The insistent tugging on Sam's left hand brought his attention down to the
source in front of him. Matching brown dogs, about the size of raccoons, were pulling on
their leashes, intent on the fire hydrant in front of them. As small as they were, they
still were able to pull Sam off balance, and he tipped in their direction. As he was
catching his equilibrium, he realized he was on a city sidewalk with lots of cars zooming
close by on the street. Honking horns made his heart jump and he planted his feet just as
a yellow cab sped by and caught a puddle next to the curb. It was too late; Sam was doused
by a wave of surprising proportion that smelled like gasoline and mud.
He stumbled back, spitting, and felt a tug in the other direction on his
right hand. Glancing to the side opposite the twin dogs, he saw his wrist attached to a
golden retriever who had leaped up to snap at the wave going over him. His tail wagging
furiously, he pulled Sam into the rivulets of water running down the sidewalk as the happy
dog pounced on the trickles. The littler brown dogs let out matching squeaks as they were
dragged back by the bigger dog pulling Sam.
"Whoa! Wait a minute!" Sam yelped as the retriever chased the
water under a newspaper stand. The brown dogs, thinking the bigger dog had a real prize
under the stand, joined in the chase and swung Sam around like a game of crack the whip.
Sam smashed into the stand with a grunt, upsetting several piles of magazines. Finally, he
got his feet under him and dragged the yapping dogs back from the stand. Then he heard the
throaty chuckle from behind the stand, and looked up to see an older black man wearing
dark glasses laughing and starting to re-stack the magazines. Sam could tell the man was
blind by the way he held his head and used his hands.
"Good thing Paul Bunyon wasn't in your group today," the man
chuckled. "We'd both be piled on the ground along with those magazines!"
He had no idea what the guy was talking about. Sam gathered in the dogs and
managed to stop their wiggling for a few seconds. The animals sniffed him cheerily and
licked his face and ears. The momentary perking of their ears was the only give away that
they knew Sam had replaced their handler.
"I'd say a Great Dane and a retriever working together could probably
take us both out, no problem!" The black man continued.
Sam felt completely confused, but the vision of a dog the size of a Dane
attached to his wrist in this situation was a frightening one. "Oh, boy," he
whispered, hoping that vision wouldn't come true.
June 14, 1984
New York City, New York
Sam tried to help the blind newsvendor pick up the magazines, but the dogs'
leashes kept winding around his legs, arms and the table, so Sam apologized and gave up.
The vendor just laughed again and said, "It's all right, Glenn, I'll manage. Go
Guiltily, Sam complied and encouraged the dogs to come along with him. They
pulled happily ahead as if the fiasco was just another part of their day. They drug Sam to
a tiny grassy area between some brick buildings, and started sniffing the bushes.
Finally having time to look around, Sam took a resigned breath and took in
his surroundings. The cars were nonstop, the cabs numerous, and the buses noisy. Buildings
rose high above him everywhere he looked, and the sidewalk was lined with trees. The dogs
pulled him further into the grassy area, and Sam caught a glimpse of a familiar building
top. He was in New York City! There wasn't much of a chance to pinpoint exactly where he
was, because the dogs pulled him from the little park like they were on a schedule.
Sam wished he knew where they were going, but the dogs seemed very
comfortable taking the lead. Every stop seemed well rehearsed and an important part to
their day. As they sniffed and pulled their way along, Sam started to think what it would
be like to be a dog living in this city, and then understood their excitement at being
They walked steadily for awhile, then came to a complete stop in front of
the glass doors of an apartment building. All three dogs sat down expectedly, and regarded
Sam with raised ears, tails sweeping the sidewalk. Sam squatted down to their level and
looked at their grouping in the glass' reflection. Glenn appeared to be in his
mid-thirties and in good physical shape. He was white, with dark brown hair and a cheery
face. Obviously, dogs loved him.
"What?" he asked, causing the dogs to tilt their heads in unison.
