Saving the Short-Legged Ones
Alice was driving to McDonald’s when she saw a woman walking her leash. The first thing that flashed through her mind was that it was one of those invisible dog gag leashes that seem to be popular at carnivals. But this leash was trailing far behind the woman, and there was no one else around to appreciate the humor. Alice couldn’t imagine anyone being that committed to the joke, especially one that wasn’t very funny to begin with.
Do people actually walk their pet skinks? she wondered, then felt very proud of herself that she had thought skink and not just lizard. Her Reptile-a-Day calendar seemed to be working.
As she got closer, she saw that there was an animal at the end of the leash, a real dog, or at the very least an especially hairy skink. It seemed to be some sort of teacup poodle, although for this one, thimble poodle might be more apt.
The woman was wearing earphones and seemed to be striding along to the oldies. The little pup was giving it the old community college try* to keep up with her but when you have to take four hundred steps to your owner’s one, it’s pretty much a losing battle. It occurred to Alice that the dog might have been much larger at the beginning of the walk but had burned off most of its body weight already.
*like a college try, but mostly done in the evenings and on weekends.
Of course, all of this happened in the space of a few seconds and then Alice had driven past and the woman and her marathoning pet were receding into her rear view mirror.
Alice happened to tell her family about the episode at dinner that night. Her husband Mark laughed.
“You should have filmed it,” he said. “That would be great for the channel.” Mark had recently started a YouTube channel called Good for What Fails You, which was terribly named and consisted mostly of fail videos stolen from other sites.
“No, that’s terrible!” their 12-year-old son Corbin said. He was planning to be a companion-animal veterinarian when he grew up and hated to see any animal in distress. “We need to call the authorities.”
“And say what? There’s a dog out there whose legs are too short?”
“It’s cruelty,” Corbin said. “It’s like you being tied to the back of a car and then forced to run.”
“So what do you want to do?”
So Corbin came up with a plan. It was bold, it was daring, it was completely insane, but Alice did not want to discourage him from thinking creatively. She even helped him implement it.
Mark agreed to help only if he could film the encounter and put it on his channel. “Don’t try too hard,” he said. “If this ends in a disaster, so much the better.”
Through some stake-out work over the next week, they discovered that the woman walked her dog along the same route every afternoon. The next Monday they had everything ready and by 4:15, everyone was in their place. Alice was loitering on the corner of 45th and Penelope Street while Corbin hid in the bushes nearby. Mark was parked across the street with his camera ready.
The woman appeared around the corner and came towards Alice, trailing her leash. The dog seemed to have gotten smaller. Maybe it would eventually just shrink to the point where it would just slip the collar and run away.
“Excuse me!” Alice said as the woman approached. She waved a hand. The woman stopped and took off her headphones.
“Have you seen my gila monster?” Alice asked. “I was walking him and he seems to have disappeared.” Mark and Corbin both thought this was an idiotic cover story, but Alice was determined to get the most out of her Reptile-a-Day calendar.
The woman’s forehead wrinkled. Behind her, the dog had slumped to the ground, panting.
Corbin tried to creep out of the bushes, but tripped and sprawled on the sidewalk with a loud crack of breaking branches. The woman started to turn around.
“Wait, is that him?” Alice cried, pointing ahead of them. Corbin picked himself up, then carefully picked up the dog as well. He slid a small custom-made skateboard under it, then snugged the safety belt across the dog’s back. He pushed the straw that led to the on-board water bottle towards the dog’s mouth.
“I haven’t seen anything like that, sorry,” the woman said. Corbin was massaging the dog’s head with two fingers. Alice tried to signal him with her eyes to get out of there.
“Okay, thanks. I’m sure the little guy’s around here somewhere.” She walked past the woman and jabbed a finger at Corbin to get moving.
They stood on the sidewalk and watched the woman recede into the distance, the tiny skateboard bouncing along after her.
“She’ll notice it when she gets home,” Alice said. “It might not solve anything in the long run.”
“But at least it helped the little guy this time,” Corbin said.
“You’re a good kid,” Alice said, putting an arm around his shoulders. “Now let’s go cheer your father up. He’s going to be sad no one got hurt.”