I can hear the phone ring on the other end of the line.
James is my neighbor. He owns two Jack Russell Terriers. Cute little things. "Buddy" is a neutered male, "Sparky" is an intact female. Pay attention to the word "intact". It is relevant.
The sincerity of his greeting is obvious. I'm doing James a favour. I'm keeping his dogs for a few days. He's sincere, because he thinks that I'm still overwhelmed by the two boxes of potato chips he presented to me as reimbursement for boarding two attention deficit disordered creations of Satan. And worse that that, they're shedding all over my house.
"So, did they get to play with your dogs yet?
"Did they get along"
"You could say that."
"GREAT! I just knew they'd be friends."
"Oh more than friends... in fact, I'd venture to say that Sparky was especially loved."
"Yeah, Sparky always gets along with other dogs. It was Buddy I was worried about."
"Sometimes other dogs pick on him. And I know you have males."
"Well, you can rest assured that they didn't pick on Buddy. They were too busy trying to catch Sparky, I'd guess."
"Ha, ha, ha.... she's pretty fast, eh? Probably ran circles around your dogs."
"Well, not exactly... you know, you might have mentioned she was in heat."
"I may be wrong, but when I checked a few minutes later, she and "Badger" were dancing the Back To Back Pokey, if you catch my drift."
"What do you mean by that?"
"She got nailed, James. . Congratulations. You're going to be a grandfather."
"Didn't you notice she was in heat???"
"Yeah, the white blur that went by me out the door stopped to have me check her nether regions... no. I was too busy eating chips. "
"So what do I do now?"
"Well first, you pay the stud fee."
"Stud fee? I didn't ask you to breed her."
"Spilled milk, James. Water under the bridge. What you didn't ask or did ask is rather irrelevant at this point, no? You're getting puppies. I can't let you do that for free. It wouldn't be ethical."
Advantage, Kate. Ethics are important when you are the Schnauzer Breeder From Hell. The use of any variation of the word automatically indicates that you're right, and the other person is wrong. If James were more experienced in these matters, he would have used the word "ethical" in pre-emptive strike before I got the chance. Tactical error.
"But you have Schnauzers. Sparky is a Jack Russell. The pups won't be worth anything."
"Excuse me, but the sperm you bought is the pure stuff. I'm not selling puppies. I'm selling sperm. The sperm costs $500. Where you put it is your business."
"WHAT? 500 BUCKS?"
"He's an ROM sire, dude. Mucho champions."
"I thought we were friends..."
"So did I. I'd have never thought a friend would be devious enough to try to get a little free sperm... but, well, what the hell. I should give you the benefit of the doubt... "
I wait until I hear signs that his hyperventilation is slacking off.
"I'll give it to you for half. Your pups will be half Schnauzer. That's the best I can do. Bring a cheque when you come to get her."
A small, weak voice replies, "So, ah, how long before the puppies are born?"
"Depends. This is a hybridizational mating. Recombinant DNA and all that. Very unpredictable. Sometimes they have puppies after 6 weeks, sometimes not until they have been pregnant for 12 weeks. There's no way of knowing for sure. Just be sure not to go anywhere until she has them. Don't leave her for more than an hour during that 6 week period."
"I can't take her to work!"
"You may have to hire someone."
"Oh. So, is there anything special I should be feeding her?"
"I'll give you my pregnancy recipe. They love it. It has east coast salmon, and avocado, and spring lamb, and rare Chinese herbs. It's a bit expensive, mind you, but worth it. Has to be eaten within 15 minutes of preparation though ... but you can cook for her, eh?"
"Oh. What if I just give her plain dog food and let her have them on her own like other dogs?"
"She's a Jack Russell! The male is a Schnauzer! The puppies could be born half grown. You CANNOT allow this. You have little children, James. Think of it. Their little puppy DIES BEFORE THEIR EYES... screaming in pain, because Daddy didn't take care of her when she was having babies...
James is so bad at this. First he lets me gain the "ethic" advantage, and now, he's left "guilt" lying about there like a gift...
"God, what a nightmare."
"Yeah... of course, now... I hadn't thought of this before ... just an idea... but... maybe..."
The "ray of hope" tactic. He's a drowning man, going down for the third time and I've just hinted that I *might* have a lifejacket he can borrow.
"I suppose you could spay her. I suppose if you did that, I could let you off about the stud fee. Waive it on account of technicality and everything. It's not routine, but for a friend..."
"Spay her? But I wanted to breed her later. You know, make a few bucks selling real Jack Russells."
"I knew you had pretty big plans for that, but... well, you know .... she's been bred by a Schnauzer ... Pretty hard to get purebred puppies out of a genetically contaminated bitch. Now, I suppose you don't have to tell the people who buy your puppies, but that wouldn't be exactly ethical... "
James' cerebral cortex searches for matches under /myths/dog_breeding ... brrrr... brrrappp.... !! ...the following matches were found... !!
"I seem to remember reading something about that. Well, now that I think about it. $250 bucks, all that stuff about those mutated puppies... maybe it's not worth it."
"I'm sorry. And I could use the $250, but that's a small sacrifice to make for a friend. You can make it up to me later."
"Yeah. OK.. it's probably the best thing to do. Kate? I hate to ask you this - you've already done so much... but, I'm not going to be home until next week. Can you take her in to the vet for me?"
"I'd be happy to. Hell, what are friends for, anyway?"
"Thanks, Kate. And sorry I didn't know she was in heat. Makes me feel sort of stupid. I hate to put you to so much trouble."
"It's ok, James. And thanks again for the potato chips."
"Well, I should go. This is on my cell and with long distance and all..."
"I understand. See you next week."
I hang up. Badger is wandering around at my feet, his conquest of the night before forgotten. Actually, most of what goes on in Badger's life these days is forgotten. At 13, his short term memory sucks. As does his hearing. And with one wizened up cashew of a testicle, his sperm count is lower than the water level at the Bonneville salt flats.
He crunches up a cookie with his few remaining teeth.
"Good boy, Badger. Good boy."
copyright 2000, Catherine McMillan