Sam reached for the collars of the twin dogs and saw the names 'Rolls' and 'Royce'
engraved on their tags. "Cute," Sam said softly, wondering how the owners came
up with that. The retriever's collar said 'Raleigh'. "OK , uh, boys," Sam
guessed. "Now what?" All four of them turned their heads simultaneously to the
sound of the Imaging Chamber door. Royce growled.
The red and yellow-clad figure that stepped from the glowing doorway didn't
give the dog a second glance as he poked on the hand link to close the door. "Who
asked your opinion, anyway?" Observer Al Calavicci snipped back at the pooch. Royce's
ears dropped and he stopped growling. "Thought so. Not as brave as you think you are,
"Oh, leave him alone," Sam replied addressing Al. "He knows
more about what's going on than I do!"
Al snorted. "Well, that's gonna change right now. Your name is Glenn
Thomas, and he is a professional dog walker. It's Tuesday, June 12, 1984, and I guess you
figured out you're in New York City, huh? Hard to miss that." The hologram studied
the link, balancing it and a smoldering cigar in the same hand.
"A dog walker, huh? That sure is a niche job." Sam stood up. The
dogs stared at him. "What do they want?" he asked out loud, indicating the
Al gave the dogs a glance. "What am I, a pup psychologist? Ha, ha! Get
it, Sam? 'Pup' psychologist??" he continued to laugh at his own joke.
Sam gave a sour face to the poor pun. Royce growled softly again. "Ha,
ha very funny. Do I live here?" He pushed open the entryway doors and the dogs
crowded in. The lobby was nice! "Boy, I must make some good money!" he whistled.
Al stopped laughing and rolled his eyes. "No, Sam, you don't live
here! The people who live here can afford to pay people like you to walk their pooches for
them while they're at work. One of those guys," he pointed at the dogs at Sam's side,
"probably lives here. Lucky dogs. Ha, ha! I'm on a roll!"
Sam shook his head and allowed his charges to lead him to the bank of
elevators, leaving the laughing Al behind. "OK, if you're done with your Milton Berle
routine, maybe you can tell me where I'm going?"
The holographic Observer clamped the cigar in his teeth, and focused on the
hand link with a frown. "Milton Berle! Aw, Sam, he's way out; old news."
Making the dogs sit, Sam retorted, "Well, old news is all I have in my
Swiss cheese brain right now because you're not doing much to update me!"
Al mumbled over the cigar as he read the link. "Yeah, blame me, I can
take it," then more loudly. "Well, you should have Glenn's schedule for the day
in a pocket somewhere. It says who's on vacation, who needs to go to the groomer, stuff
like that. Glenn's a full service dog walker!"
Checking his pockets as Al spoke, Sam found a small notebook. He opened it
to the correct date and checked his watch. He found names, and located Rolls, Royce and
Raleigh all in a row. The next name was Angus. There were no addresses, though, and he
flipped to the back of the book and found a section titled 'clients'. The dogs' names were
listed as the clients, but unfortunately by the last names. He had to figure out whose
last name was what. Luckily, there was only one pair listed as 'Rolls and Royce', and
their last name was Bennett. The golden was Raleigh Dalton. Neither one lived at the
numbers of this building. Going through the client list, he did find a matching address on
22nd Street for Angus Jones, apartment 404. Sam stepped in the doors as the elevator
opened and hit the button for the 4th floor, and his charges followed obediently. So did
"Let's see here, Jones at 310 22nd Street. On this date, there's a
listing for an A. Jones. Gee, you suppose that stands for Angus and the dog lives alone?
Ha, ha!" Sam pinched his nose like he had a headache, and didn't dignify the comment
with a reply. "OK, here we go," Al continued, non-plussed. "Allison Jones
lives here. Tax returns show her as single, one daughter Tori, and boy, does mom make
bunch this year!" Al whistled. "No wonder she can afford these digs. Wonder what
she does for a good time?"
The elevator doors dinged open and the eclectic troop coursed out into the
hall. With Raleigh leading the way, the dogs pulled Sam to the door labeled 404 and sat
down. "Gee, looks like they know the routine," Sam commented, fishing in his
pocket for the huge ring of keys he knew was in there.
