"Son of a bitch." It was said in a cheerful, conversational tone. There was a pause and then I looked over at my partner with a quiet but meaningful, "Preston." Considering we were only a couple inches apart and crouched on the floor my admonition didn't need to be very loud.
"What? It's factual," he said in an outraged voice. I peered up at the puppy Pres was currently holding above our heads and saw that yes indeed, it was undeniably 'factual'.
"Behave. There are kids in this store. Anyway, put it down before he proves he's male and we have to go change our clothes." Preston gently lowered the pup down to be with his litter mates.
"Si, he really is a cute little guy."
"Yes, he's adorable. But, Pres, we agreed that we'd get an older dog, our schedules aren't going to allow the time needed to raise a puppy."
"Maybe we could get him into a good day care. Or maybe find someone who works nights and do a puppy share." Preston persisted.
I sighed, knowing Preston was only half-way kidding. "Let's go over to the shelter and look around."
At the animal rescue shelter there were twenty or so dogs in cages or runs waiting to be adopted. Most looked like mixed breeds, a few looked like one breed or another but probably weren't. Si and I had made a few guidelines for ourselves. Our home isn't huge and the yard is pretty small so we didn't want too big a dog. It would be nice if it didn't shed or was at least short-haired. We wanted an adult dog, but hopefully one just three years old or so. There were several likely candidates at the shelter. One smaller spaniel-ish dog seemed to meet the criteria, except the shedding part. There was also a very sweet beagle who I thought was pretty much perfect.
I looked around for Simon and there he was crouched in front of a cage, reaching his fingers through the wire (in direct violation of the posted rules, I might add) stroking as much of the dog as he could reach. The dog had his head down, chin flat on the ground, he was looking up at Simon and his long tail was thumping behind him. It was clear that he was only looking at Simon with one eye as the other must have been injured and had a milky film over it. It was a fairly large dog, medium haired and looked rather beat up. His ears had notches on the edges and his fur was sparse in some places and clumped in others. There was a shelter worker crouched down beside Simon talking earnestly.
I quietly went over and crouched down on the other side of Simon.
Si looked at me with a somewhat guilty expression on his face.
"Pres, hi. Can you believe this dog has been at the shelter for five months already?"
Yes, yes, in fact I had no trouble at all believing that. I just smiled at my partner. I looked past Simon to the shelter worker, "what's his story?"
"We don't know very much about him. He was brought in as a stray. He isn't microchipped and we've had no inquiries from anyone looking for him."
"Has he been looked at by a veternarian?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. We have a veternarian on staff. He actually isn't that old, about six, maybe seven. He was wormed and given the appropriate shots. He's obviously had a hard life. I was just telling your..." She paused and looked at Simon.
"Partner." I supplied.
She looked back at me. "I was telling your partner that the families who come in with kids don't even look at him. They usually want the puppies. He's been rather hard to place. Although he is a very sweet natured dog."
She fell silent and we all looked again at the dog.
"Would you like me to get a leash and bring him out?" She asked hopefully.
"Umm.. Olivia" I read her name off her badge, "can you give us a minute to talk?"
"Yes, of course. Let me know." She spoke in a rather resigned voice. Probably use to people talking some sense into their soft hearted partners.
After she left, Simon and I stood, still looking down at the dog.
Finally Simon spoke, "yes, I know. He's the wrong size, he sheds and is a little too old." He paused and then said in a stronger voice, "well, have you found a dog that you'd like to show me?"
I thought of the beagle but there was a sadness in Si's eyes that I knew. "Simon, they have a program here I read about, where you can foster a dog and adopt him if you like or bring him back if it doesn't work out. Why don't we take, umm.. " I gestured to the dog. "does he have a name?"
"Rufus, they've been calling him Rufus, but we could choose another name if we wanted to." He paused, sticking his hands into his pockets. "Pres, we don't have to do this."
"Oh, I think we do, Charlie Brown."
"Huh?" He asked confused.
I smiled into those beautiful eyes. "You know, Charlie Brown. He came home with the little scrawny tree because no one else would buy it and he thought it would be lonely and sad."
We stood looking at each other for several long moments. Simon searching my face. He glanced down at the dog then turned and grabbed me into a hug, right there at the shelter, in front of man and beast. "I love you, Pres."
"Me too you, big guy. Let's go find Olivia."
And that's how we got our dog. He was never called Rufus though. He is Charlie and the name fits perfectly.