Hair Don’ts by Jennifer Anthony

13 September 2008

Graciela didn’t care that Alison and Mitchie already had a long-term relationship with a groomer. She doggedly insisted that they accompany Socrates and her to the New York Dog Spa and Hotel to get the pooches groomed, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
      “I just don’t understand why you’re so insistent,” Allison had said over the phone the evening before. The appointment was smack dab in the middle of what weather forecasters predicted would be a fabulous September Saturday.
      “It’s just,” Graciela said, and stopped for a dramatic pause. “Whoever’s grooming Mitchie is making her looking more like a Jersey than a Yorkie.”
      Allison wanted to pitch her phone across the room as Graciela’s peals of laughter blew through the receiver.
      “Are you done?” Allison asked.
      “Oh, you have to admit that was funny. Come on, your dog’s a mess,” Graciela said. “Just try it out this once. You can go back to your doggie hair butcher if you hate it.”
      And so Allison found herself waiting outside the dog spa on West 25th. Just as Mitchie had begun to eyeball the thin trunk of a nearby tree, Graciela popped out from a cab.
      “What on earth?” Allison cried. “Where is Socrates?”
      “I realized I just took him in a month ago, and he’s still clean. He’s a short-haired dog, you know.”
      “Yes, I am aware of that,” Allison said, scowling now. “But this was all your idea!”   
      “Oh come on,” Graciela said, taking the leash from her friend. “You’re going to love this.”
      The woman at the desk perked up when Graciela introduced herself. “Oh, I’ve been waiting to meet you! It’s been so great chatting with you on the phone. Henry’s almost done with Muffin and he should be with you in just a sec.”
      No sooner had she finished speaking than a tall blond man sporting a smock and an even blonder cocker spaniel emerged from a back room. He deposited the pooch into her person’s outstretched and trembling hands and nodded patiently as the owner cooed and fussed over the dog’s newly coiffed do.
      “Oh, Henry,” the woman gushed. She didn’t seem to mind that the dog had drooled on her mink coat. “You always do such a fabulous job.”
      “Muffin deserves it, Mrs. Smith.”
      He waited for the woman to bustle out the door before turning to Graciela and Allison.
      “Graciela,” he said, wiping his hands off on his jeans. “So glad you decided to come check out my workplace. And this must be – Mitchie and Allison? I’m Henry.”
       Allison tried to keep from rolling her eyes. A set-up. She should have known. Despite her friend’s deviousness, she had to remember her manners. So she tucked Mitchie under her left arm and extended her hand out for the man to shake.
      But as she did, Mitchie leapt from her side and bounded away, barking and yapping.
      “Oh no!” Allison said, racing after him. She could hear the groomer’s footsteps behind her.
      She stopped short when she found Mitchie in an amorous position with an overweight basset hound.
      “Oh no!” Allison repeated, shrieking now.
      “Wilbur!” Henry shouted. He ran past Allison and pried the dogs apart. “I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen him with this much – energy. He always just sleeps in the corner as I’m cutting the dogs’ hair.”
      Graciela had caught up with them and stood bent over in hysterics. “Oh, dios mío. This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. I sure hope she’s fixed or you’re going to have some bas-tard hounds to raise!”
      “Are you done?” Allison said. But as her hands found her hips, she took in the scene with fresh eyes. The groomer was kneeling, pulling the basset hound across the slippery floor with one hand while fending off the impassioned advances of Mitchie with the other. Wilbur’s eyes were red and doleful at the love that had ended before it had barely begun.
      As she reached down to pluck Mitchie up from the floor, the dog ducked away suddenly and Allison lost her balance. She fell directly onto Henry’s thighs, causing him to fall onto his back. He let go of Wilbur, who bounded across the floor on stubby legs. As the dogs reassumed their heated embrace, the three adults looked on in amazement. For several long seconds, Allison was so astonished that she forgot that she was straddling a stranger’s lap. Until she heard him protesting, very softly.
      “Would you – would you mind? Sorry but I think I’ve got a Charlie horse,” Henry said.
      “Oh!” Allison said, standing and collecting herself. “I’m so sorry. What an embarrassment this all is. Mitchie never acts like this. Thank god she’s fixed.”
      “I never knew Wilbur had it in him,” Henry said, rubbing his thigh.
      “Well thank god that’s over,” Graciela said, when the dogs had finished their business. “This was getting uncomfortable.”
      The three humans laughed as the dogs lay down beside each other, eyelids drooping.
      “Cigarette, anyone?” Henry asked.
      Allison knew her face was on fire, and hoped Henry didn’t notice. She sure didn’t want to be as obvious as Mitchie, but the dog wasn’t the only one in the room with amorous intentions.


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