Al squinted his eyes. "Are you saying I can be replaced by a
dog?" he commented slyly.
The corner of Sam's mouth turned up in a grin. "Well," he said
slowly, "at least they help without making stupid puns. These keys must be marked
somehow," Sam said as he flipped through the ring.
"Why don't you ask the three stooges there which one it is?" Al
shot back. Royce's ears flattened and he growled quietly at Al. "Ah, go bite a fire
hydrant," Al said.
"Stop it," Sam said with a laugh. "It's just a little dog!
Ah, ha!" Sam held up a key triumphantly. "There's a number on here that I saw on
the client list. Glenn's own personal code. Boy, he's organized." Sam inserted the
key, and let himself in. The other dogs stayed seated in the hall at the doorway. Sam was
impressed; Glenn must be quiet a trainer, too!
It wasn't long before a little black dog came scurrying into the room,
nails clicking on the wood floors. He skidded to a stop and looked at Sam with his head
cocked to one side. His surprised expression made Sam laugh out loud. After a moment, the
stub of Angus' tail and most of his rump wagged in greeting. He walked over and sniffed
Angus was a black Scottish terrier with a red bandanna around his neck. He
was as clean and neat looking as the well-appointed apartment. Sam noticed the leash
hanging by the door and lifted it as Angus sat at his feet, waiting.
"Nice place," Al commented. "Sure don't skimp in the quality
of stuff." The hologram looked up and down an abstract oil painting on the wall.
"Hmm. Looks like three nudes wrestling
"It's not a Rorshack ink blot! It's art!" Sam hissed as he
attached the leash.
Al snorted. "Art is in the eye of the beholder." His head tilted
just like Angus' had been a moment before. "And this would look nice over our
" he clucked.
Sam was saved from his friend's critique by the soft movement of someone
entering the room. "Ah, Mr. Thomas!" a cheery woman's voice greeted. She was
wiping her hands on a towel. "I thought I heard you." She came to a dead stop
when she saw him. "What happened to you?" There was a smirk on her face.
"Ah, hi," Sam said, glancing at Al. Al looked at the woman and
shrugged. Sam frowned and tilted his head to indicate that Al should consult the hand
link. "Got caught too close to a puddle."
The woman nodded, understanding.
Al, forgetting the link was in his hand, said, 'Oh!" and brought it up
to his face. There was nothing interesting enough about this woman to keep him from fact
"Mrs. Jones said to wait tomorrow on the first walk, if that's all
right," the woman told him. "She'd like to speak to you first."
"Oh! OK, sure," Sam stuttered. 'She must be the maid or
something,' he thought, standing up. Angus joined his friends in the hall, and they all
touched noses in greeting, their tails wagging.
"Tori's getting out of school next week and wants to start walking
Angus once a day on her own." The woman smiled. "Seven years old and wanting to
feel responsible about something! Isn't that cute?"
"Uh, oh," Al said over the woman's voice. Sam glanced
unobtrusively in Al's direction, his stomach turning at his tone.
The woman kept talking. "Oh, she loves that dog so! Treats him like
the little brother she wishes she had. And the feeling's mutual! Well, I've got to get
dinner on, so see you tomorrow!" She threw the towel over her shoulder and left the
room the way she came.
"Sam," Al started.
Sam held up his hand in a shushing motion. "Not here, Al!
" He stepped out the door, closed it, and the dogs fell in beside him,
happily sniffing their way to the elevators. There were two people waiting for the car, so
Sam and Al couldn't speak until they were on the street again. The dogs tugged Sam on up
"Sam, can I talk now?" Al said seriously.
"I don't think I want to hear what you're gonna say, but I guess I
have to. Does Tori get killed or something? Am I here to save her or her
"Ah, close. Tori and her mom are OK in the original history.
"I knew it," Sam said through gritted teeth.
"No! Really! They're OK physically! It's the pooch there,
Sam glanced at Al, relieved. "What, Angus runs away or
"No, Angus there gets mowed over by a bus next Monday. Barely misses
Tori, and she's OK, but the dog gets killed. Sorry, Sam."
