When he lumbered into the empty clinic, he was an anxious middle-aged man with his brown hair slathered back and stuck to his head, dressed in slacks and olive- and wine-striped polo. He was average in height but stocky, and he carried a young bull terrier that lay limp in his arms.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with her. She has no energy and does not want to eat”, he told the young woman behind the counter.
“Please come with me”, and she led him around the front desk, through a doorway, and into a white hallway fronting several examination rooms. At the second door, she signed for him to enter and then walked in front of him.
“What is her name?”, the young woman asked as she looked down at angular white animal, patting a counter top on which she was to be placed.
He watched as the tech bent down to look in the dogs eyes, and then stepped on a lever on the floor which returned a weight amount on a screen near the counter on the wall.
“She is not eating?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“She quit eating two days ago. Today is her third day of… fasting.”
The dog exerted herself and pivoted the cone of her nose up toward his voice. She looked up at him standing near her.
The tech wrote on a clipboard for a long moment as he stepped forward to rub the dog’s neck under her chin.
“Let me go get Dr. Mitchell.”
The dog’s head lay on the white counter top and her breathing shortened.
“Aida. Look here.”
The man stroked her head with long thick fingers. Her short tail swayed slowly left and rested.
Dr. Mitchell, a tall exacting man with wavy blonde hair, suggested the man go next door to the coffee shop for a refreshment while he completed a lab panel on her.
When the man returned and the tech at the desk saw him, she nodded and then disappeared into the back hall and momentarily returned with the veterinarian.
“Your dog has consumed something that has severely damaged her kidneys. We would like to treat her and keep her overnight and watch her. I’m not sure what her body is going to do in the next 12 hours.”
The man’s mind raced as he processed the doctor’s plan and instructions. He listened and he bit his nails unconsciously as the doctor spoke and he nodded his head and he sweat. When he recognized silence and the veterinarian staring at him with a paper on clipboard extended at him, he shook his head yes, and then said “Yes” and took a pen and filled in the boxes on the sheet and signed the paper, and after skimming it twice, he returned it to the vet, who handed the clipboard to the nearby tech.
“We’ll do what we can, Mr. Rubb. We’ll contact you at the number on the form if anything changes.”
The doctor extended an open free hand toward Mr. Rubb, which the man grasped. The doctor clasped his elbow with the other in an affirming grip, and then Mr. Rubb took a step backwards, his face blank for a moment. A half-smile registered upon it, and then he looked back at the hallway door, beyond which the dog was being treated.
He then turned and went out the glass door and spun and ambled to his right, head down, toward some car in the lot.
“Hello?”, a shaky female voice said on the phone.
“Hi- this is Annette from Happy Hills Pet Clinic. I am calling for a Mister Peter Rubb?”
“A Peter Rubb?”
“A Peter Rubb? I was given this number as his phone number.”
“There is no one here by that name. You certaainly have a wron… You say you are calling from an animal clinic?”
“Yes. Happy Hills Animal Clinic, on 32nd and Pearl Avenue?”
“We’re you calling about an animal?”
“Well, yes ma’am- he left an ill dog with us and…”
“An ill dog?”
“Yes, but I…”
“Was it a terrier? A white bull terrier with a slight red ring around one eye?”
“Well, yes ma’am, it is. That is the dog.”
“Arturiooo!”, the woman squawked on the phone, muted, her voice aimed at somewhere besides the receiver. The tech still pulled her head away from the handset for a moment. “Arturiooo! Someone has the dog!” What’s that, the caller heard, and then a shrill combat of exclamations, and then a man’s voice resumed the conversation while the woman softly sobbed behind him.
“This is Arturio Maurief. The dog that you have is my wife’s dog! It has been missing for four days! We have been looking for our dog! Where do you say you are at? Is the dog alright? Is everything alright? How did you end up with our dog?”
When Arturio and his wife arrived astonished all the way across town, two officers were already in the veterinarian clinic talking to the doctor present and two techs. “My baby!” the woman cried as she barged in the lobby ahead of her husband. “Please! How is my baby?” she pleaded to the woman in the white overcoat.
“Yes, my little Aida!” she sobbed.
“The dog is resting comfortably. She had a very bad day yesterday. We are still watching her closely. She is slow to respond to our treatment.”
“Oh, my baby! My baby!” the woman sobbed. Her husband scowled at the officer and at the vet.
“Who brought this animal in here? Did anyone see who brought our dog in here? And how did she end up on this side of town?”
“Hold on, sir- hold on. We’re asking some questions here too. We’re trying to put some things together.” The shorter officer was trying to get a handle on the moment. “Have you ever heard of a Peter Rubb?”
“We haven’t. We have never heard this name! Have you? Did you check your police computer on it?”
“Well, mister- I am sorry- but we don’t quite work that way.”
“No one here was in the clinic when the dog came in yesterday”, the other officer asked?
The older woman was collapsed on a lobby couch sobbing, holding one of her husband’s tan arms and hands, while he held his head with the other.
“No- we’ve paged Doctor Mitchell, but he is still not responding, and we cannot get a hold of yesterday’s tech.”
“We’re doing what we can.”
“Someone give us some answers!”, the husband shouted.
The woman moaned.
“Settle down!” the short officer yelled.
“Someone try Dr. Mitchell again!”
And then the sound of the front door opening made each person in the lobby turn toward it, and there,
facing the officers and the vet, was a middle aged man with his dark hair slicked down, his head bowed.
“Lorenzo! What brings you here?”, the wet-faced woman on the couch exclaimed.
“Auntie… I’m sorry.”