They were on the road in less than twenty minutes. Neither one of them realized that they had slept for so long. It was nearly 7pm. Graydon pulled into the stable yard and parked his car where Marty pointed. Nick saw them pull up and opened the door to the surgery. They stepped into the waiting area and started heading towards the treatment room. Nick stopped in the doorway.
“I had to call you. There was no way I’d have let them take Max. So, they wanted him put to sleep. Right then. We brought him in, and I did exactly what they said. I put him to sleep,” Nick finished and opened the door.
Marty was getting worried, especially when she saw Max on the dog bed next to the treatment table. She hurried over to Max. Putting her hand on his chest, she realized that he was asleep. “Oh Nick! You clever bastard!” she said.
Graydon was looking from one to the other and trying to understand just what went on. The dog looked dead, but obviously wasn’t. Then it hit him. “I get it! They said ‘put him to sleep’ and you took them literally rather than euphemistically. So, they think the dog is dead and Max gets a second chance.”
“Exactly!” Nick was smiling as he walked over to Max and Marty. “I figured that if there was anyone who could turn this dog around it would be you Marty. He has always been better when you’re around. It was just going back and forth that screwed him up. You will have to take him home though for a while. Can you handle that?” he asked.
“Yes, I can cope. My yard is fenced and there is a dog run in the back. Remember, I keep Kenny during the Henry’s vacations,” she said.
“Oh! That’s right. I’ve got his kennel stuff here in a box, and you can take that bed. I’ve put some food in a bag for you too,” Nick said as he started putting stuff on the table.
“You were pretty certain that I’d take Max,” said Marty.
“Yes. Certain enough to take you off the work schedule for the next week. I figured you’d need the time with him,” said Nick.
“Nick, I can’t afford to take a week off!” Marty protested.
“You can. You’re just off the schedule, not the payroll. I figure that bringing Max back was worth the vacation time you never take. So, get him out of here and go play mom. See you a week from Monday.” Nick smiled and headed out the door. “Oh, and don’t forget to turn out the lights!” he hollered as he left.
“Why is he leaving so rapidly?” Graydon asked.
“Simple. Plausible deniability. If he isn’t here when the dog is taken, he can honestly say he put it to sleep and that a stable hand must have buried the body,” Marty explained.
Graydon thought about it for a moment. “I take it that this isn’t the first time Nick has been a clever bastard and rescued an animal.”
“Nope. However, most of the animals were a lot easier to place than this mutt. First time we did it it was an entire litter of puppies. AKC registered puppies. The mother died and the owner didn’t want them. Told Nick to drown them for killing their mom. So, we bathed them, and gave them to another bitch to nurse,” she explained.
“I think I underestimated Nick. Smart man even if he isn’t the best with some animals.” Graydon knelt down to pick up Max. He realized it would be easier to pick up the pillow at the same time. Marty was getting ready to help him and then realized that he was stronger than he looked. Graydon picked Max and the pillow up easily. “Go get the back hatch open Marty.”
Marty grabbed the box of stuff and headed out to Graydon’s car. He followed behind her with Max. After settling Max and his stuff into the back, Marty went back in and closed up the clinic. She turned the lock and pulled the door shut. “Let’s go!” she said.
Graydon started up his car and they pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the road. Twenty minutes later, they were back at the house. Marty opened the doors and Graydon once again carried Max. They set him on the back porch. Marty brought the rest of the stuff in from the car and set up his food dish and water bowl. They removed anything that might get damaged and then closed the door.
“How long will it be before Max wakes up?” he asked.
“Probably within the hour. Nick wouldn’t have given him too heavy a dose. Why?”
“Well, if I’m going to have a talk with Max, I want to have time to get ready. I don’t want to be in the middle of kissing you,” he said as he leaned over and kissed Marty on the top of her head.
“Silly man!” she smiled. “I have a request for you.”
“Yes my dear?”
“Would you go pick up a pizza for us? That piece of pie isn’t going to hold us for long and I really don’t want to go to the Dirty Spoon tonight.”
“I can understand that. Will you call it in, or do I just head over?” he asked, trying to remember exactly where he had seen the pizza shop.
“I’ll call it in. What kind of pizza do you like?” she asked.
“Pepperoni and mushroom is my favorite, but I’ll eat just about anything,” he answered.