Not quite sure how to take that, Sam thought it over. "I'm here to
keep a dog from getting killed?"
"Guess so. Ziggy gives it an 72.35 percent chance that's why you're
"That's not very high," Sam mulled out loud.
"Well, that's all we got now until you sniff around a bit more. Ha,
ha!" Al poked the link as Sam groaned. "I'll see if Beeks'll let me talk to
Glenn now. I'll check back with you later, Sam."
Gratefully, Sam heard the Imaging Chamber door open.
Glenn's schedule was easy to follow. He had it written out clearly, and Sam
kept busy the rest of the day. He met Paul Bunyon, the Great Dane the blind newsvendor had
mentioned, and smartly decided to walk him alone. The Dane eyed Sam suspiciously, and kept
his distance for most of the stroll. Sam only got a tail wag when he offered a biscuit at
the end of the walk.
He had leaped in near the end of the day, so there weren't that many more
clients. The last on the list was Rose, a fluffy golden retriever that was fat and wiggly
and happily accepted Sam as her new friend. Overall, most of the dogs gave him little
notice. They were only too happy to get outside.
Al returned as Sam was leaving Rose's apartment. It was early evening when
he stepped out to the sidewalk and he heard the Imaging Chamber door.
"Going home now to rest your own dogs?" Al quipped with a
"Ha, ha. Enough with the puns, Al. My feet hurt, and I need to know
where I live!"
"No problemo, there, buddy. Just keep going this direction." Sam
continued down the sidewalk as Al talked.
"Sorry it took so long, but it's tough getting information from a
Swiss-cheesed Visitor. Glenn coughed up most of the clients' names, and Ziggy
cross-referenced them, but there's nothing really there that tops Ziggy's projection about
Sam nodded. "So, where does Glenn live?"
"Zig did a lot of research on that. It seems Mr. Thomas is the Dog Man
of New York. Not only does he walk them, but he boards and trains them, too. Sorta does it
all at the same time. While he walks them during the day, his partner hangs out at the
kennel and takes care of those dogs. They have quite a corner on the canine market. Turn
"Doesn't this guy have a car?"
Al laughed. "No one needs a car in New York, Sam!"
Sam soon found himself in an older area, the modern apartments giving way
to a pocket of small bungalows. Most were renovated and clean with an occasional
mom-and-pop store nestled among the homes. Al indicated an old, small house as Glenn's.
The first thing that caught Sam's eye was the narrow drive leading to the back of the
house. It reminded him of the old days of horse and buggy transportation. A modern car
would look simply out of place.
He followed the drive around the back and found an old building that had
been a stable or a one-car garage at one time and now contained several yapping dogs,
greeting him. The tiny yard was efficiently set up for the four-legged clients.
"Wow," Sam breathed. "He's serious, huh?"
Al pocketed the link in exchange for a cigar, and rolled it in his fingers
as he surveyed the grounds. "Every one has their dream, I guess. Glenn does all
"So there's nothing about his life that needs changing?"
"Not that we can see. He does fine. Not much room for expansion here,
but he is always in demand so he does well."
"You said he had a partner. What about him?"
"Glenn has had several partners. Some move on to bigger digs, some
leave for new businesses, but Glenn always stays. He's still here today." The
hologram chomped on the cigar thoughtfully, then grinned evilly.
"Not a bad gig! Think about all the women he meets and all the
apartment keys he has!"
Sam was hit with another thought at his partner's train of thought.
"Now, yeah. One of his past partners was a wife. Lasted about two
years." Al mumbled over the cigar. "Guess there aren't too many dog-loving
single women in the city. Or at least, Glenn hasn't hooked up with one yet. Boy, and does
he have opportunity!" The Observer's eyes gleamed at the thought.
Sam shot him a 'get-your-thoughts-out-of-the-gutter' look, and turned to
the house. His feet hurt, and he wanted to put them up. "Look, Al. I'm tired. I want
to go to bed. Unless you have something more useful for me, why don't you go away? I'll
check out the house and partner." He waved off the hologram wearily.
