinet.
After balling up the red plaid flannel shirt and tossing it into the corner of his locker, Johnny started to unbutton his white-collared shirt.
“Cap isn’t gonna like this and Chet’s never gonna let me live it down if I get in trouble. So let me handle breakin’ the news to everyone before they see ya.”
Shadow sat down and looked up to watch his care taker.
“Good boy,” Gage said with a smile. A few seconds later he startled when Roy walked into the room from the dorm entrance.
“Man, what’re ya tryin’ to do? Give a guy a heart attack?”
“Just gonna use the toilet. I didn’t know you were in here. You’re late, remem--” He stopped in mid sentence when he noticed the dog. “Oh no. You didn’t. . .”
“I had to, Roy. I had to. Mrs. Mullins woke up feeling kinda sick and didn’t think she was up to takin’ care of a puppy. And I called Joanne, but she didn’t think it was a good idea Shadow be around the kids later today.”
“Well, sure. Who else do I know named Joanne?”
“I don’t know, but I’m glad she said ‘no’.” Boy am I glad she said ‘no’.
“Just remember, it’s because she said ‘no’ that Shadow is here now. I couldn’t think of who else to ask on the spur of the moment.”
“Cap’s gonna flip.”
Johnny had on his uniform shirt and pants, and was ready to put on his shoes. He sat on the edge of his locker near the puppy. “Maybe he’ll wanna adopt ‘im.”
“No, I’d say he’s gonna flip.”
The younger man put a finger to his own head. “Think positive, Roy. Just think positive. I need all the good vibes I can get.”
“Okay, I’m positive he’s gonna flip.”
Johnny gave an annoyed look as he finished tying his shoes. He stood and turned, picking up the puppy.
Roy peered closer to see what had happened. A little puddle was on the inner surface of his partner’s locker. “Guess he’s got a ways to go on the potty training, huh?”
“Tell me about it. Man that just missed where I was sitting. If I hadn’t gotten up when I did. . .” He looked around the room, then handed Shadow to Roy. “He must’ve just done it, or I’d be wet for sure.”
Roy held the little dog out at arms’ length while Johnny grabbed a handful of paper towels from the dispenser above the sink. As he turned to head for his locker, he saw how his partner was holding the animal.
“You don’t have to worry about it. He already went, remember?”
“That’s okay. I’m not taking any chances.”
Johnny rolled his eyes and went to work cleaning up the dog urine, all the while keeping a disgusted expression on his face.
DeSoto grinned. “You oughta be used to this by now.”
“Very funny.” He stood up and glanced at his partner. “Didn’t you say you came in here to use the bathroom?”
“Yes, I did. But. . .uh. . .” Roy lifted Shadow up slightly. “I’d say that’s not an option right now.”
“Oh.” Johnny tossed the dirty paper towels in the trash, then quickly washed his hands. He then took the puppy and set him down just inside his locker again. “It’s all yours in just a sec.”
“Wonderful. And if anyone blames me for the urine smell--”
“I’ll fill ‘em in.” With Shadow once again bundled in the flannel shirt and cradled in his right arm, the dark-haired paramedic hurried for the door leading to the apparatus bay.
Roy sighed and rinsed off his hands under a faucet. He then headed for the stall.
Johnny met into Dwyer as the C-Shift paramedic walked through the apparatus bay toward the locker room.
“Oh, hey! You made it!” Charlie glanced at the flannel shirt under the dark-haired man’s arm. A black dog nose was sticking out just beyond the cloth. “Uh. . .you sure your problems are solved?” he asked as he reached out and lifted part of the material to see two wide-open brown eyes staring back at him.
Gage shushed him and pushed the other paramedic’s hand away with his free one. “To be honest, I have a feeling after a week of what I thought was a problem, the real ones are just beginning. . .”
Dwyer laughed slightly. “If one of your problems is convincing the others that your pup is a shirt all shift, I’d say you’ve got a huge one.”
