6 Jack Russell Terriers in an Apartment Part Three: Vaccine Clinic
“Here are leashes for the dogs. Please take them all for a walk” .I read the note in disbelief, glancing down at the six Jack Russell Terriers dancing around my legs, wondering how in hell I would walk all of them at once. I then looked at the leashes he had purchased, the knockoff-brand retractable leashes, not the good ones, but the kind sold at the dollar store, the kind that Jill had broken so easily in front of the produce shop. No way, I thought, picking up one of the leashes and noticing that the metal clip could be bent by my fingers. Then another thought came into my head had these puppies been vaccinated? Not likely. I walked Jack and Jill, cleaned up the mess in the apartment, and left a note saying that the pups needed to be vaccinated before going out in public.
Carlos was surprisingly responsive to my note; on my next visit, I found a flyer for a vaccine clinic in his area and a pile of cash to pay for the shots. Once again, I loaded up the pack in my truck and hit the road. The puppies were now too big to fit in the small crate, but too small to ride in the back of the truck, so I caused quite a stir going down the road with the lot of them in the cab. It’s a short trip, I thought, what could go wrong? What indeed?
Standing in line at the shot clinic, I marveled at my lack of sanity; there were quite a few people there, many of whose dogs obviously didn’t get out much. I had the bad luck of getting in line behind a woman with a tiny, terrified white poodle and in front of another woman with two very large, very excited young German Shepherds. I had Jack and Jill on leash, and hoped that the person administering the shots could handle the puppies in the truck. Standing in that mayhem with two dogs was already more than I could handle.
The German Shepherds clearly wanted to eat the white poodle, and they were straining at their leashes, ears pricked forward, barking in high-pitched voices. Jack and Jill, feeling quite threatened by this display, went into “Crazy Jack Russell mode,” which anyone who has seen the movie The Mask will understand, and it was all I could do to restrain them. The line moved painfully slowly, and soon all eyes were on me. A grouchy-looking woman with a golden retriever (who stood quietly as if nothing were happening) pointed a gnarled finger at me and said, “Your dogs are vicious! They should be euthanized!” Thanks lady, just what I needed to hear.
After what seemed like hours, I reached the front of the line. Jack and Jill were given vaccines, and the vet tech reluctantly came out to my truck to minister to the other four beasts. “Have they ever seen a vet?” she asked me.
“No,” I replied.
“Then they’ll need a dewormer as well,” she said, squirting a yellow liquid into each of their mouths.
Vaccine paperwork in hand, nerves frazzled, I got into the truck and drove away. I noticed that the golden retriever woman was giving me the stink-eye as I exited the parking lot. Thank god that’s over, I thought, but it wasn’t quite over. I don’t know if it was the dewormer or car sickness, but after a few blocks the puppies started to retch. Negotiating busy traffic, there was nothing I could do as my seat was covered with steaming yellow puppy puke.
The next day, I pulled up to the apartment complex. truck cab still stinking of puppy vomit despite my cleaning efforts. I was greeted by an excited pack of terriers milling around and looking up at me with adoring eyes. I waded through them to the table with the leashes and the note pad, and I was stopped in my tracks. “I miss you,” the note said. Wait, what? Why on earth did he write that? I ignored the comment and wrote a banal response about walking the dogs.
The next day, the sentiment was repeated, along with an invite to the movies. Oh god, I thought, no, it can’t be, Carlos… I sat, or rather fell down, on the couch as the realization hit me. How naive am I? I just thought he was friendly. I looked around the apartment and imagined myself sitting on a pile of dirty laundry eating Chinese take-out from the container, sleeping on an air mattress on the floor, hanging out with the six Jack Russells … no, that’s not going to happen, I thought. That night I called a friend of mine who also did pet sitting in the same area. I explained my plight in all the gory details. I said, “This guy is a real pain, but he always pays and leaves big cash tips!” On that note, she agreed to take over the job.
The next week, I said goodbye to Carlos and returned his keys, trying to be as nice and polite as possible. He was disappointed of course, but graciously accepted my decision. During my time spent with the dogs, I had become quite attached to them, and to one puppy in particular, the big male with the black face. Assuming that they would be placed in new homes soon, I asked if I could take him for my own. Carlos hung his head. “I know you would take good care of him,” he said, “But I just can’t part with any of them. They are my family.”