Al rapped on the link. "OK, then, be that way. I have plans, anyway.
Oh, your current partner's Chris Chandler. When I asked the Visitor for details on him,
all I got was a blank look." Al waved a hand. "That Swiss cheese effect again.
Ziggy doesn't have much on Chris, except that he eventually becomes a truck driver. So
anything you discover may be of help."
"After some sleep."
"Right, OK, after some sleep." The hologram called for the
Imaging Chamber door and waggled his eyebrows with a crafty grin. "I don't plan on
resting real soon, if you catch my drift!" He stepped back through the glowing
Sam shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "Unbelievable," he
mumbled to himself as the door slid shut. The momentary quiet was shattered by the sound
of a slamming door, and Sam looked up wearily. It was just turning dark and the back door
of the house stood open, showing a dimly lit kitchen. The screen door had just slammed
shut, and a blond man in his mid-twenties was shrugging on a backpack and walking towards
"Hey, Glenn. Everyone's fed and watered. I'll see ya tomorrow, but I
want you to know that I'm giving you my two weeks notice. We'll talk more later.
The man Glenn assumed was Chris walked away without another word.
"Great." Sam growled to the retreated back. He glanced up to the
house and saw the outline of a medium-sized dog at the door wagging his tail slowly. As
Sam approached, the tail moved a little faster, but as soon as Sam was close enough for
his features to be clear in the fading light, the dog's tail stopped. When Sam reached the
door, the dog retreated under the kitchen table shoved against a wall, his tail firmly
between his legs. He wedged himself against the back wall, as far away from Sam as he
could get and still keep an eye on him.
Sam watched the animal as he entered the kitchen and gently closed the
door. He squatted down, and could see the eyes locked on him. "Look," he said
gently. "I know I'm not Glenn. You know I'm not Glenn. I promise to take care of you
until Glenn gets, back OK? We don't have to be best buds or anything, but I'm here to help
you out." Sam rubbed his eyes again. "I think. Anyway, Glenn'll be back
Sam stood up and looked around. The kitchen was small and clean, but
cluttered with papers, files and books. All that was in the refrigerator was cheese and
beer, which made Sam laugh out loud. He pulled out a brew and opened it, taking a long
sip, then took out the cheese. There was bread in a bread box, so he was in the process of
making a sandwich when he heard the 'tacka-tacka-tacka' of dog toenails on the floor. He
glanced down and had to smile. The dog had seated himself next to Sam, his ears perked
hopefully in the direction of the cheese. Sam tossed a few bits down and their
relationship was sealed. Fastest way to a dog's heart is through his stomach, he
As his new friend tagged along, Sam walked through the house with the beer
and sandwich. There were dog things everywhere; pictures, leashes, packs of rawhide bones,
chewed squeaky toys and Dog Fancy magazine. The house was neat, just cluttered, and Sam
knew it was a bachelor's place. One room appeared to be an office. It had photographs of a
man winning ribbons and trophies at dog shows, and Sam recognized Glenn. One of the dogs
looked a lot like his current shadow.
"Is that you?" Sam said, pointing at the picture and looking at
the dog sitting obediently next to him. The dog's ears perked, and he cocked his head with
a comical look that made Sam laugh. He found the calendar for tomorrow and sighed. Another
busy day. With his furry shadow trailing behind, Sam found the bed and soon after
collapsed onto it, his feet throbbing as he fell asleep.
Wakened by hot breath on his face, Sam slowly opened his eyes to see a
muzzle resting on the edge of his bed next to his face. When Sam's eyes cracked open, he
heard the swishing of the dog's tail on the floor. Dawn was still very young
"All right, all ready," Sam moaned, the dog's tail swishing
faster. "I guess you figured me out, huh?" He sat up, and the dog pranced in
He found some clean clothes piled in a laundry basket and tried to keep his
legs untangled from his furry friend as he got dressed. As soon as he entered the kitchen,
he heard whining from the garage. When he pushed open the back door, his new friend
bounded outside and raced in circles around Sam as he walked to Glenn's charges in the
Sam was greeted with whines and howls and yips of various tones. There must
have been a dozen dogs, each in their own wire kennel. Each kennel had a clipboard on it
with the dog's name, food preference and emergency contact. There were times checked off
each time the animal was exercised in the yard. Sam was impressed, and saw that Chris did
all the exercising. Feeding the crowd was a snap. Cleaning the kennels wasn't a joy, but
Sam knew it had to be done.