Johnny looked down at Shadow’s nose and sighed. “No, the challenge is gonna be breaking the news to Cap that I had to bring ‘im to work.”
“You can’t put it off too long. The first time that shirt barks, he’s gonna know for sure.”
Charlie reached out again, this time patting Shadow’s nose. “Good luck, to you and your ‘master’. And right now, I’d say it’s a toss up as to which of you I’d call the ‘master’.” He glanced at Johnny as he took a step toward the locker room. “I was just going to look for Roy, but I guess I can head out now.”
“Yeah, thanks for covering for me.”
“No problem,” he called over his shoulder, continuing on. “Staying late was fine. Now if you’d of asked me to take care of a dau--”
Dwyer grinned and shook his head.
As Johnny walked into the dayroom, Chet and the other two engine crew members looked up from papers Captain Stanley had given them to sort through.
“Hey look! Help’s arrived,” Chet commented.
“Yeah, Johnny,” Mike put in. “You can have some of mine.”
“What’re you guys doing?”
This time it was Marco’s turn to speak. “Cap wants us to sort out these reports headquarters sent down.”
The three men looked at one another. They suddenly realized none had an answer other than that they were told to do it. Johnny went to make a comment when a somewhat muffled growl sounded in the room.
“Alright, whose stomach--” closest to the paramedic, Chet eyed the flannel shirt, his words ending when he spotted the canine nose just inside. Again there was a growl from the puppy. “Uh, Gage, do you know there’s a shirt around your dog?”
“Dog?” Marco and Mike both looked in surprise. “You brought your dog here?” Mike continued.
“He’s not my dog. Besides, he’s a puppy,” Johnny corrected.
“Man, I can’t believe you brought him here. Cap’s not gonna be happy.”
“I didn’t have a choice, Chet. My landlady’s sick and Joanne wouldn’t take him.”
“Roy’s Joanne?” Marco wondered.
“Sure,” the senior paramedic answered sarcastically as he came into the room. “What other Joanne does he know?”
The three men at the table looked from DeSoto to Gage and back to DeSoto.
“I sense a rift here.”
“Chet, there’s no rift. Right, Roy?”
“Right. But if Shadow isn’t house broken real soon, we may need a raft by tomorrow.”
“He’s not house broken?” Mike asked.
“I’m workin’ on it. I’m workin’ on it.”
“You’re working on what?”
All five men turned their attention to the doorway, where Hank Stanley stood, arms folded across his chest. “The only thing I want worked on are those papers.”
“Cap, Johnny asked an interesting question we didn’t have an answer to.”
“What’s that, Kelly?”
“Why we’re sorting out the papers.”
“Oh. Because I said to.”
“That’s what we thought,” Chet quickly agreed. “That’s good enough for me.”
Again Shadow growled, catching the captain’s attention.
“Was that a dog I just heard?”
“Uh. . .Cap. . .I. . .uh. . .yeah, it . . .it was. Um,” Johnny let out a nervous laugh. He then brought the shirt in front of him and unwrapped the pup. He looked at the black critter in his arms and grinned slightly. “This is. . .uh. . .well, I guess you could say for now he’s my shadow. . .for a day. . .or so.”
Roy turned his head, an ‘oh brother’ expression on his face. Chet and Marco rolled their eyes, Mike chuckled.
“Your shadow?” Kelly asked incredulously.
“Chet, work with me here.”
“You brought the puppy here? For how long?”
“Just for this shift, Cap. I couldn’t find a . . . well, a baby--er, puppy sitter.”
“You know that dog is staring at me funny.”
“What’re ya talkin’ about, Chet?”
“You’re ‘shadow’ is staring me down.”
Another growl could be heard.
“And he’s grumbling at me.”
Johnny was trying to keep his eyes on Captain Stanley to gauge his reaction, while at the same time trying to handle Chet’s complaining.
