I am supposed to meet Kirsten at 9:30 to introduce her to some dogs that she will soon be walking on a daily basis. But I can't find the gauze I bought last night, so I call Kirsten.
“I might be late, because I have to dress Vernon, and I can't find the gauze.”
“Ok,” she says.
In case you're wondering, Vernon is my injured toe. Kirsten named him after an attempt to dance like the Jackson 5 went horribly awry, teaching me that one should never attempt such a dance while barefoot.
Halfway through the walk with George the Boxer-mix and Lois the Beagle, Vernon sheds the outfit I had worked so hard to make for him. He just leaves it on the sidewalk, as if he were a snail that had outgrown his shell, or a snake shedding his skin.
Around this time a pool of blood starts forming in my sandal – the only footwear that was accepting of Vernon in this state. Also around this time, I get a text from my friend, saying her house sitter just informed her that her pit bull is missing from the yard. The dog's official name is Lola, but Kirsten and I have only known her as Boobies, a fact that more than confused the staff at a boarding facility where Kirsten picked her up a couple days ago. So since then, we've started calling her many variations of the two names when referring to her. Boolola. Bola. Boolies. Boloola. Lolaboo. Loboolies. Lolabies.
Kirsten takes off to search Boolalie's neighborhood, while I stay behind and finish the walk with George and Lois, who are now very interested in the scent of blood wafting from my sandal. Trying to keep the dogs untangled and away from Vernon is a bit of a challenge, but we make it through, and a few minutes later, I'm joining Kirsten in Lolabies' neighborhood.
Kirsten mentions on the phone that she's asked everyone she saw, even the mail man. I ask her what area she covered, and while specific, I don't know exact boundaries, so I just start making the rounds.
I don't think either Kirsten or I realized ahead of time that we would be wandering around a neighborhood calling, “Boobies! Boobies!”
I describe Boolola to anyone I see outside, asking if they've seen her. For the most part, people are very helpful, asking if there's a number to call if they see her, offering to keep an eye out.
As I get further south, I simultaneously realize Kirsten must have been here before and remember I am a twin. It's something I forget often. It's never really in the forefront of my mind. Usually, I just think of Kirsten as my sister. Just like Denise is my sister. I tend to forget the fact that I knew her before we were born and we kind of look alike.
But moments like this, I remember. And boy, do I.
I stop to ask a guy standing near a cable company truck if he's seen any dogs matching Lolaboo's description. He shoots a strange look at me and says, rather angrily,“I told you, NO!”
“Okay, thank you,” I say, realizing that Kirsten must have been here moments earlier, asking the exact same thing. He must have thought I was her.
I'm just thankful he hadn't stared at Vernon and given him a complex. Poor Vernon is covered in blood now, and pieces of dirt are dangerously close to him. I shiver, despite the warmth of the air, thinking of infection. I definitely don't want an infected Vernon.
The whole neighborhood has been covered, to no avail. Boolola is nowhere to be found. Not by me, not by Kirsten, and not by the other people who I don't know, but who are supposedly canvassing the neighborhood, as well. I swing back by her house, hoping she had her fun and made her way back home. No luck. I spot a neighbor and explain the situation to him.
“What's her name?” He asks me.
I explain the Lola/Boobies situation, and he snickers. For a moment, I wonder if he thinks I”m just randomly making this stuff up for some reason.
I head to the copy store, thinking I'll make some “missing dog” posters.
But half way there, I get a phone call.
It's a lady who happened to run into the snickering neighbor shortly after I left. Turns out she turned Bolabies in to the shelter, and just happened to mention it to the snickering guy who'd just taken my business card.
So I'm off to the animal shelter, something that always manages to make me sad, because I can't take enough animals home with me.
I walk confidently up to the front door, only to be stopped by a man who says, “We're STILL not open.”
“Oh,” I say, realizing Kirsten must have stopped here a few minutes before. “You must have met my twin sister earlier...” He's staring at me as though I'm growing a Volkswagen out of my elbow. “ Nevermind. Ok. When do you open?”
