She looked up from her paperwork. "When was it that you brought them in?" she asked.
"It was ... um ... let's see. What's today - the 23rd? So, it would have been the 11th, I think. A friend of mine told me that after 8 business days, you could come adopt a stray that you'd brought in."
"And they were two cocker spaniels, you said?"
"That's right: one brown and one black. They were probably from the same litter - they seemed to belong together, more or less," I explained.
"Hmm, hang on a minute." She shuffled some paperwork to the side, and pulled up the computer screen. I jingled the leash a bit, twirling the end around and around while I waited.
"Ah, okay, here they are," she said. "Yep, that's enough time. So, you want to adopt the little brown one?"
"Well ..." I hesitated. Charlie wanted the brown one. I loved both of them, but I really, really, really wanted the black one. I had already had visions of wine and roaring fire and toasty puppy-warmed toes in the dead of winter. The visions didn't include the brown one, just the black one.
"Actually, I was kind of partial to the black one," I blurted out before Charlie could say anything. I could tell that he'd somehow also managed to take lessons from that former elementary school teacher of mine, because I could feel That Look burning down my neck immediately after I'd said it.
But honestly, what could I do? I mean, that was MY dog. I had already decided on it. Heck, I'd probably be the one taking care of it mostly anyway. I had to do it.
"Oh, sorry, but someone's already put in their dibs on the black one."
It didn't register for a minute. Someone's already put in their dibs? Their "DIBS?" On MY DOG? Someone's put in their dibs on the dog that I rescued from a life of wet, stickery, misery? The dog that I put a carefully crafted and eloquent ad about in the Found section of the newspaper at my own expense? (Okay, "found pets" ads are free, but it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing.) The dog that I'd spent the last few days already living with in harmony in the silences of my mind? That dog? This couldn't be happening. I must have heard wrong.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" It was a testament to my strength of will that I didn't shriek.
"Well, someone has already signed up to adopt the black one of those dogs."
That's what I thought she'd said. But it just couldn't be right - couldn't be!
"But ... how can that happen? I mean, I was told that you can't claim them for 8 days after they've been in here? And it's just 8 days today? Did someone come in this morning or something?" I was frantically trying to make sense of the situation.
"Well, yes, you can't actually adopt them for 8 days, but you can put in a claim or a request to adopt them at any time that they're here. That way, when the 8 days is up, you get first chance at them." Not content to merely destroy my dream, she went on innocently, "Didn't you know you could put that claim in when you first brought them in?"
No. No I didn't. I didn't KNOW that at all. My erstwhile ally in the Dean's office had neglected to mention this important tidbit of information. Everyone had neglected to mention this important tidbit of information.
I choked back another shriek. "No, actually, I didn't know that." I was rather proud of myself for how calm that sounded.
She dug the knife a bit deeper. "Oh, bummer. They should have told you."
Yes. They should have. BASTARDS! I spent a few minutes dreaming up complicated schemes of vengeance, each more elaborate than the last, when she interrupted me.
"So, did you want to adopt the brown one?"
I looked at Charlie who, being the wise and wonderful man he is, didn't crack even the slightest bit of a smile. Of course, he wouldn't have: I was holding the leash. Ever seen someone garrotted with a dog leash? Not pretty, my friends. Not pretty at all.
"Sure, let's go take a look at him," I said, at least somewhat resigned to the situation.
We got a tag, and walked over toward the kennels. This would be my final goodbye to my little black puppy friend. I wasn't sure if I could handle it.
To be continued...