“Maybe he doesn’t like men with curly hair and mustaches,” he said with a shrug.
“Or maybe he doesn’t know a nice guy when he sees one,” Chet shot back. He looked at the captain. “You know, he’s not even house broken. . .”
Hank Stanley shook his head. “Gage, I wanna see you in my office.”
Johnny nodded and started forward.
“Without the dog.”
“Sure, Cap.” He handed Shadow to Roy, tossed the flannel shirt onto an empty chair at the table, and followed his superior out of the room.
Uncomfortable with his new charge, Roy held Shadow out at arms length again, the pup’s back legs dangling in the air. The senior paramedic quickly glanced around the room for a safe place to put the little dog.
“Roy, you aren’t supposed to hold a dog like that,” Marco said, getting up from his seat.
“He’s not a hundred percent house broken, remember?”
Marco was just about to reach for the puppy when Roy made the comment. The fireman stepped away, dropping his arms to his sides. “Well, it looks like you’ve got the situation handled.”
DeSoto was still scanning the room for an idea for the dog, when Chet got up from the table and made his way to the telephone at the other end of the room. Ignoring Shadow’s growls and a couple of barks, he lifted the receiver and put a quarter in the slot.
“Who’re you calling?” Mike wondered.
“A pet store.”
“Why?” Marco was suspicious. “You aren’t going to puppynap Johnny’s dog and trade it in, are you?”
Chet shook his head. “No. But by the look on Cap’s face, I’d say Gage is gonna be in the doghouse for a long time. He may as well have a good one.”
The other three men in the room groaned.
Shadow wriggled until Roy had to put him down or lose his grip. The little dog quickly made his way around the dayroom, sniffing first the table legs, then chair legs; he then sniffed at the couch.
Finished with his act at the phone, Chet hung up the receiver and retrieved his unused quarter. He then turned and started for the table. Shadow got down low to the floor, then jumped up and forward, eliciting a few little barks.
The fireman looked at the black pup. “You just better watch it, buddy. I’ve got connections with the Phantom.”
“Chet, you wouldn’t!”
“Oh yeah?” He asked eyeing Marco. “It’s Gage’s dog. He takes after him anyway, so why not?”
“Johnny takes after Shadow?” Mike teased.
“Nooooo,” Kelly groaned. “Don't you remember what I told you the other day? The dog takes after him! Just ask Roy.”
“The only thing I’m gonna ask is why aren’t you helping us with these papers?”
“Yeah,” Marco added. “We’ll all be in the dog house if we don’t get this done.”
Chet sat back down, trying to ignore the barks and growls from Shadow. “Can you get him out of here, Roy?”
“Sure.” Gets me out of helping with the papers, too. “C’mon, Shadow.”
The puppy ran along behind Roy as he went into the apparatus bay. Johnny was just starting out of Captain Stanley’s office, when he was called back in. Before he could see the puppy running toward him, he stepped into the room and closed the door. A sudden thud had both the paramedic and the captain looking in puzzlement. Johnny opened the door and revealed Roy picking up Shadow, the little dog pawing at his own snout and occasionally shaking his head.
“What--?” Gage looked at the door, then the pup. “Was that--him?” he asked, pointing to Shadow.
Hank Stanley stepped up behind Johnny and the younger paramedic stood off to the side, taking Shadow from his partner. “Oh man, that had to hurt. Poor little guy.” He stroked the pup’s back.
DeSoto stared at the younger man a few seconds. “How come when someone else’s dog runs into a door, he’s dumb. But when ‘yours’ does it, he’s a ‘poor little guy’?”
“Because that dog you’re referring to ran into a door that was already closed. Shad had a clear path till I apparently closed it on ‘im.”
“I can’t believe he actually hit the door,” the captain remarked. “What’re the odds he’d get to it just as it closed?”
“With that dog and Johnny? Pretty high.”
Gage scowled and shook his head. “It’s gonna be a long shift. . .”