“Hey, Don,” I greeted. “How’s it going?”
He waved hello. “Fine. Just fine. I thought I’d stop in and see if you had—” He stopped in his tracks. “Th-that’s Mona’s dog.”
“Sure is.” I dropped the treat back into the jar.
“Is she here?” he asked in a nervous whisper.
I shook my head, slightly amused at his odd reaction. “Nope. Fluffy’s officially a stray.”
He blinked, puzzled. “Fluffy’s not a stray.”
“Okay, she’s been abandoned.” Fluffy casually sauntered over to Don and me. She sniffed Don’s pants and then sneezed twice. She looked up at me and, I swear, if she had an eyebrow, it’d be arched.
Don’s eyes practically popped out of his head.
I really wanted to laugh, but I could see Don was not amused at Fluffy’s antics. “She’s an actor. Those were probably fake sneezes. What can I do for you?”
“I, ah, I stopped by to pick up the towels you said you’d set aside for the ARL.” He hadn’t taken his eyes off Fluffy.
I’d forgotten all about the donation. “I’ve got the box in the backroom. I’ll be right back. Would you keep an eye on the dog? She’s been sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.”
I was gone about a minute and returned with a large cardboard box filled with linens. “I threw in some sheets and blankets, too.”
“Thanks, Mel. So, what are you going to do with . . .” He nodded toward Fluffy.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. You want to take her back to the ARL with you?” I teased.
He held up his hands, his clean shaven face pale. “We don’t have room.”
“Today.” His bald head glistened with beads of sweat.
“Okay, spill it. What’s going on?”
“We really are full. Did you hear about the puppy mill raid? We took in twenty-six dogs a couple of days ago.”
That wasn’t the whole story. I’d never heard Don turn away a dog. “What aren’t you saying?”
He checked his watch, then looked around as if he was about to disclose a national secret. “Mona’s our biggest benefactor. Every year, following the Fur Ball, she makes her largest contribution. If I take Fluffy, it could cost the ARL millions. MILLIONS. I can’t take that chance.”
He was right. Mona was spiteful enough to punish the ARL because of some perceived slight. “It’s okay, Don. I was just teasing you,” I said. “I’ll take care of Her Highness. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ve got it all under control.”
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