“Eleven thirty.” he says. “It hasn't changed since last time you asked twenty minutes ago.”
“But-” I begin, wanting to explain, but I realize it's not important in the whole scheme of things.
And as I walk back to my car to wait it out in the A/C, I hear him mumble, “I don't know why people don't listen to me. How many times do I have to tell her that we don't open til eleven thirty?”
It's as if I've stepped into some strange movie where I am following the exact path of someone in perhaps a parallel universe, but on a slight time delay.
I use some peroxide from a spray bottle to try to give Vernon a bath while sitting in the car. Vernon is a little angry, I can tell. He's bleeding more, and he bleeds through one carefully wrapped gauze outfit before I replace it with a new one.
After eleven minutes, I head back inside, where I'm greeted by a woman who sighs after each answer I give to her questions. Finally she says, “Go out the door and find the dog you're looking for.”
I look in every pen twice. No Bololie. Just several temptations to gather all the dogs behind chainlink, pile them in my car and drive home.
I go back to the front office and Sighing lady is on the phone, so another lady helps me. Outfit number three is slowly wriggling off Vernon. I try to correct it with my other foot while conducting a conversation with the nice Non-Sighing Lady.
She asks me a couple questions, and then says, “What' the name of the dog?”
I explain. She laughs. The other lady sighs loudly.
The Non-Sigher takes me to a room where the new dogs are being held until their paperwork is processed. Loolabie is in a large metal kennel. When she sees me, the back half of her body twists and turns into a U shape, her tail smacking wildly against the metal sides of the kennel. She licks my face through the metal bars. It's my first time being kissed by someone in the slammer.
They rush me back to the desk to finish the reclaiming process, which involves a call to my friend's husband so that he can ok the release of Boolabie to me. This reclaiming process also apparently involves more heavy sighing from the Sighing Lady. And Vernon has wriggled out of his outfit without my knowing, and it's nowhere to be found. It's probably in the room where I identified Loboolie. I secretly picture the Sighing Lady sighing over it later when she finds it on the floor.
Another pool of blood is forming in my sandal when the Non-Sighing Lady announces over the intercom that “Lola, the white and brown pit bull in Holding One is ready to go home.”
I wait by the door, excited to see my puppyfriend Bolabie. I'm expecting the wigglebutt happy dance that I'm used to seeing from her, and in anticipation, I'm holding Vernon out of the way, carefully walking the thin line between keeping Vernon safe and spilling blood on the floor of the Animal Shelter Lobby.
The door swings open, and an old pit bull with only a third of its hair slowly waddles into the room. The handler says, “Lola? Who's here for Lola?”
“I am,” I say, “But that's not her.”
“They said Holding One.”
“I'm not sure what that means,” I say, balancing on one foot. “But the Lola I'm here for is younger, with brown spots and greenish-hazel eyes.”
Of course, I'm tempted to take this one home, too. She looks so tired and sweet.
I learn now that I am speaking to Sighing Lady's friend, Eyeroller.
She rolls her eyes and leaves the room. After a few minutes, the door opens and an explosion of white and brown bursts in the door, and a butt wiggling happy dance ensues. Lobiela jumps and does a play bow, sticking her butt into the air, just in case there's any confusion as to how happy she is.
“Boobolalola!!!” I say, scratching behind her ears, and this makes her happier.
I get her to the car, and she jumps in. I drop my phone into the center of the car, in the space between the front seats which Kirsten has always called the French Fry Holder. And I hear a splash.
I look down and realize the peroxide I'd brought to keep Vernon clean had spilled into the French Fry Holder. I curse Vernon out loud. Bieolaboo looks at me, tongue sticking out, mouth wide open in a doggy smile, and it makes me laugh.
“Alright, Boola,” I say, “Let's get you home.”
I call Kirsten and tell her the good news and text Boliela's people. Then drive across the lake in the center of town to South Austin. We pull up to Lolabie's house. I guide her into the gate and then into the house.
She walks to the exact center of the room, lies down, stretches and lets out a long breath.
Vernon and I exhale, too.