“Alright,” Marty took her phone out of her pocket and ordered a large pizza. “They said it would be ready in fifteen minutes.”
“And where do I go?”
“Down two blocks and turn left. You can’t miss it.”
Marty was right. There was no missing the pizza place. Not only did it smell good, but it had a huge revolving pizza for a sign. Graydon paid for the pizza and was back before it steamed up his windows.
“That smells so good! I didn’t realize how hungry I was,” said Marty.
“It’s all that sleeping,” Graydon said with a grin on his face.
They sat down at the table and ate pizza straight out of the box. Marty did tear off a couple of paper towels for napkins, but that was about it. Graydon had just finished his third piece of pizza when they heard a whimpering coming from the back porch.
“I think the baby is awake,” he joked.
“Yes. I’ll go let him out in the back yard to do his business. Are you going to… you know… um…” she hesitated.
“Shift? Yes. I’ll meet you out there in a few minutes.”
“Alright,” Marty turned and went into the porch where she was met with joyful barking. He heard the back door open and then close. Graydon picked up the pizza and put the leftovers in the fridge. Then he walked out to the living room and up to the bedroom.
Once upstairs, he took off his clothes and left them in a neat pile. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed and started to shift. A moment later, he shook himself and started downstairs. When he got to the kitchen, he realized he had a problem. Marty’s house had doorknobs. He couldn’t open the door to the porch. Shifting back and forth to just open doors would take more energy than he had at the moment. So, he did the only thing he could think of. He yipped. It was a high pitched noise, but it was enough to get Marty’s attention. She came in and realized he was stuck in the kitchen. Smiling, she opened the doors.
Graydon walked out and looked around. Max was over in a corner of the yard trying to dig a hole. He walked over to him and growled. It got Max’s attention.
Marty watched the two animals from the back porch. She had been surprised by the size of Graydon in wolf form. He was much bigger than she had expected. Having seen real wolves, Marty thought she had a clue as to what he’d look like. In some ways, she was right. In others, she had been way off. His fur was dark gray with lighter highlights along his chest and belly. His shoulders were higher than her waist, and although she was only 5’4”, that still made him a big animal. When he had yipped, she jumped. Then it made her laugh to realize that something as little as a doorknob had stopped him.
Out in the dark, Max was getting an unexpected lecture. He knew he was with the lady from the place with the horses and other dogs. He had smelled the wolf and panicked. Still groggy from the sedative, he could only whimper and lower his head. Finally, he rolled over on his back in submission. He knew he was beta to the wolf. The wolf growled one last time and as he turned, kicked grass and bits of dirt over Max’s prone body.
Marty wished she had some way to interpret what was going on in the back corner. Max went from happy tail wagging to rolling over on his back in a matter of moments. The wolf,… she had trouble thinking of him as Graydon at the moment… was definitely being the alpha male. He kicked dirt over Max and then headed back to the porch. Not knowing exactly what was proper, Marty held her hand out to the wolf to let him sniff her, just like she would with any strange dog. He sniffed her hand and then butted it with his head. Marty smiled and petted his head. She knelt down and ran her fingers through his fur from his ears down to his ruff. It was so thick. He leaned his head against hers and then licked her face.
“Paaugh! You have bad breath!” she said.
The wolf looked like he was laughing. Then he butted against her and moved through the door and into the kitchen. Marty stood up, wiped her face on her sleeve and then called Max.
Max hesitated. He saw the wolf interact with the woman and understood that she was alpha too. He came up to the door with his head lowered.
“Come on Max. It won’t be too bad,” Marty said as she scratched his ears. Max wagged his tail slowly and went into the porch. He went over to his pillow, turned around a few times and lay down. Marty watched him, closed the back door and then after walking into the kitchen, she closed the door to the porch. Max was still on the pillow.
Wow! She thought as she headed up the stairs. Marty walked into the bedroom to see a large wolf sprawled on the bed. Marty was rather surprised. She had figured that Graydon would have changed back already. There were some things she would have to ask him later then. Looking at the clock, she saw that it was nearly 10pm. She grabbed her nighty and stripped off her clothes. It was a bit difficult to get him to move over, but she managed to wrangle a section of the bed complete with pillow and covers. Marty snuggled next to the wolf and was asleep in a few minutes. As she drifted off, she thought to herself that she could get use to this.