After his kennel chores, Sam took a rest and leaned against the doorway.
Glenn's dog sat next to him. "I guess you need to eat, huh?" Sam said, looking
down. "Me too. I saw your bowl in the house." Sam squatted down. "I can't
keep saying 'hey, you.' What the heck is your name?" He felt a collar under the long,
thick fur and worked the tags around to read them. He immediately started laughing when he
read the dog's name, and stood up. Motioning toward the house, he said, "Come on,
Ziggy!" The happy canine raced ahead and waited excitedly by the door.
The walking schedule started at nine, and Angus was the first stop after
Chris arrived to take over the 'office'. He didn't say much about quitting, but did
mention he was going to Ohio, and he hoped Glenn didn't have a problem finding a
Sam mulled this over on his way to the Jones', and wondered where Al was.
When he knocked on the door precisely at nine a small voice asked, "Who is
"Ah, Glenn the dog walker," Sam replied. There wasn't an
immediate response, then the sound of the door unlocking and soft voices gave way to an
open door and a woman dressed comfortably in jeans inviting him in. A little girl with
long, light brown hair hid behind the woman's legs, and in her arms Angus squirmed
excitedly. The girl put the dog down and he made a beeline to Sam's shoes and started
"Please come in Glenn. I'm not messing up your schedule with this
chat, am I?" Allison Jones had startling blue eyes and dark hair, cut stylishly
short. Her smile was genuine as she motioned Sam to the dining room and indicated him to
sit at the table where the newspaper was hastily folded and pushed aside. "Time for
coffee?" She asked pleasantly.
"No, thanks, but go right ahead," Sam said as he sat. Allison sat
across from him.
"Tori, honey, get Angus in his collar, and get your shoes on."
The girl scampered off with the dog bounding happily behind. Allison had a dreamy smile on
her face as she watched Tori go, then turned her attention to Sam. "She adores that
dog. And vice versa."
Sam returned the smile. "I can see that."
"Now, the reason I asked you here was to ask your help. I know you're
busy with your work and have a tight schedule, and I'm prepared to compensate you
accordingly for what I'm about to ask." She smiled a dazzling smile at Sam, and he
was all ears.
He didn't even twitch when he heard the Imaging Chamber door swoosh open,
but said, "Go ahead. I'm listening," more as a hint for Al to listen, too. The
Observer caught on, and was mostly quiet after his initial sizing up of Allison which
resulted in a semi-lewd comment referring to 'puppies.' Sam felt his cheeks grow hot, and
hoped it wasn't obvious.
If Allison noticed, she was polite enough not to show it. "Tori wants
to learn how to take care of Angus properly. She saw the Westminster Dog Show on
television and, well, wants to learn how to show dogs for a living. I know you've done
that in the past, but have you ever trained a person to do it?"
"Oh, yeah, Sam, Glenn knows that kind of stuff. He's done some
obedience competitions, and has shown all over the state with lots of helpers that became
"Well, yes, that's part of the business," Sam answered. "How
do you feel about her doing this?"
Allison hesitated. "She's so shy and withdrawn. I'm hoping this will
bring her out and give her some confidence. Since her father died," she took a
breath, and continued, "she seems so sad. She says she's fine, but I don't think
she's dealing with it very well. They were very close. And now that I think she'll be an
only child, she needs something." She smiled beautifully and leaned forward, putting
both of her hands on Sam's forearm briefly, meeting his eyes. "I'm so busy at
I..I.." Allison was also still suffering from her loss.
"Oh, Sam, a lady in distress!" Al whined. "Lucky
Sam didn't even grace him with a glance. "It must be difficult, I'm
sure." He said reassuringly. "Let's take this one step at a time, OK? How about
if I take Tori with me on this walk, and I let her handle Angus herself? I'll give her
pointers in obedience training, and see how she does."
