Adventures of Cookie the Stray, Chapter 22
Connie’s friendship with Rupert, or Rusty as he preferred, started in grade school with a teacher’s seating chart that put them side by side. Rusty often resolved issues with his fists which at times earned him a trip to the Principal’s office or detention, or both. Despite that, he never failed to defend his friend against would-be bullies and playground tough guys.
He and Connie seemed always to be together whether standing in the lunch line at the cafeteria, sitting at the fringe tables, heads together, or swapping sandwiches from their bag lunches. Their bond was an easy one.
As different as they were in appearance, she a frail wisp of a girl, Rupert, an overgrown too-big-for-his age boy, they remained inseparable. In sixth grade they sang a duet at the school talent show put on by Mrs. Wotchewitz, the music teacher, who made students sing ancient songs to the clacking of old piano keys.
Their friendship ended abruptly their senior year with Connie never understanding why her best friend would leave town without a word. She thought perhaps he was in some sort of trouble due to his quick temper. Rusty would never abandon her. But he had.
Her friends tried to cheer her up inviting her along on a trip to the A&W for lunch in Louis’s convertible. Louis, the captain of the football team, wasted no time making a move on the suddenly available Connie. She tried to discourage him, having no desire to hurt his feelings, but he was persistent. What Rusty saw as he watched from behind the boards of the parking lot fence was Louis clutching Connie in a tight embrace in the front seat of the convertible. What he didn’t see was the red handprint across Louis’s cheek where Connie slapped him.
By the time the story broke in the Wednesday Weekly about Rupert’s father getting killed in action in Southeast Asia, Rusty was long gone taking with him Connie’s dreams of happily ever after, of children and a house with a white picket fence.
Then Connie’s dad lost his job at the plant and she took a part-time job after school to help cover the family’s bills. Her folks had to tap the small college fund they’d put aside for her. Connie never minded not going away to college. She was a hard worker at the pet store where the owner, a retired veterinarian, taught her everything he knew about caring for animals including medical issues, proper nutrition and how to train the animals. She loved the variety of pets in the store but her favorites were the dogs.
The store owner took her to her first out of town dog show, a large gathering of dog breeders and trainers from several states. There, she met the heir to a national chain of restaurants whose hobbies included showing Chow Chow dogs. The woman took an immediate interest in the young and vibrant Connie.
“Are you looking for a job?” she asked Connie, “Because I’m looking for someone who wants to work the national circuit, training and showing my dogs.” With a glance over at her mentor from the pet store, she saw him wink and nod.
“Well, I might be interested,” she said. “What would that include?”
“You’ve taught her well,” the woman told the store owner who’d introduced Connie.
“I had a feeling you’d like her,” he said with a grin. The three of them took a seat on the bleachers with Connie sitting between the adults.
“It would involve a lot of travel,” the woman began. Connie’s eyes lit up at the prospects.
Her life changed immediately, revolving around the whirlwind of activities in dog training, grooming, breeding and competing for championships at multiple dog shows. The long hours spent on the highway transporting the contenders to the various shows became her source of comfort.
Dog Agility Competition
By the time Rusty returned to the small town and took a job at the Steel Mill, Connie was travelling the circuit around the country and occasionally overseas. Connie built a solid reputation in dog show circles over the next few years. Her excellence in canine agility training kept her busy traveling to various breeders and working in kennels all over the country. Her dreams of having her own show dog came to life with a special arrangement by the owners of a champion pair of Chow dogs. She would receive a puppy in partial payment for her services to the owners. The offspring of the male and female champions included a beautiful pure bred female that would be named Queenie.
From the moment they met, Queenie and Connie shared a strong bond. A perfectly matched pair, their time in the center of the ring was magical as if they were always meant to be together.
Agility Competition - Crufts 2017
Rusty cranked the handle of an emergency weather radio he found in the cabinet. Static crackled as he turned the channel selector looking for a station with a storm report. He twisted the knob until the familiar notes of his favorite song started playing. When the song ended, the deejay announced that a weather report would follow the commercial break.
The dogs fell into a trance of contentment in the deep quiet of the shelter. Happy to be fed, warm and out of the rain, each dog found a comfortable spot where they could keep an eye on their human friend. Singing along with his favorite song, Rusty searched the cabinets until he found a large tooth comb and a pair of scissors. He approached Buddy whose long haired coat was a mass of prickly burrs lodged deep in the thick fur.
“Let’s get rid of those hitchhikers on you, okay boy?” Rusty sat down on the floor next to the huge dog and began working to remove the unwanted stickers. He remembered the dog in the photo Eleanor had shown him at her house.
“You look so much like William’s dog you boys could be litter mates,” he said, patting the dog’s head. Buddy thumped his tail and pawed at Rusty’s hand, directing it downward toward his belly. His lips curved upward in a doggy smile as Rusty found the spot to start the dog’s hind leg twitching in time with the music. The other three looked on patiently waiting their turn for Rusty’s affection. Cookie and Nicole lay side by side on a small cushion, curious at the movements of the Hot Dog man and sleepy from the unfamiliar freedom from hunger. Rover didn’t mind sharing his man with the others. There was plenty of attention to go around.
The meteorologist began the weather report with bad news. A series of circling formations and downspouts had been spotted in the general area. Listeners were advised to take immediate shelter and remain indoors.
“We have reports of a touchdown in the area of Colleyville,” the radio announcer said. The wailing of tornado sirens echoed over the announcer’s voice in the background of the broadcast studio. Then, a loud crack of thunder sounded and the broadcast went to static.
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© 2018 Peg Cole