As he was talking, he could hear Al tapping on the hand link. "That's
a good start, Sam."
With the sound of Tori and Angus returning, Sam stood and turned to them,
smiling. "OK, now. Let's check your gear." Tori had put on the collar, and Sam
checked it. "Let's go you two. Hang on tight, OK, Tori?" He started to the door
with Al barking orders, and Allison following at a discreet distance.
"Have her make the dog stop next to her every time she stops, Sam.
It's the heel thing."
Sam's soft direction overlapped with Al's speaking as he relayed the
information. It wasn't difficult; Angus obviously had most of this training before. By the
time they were heading up the sidewalk they looked like a well-matched pair. Al prepared
to leave them out on the sidewalk and called the Imaging Chamber door. The sound of the
door behind them made Angus tuck his tail and bolt, dragging a surprised Tori off-balance,
nearly to the ground. Sam grabbed her arm, preventing the fall, with a chill of
realization going up his spine. That is precisely how the little dog probably gets killed
on Monday! Sam realized in a flash.
" Al commented slowly, still in the doorway. "Do
you think that's how
." He didn't have to finish the sentence.
"Go get details, Al." Sam whispered as Tori calmed the dog.
"Read the accident report, if there is one."
"Gotcha," Al acknowledged. "I'm also going to grill Mr.
Thomas on how to prevent that from happening. Maybe it's an obedience thing." Al
stepped back, and the door swooshed shut.
Sam glanced back at Allison Jones, who had decided to watch from a
distance. She didn't interfere, which impressed Sam. She trusted Glenn.
"I think something scared him," Tori said softly, hugging the
dog. "I don't see what, though. Did you, Mr. Thomas?"
"Ah, no. But let's work on that, OK? Angus is depending on you as much
as you depend on him," Sam said with a smile.
"Me?" Tori said, clearly puzzled. "Depending on me for what?
I brush him and feed him. Is that what you mean?"
Sam thought this over for a few seconds, and laughed shortly. Her
relationship with Angus had to be like his with Al: They had to trust each other
completely. "Well," Sam started slowly, trying to put the thought into words a
7-year old could understand. "That's a start, and that leads to trust, which only
grows with working together. If Angus trusts you enough, he won't try to run like that
when he's scared. He'll turn to you, and take his cues from you."
The girl frowned. Sam could tell she didn't quite get that, but it made
sense on some level.
"That takes time, that's all. And we have a good start!" Sam
indicated that she continue the walk, and the pair happily complied.
Sam knew that Saturday was a light day on Glenn's schedule; most of his
clients were home, and walked their pets themselves. This day was usually taken up by
grooming at the kennel. Glenn brought the scheduled dogs to his place where a mobile
groomer did the work. After a nice, long walk, Sam suggested they get back. Allison joined
Sam when they turned back, allowing Tori to lead the way.
"You are really good with her, Glenn," Allison commented.
"Think this is something she could do? I mean, for fun? Show dogs?"
"Well, Mrs. Jones," Sam started.
Allison regarded him with a surprised glance. "Since when are we so
formal, Glenn?" She said with a quick grin and a sparkle in her eye. "Or do I
need to call you Mr. Thomas when you're working?"
Sam got the distinct feeling that there was more here than met the eye, and
instantly knew what he was here for aside from saving a cute, little dog. 'Al is gonna to
love this,' Sam thought, suddenly very nervous.
On the walk back Sam's attention was less on the little girl and more on
the body language of the mother. He felt she was attracted to him, but she wasn't making
any intimate moves. If there was something between Glenn and Allison, it wasn't in full
bloom yet, or even started, and that made him feel a little better.
When they got to the apartment, an idea popped into Sam's head. "Would
you and Tori like to come to my kennel and see multiple dog care first hand?" He
suggested. "Maybe Tori could help wash some of them, and see some other breeds."
Somehow this request felt right, and Sam waited for an answer.
Allison hesitated. Tori was unbuckling Angus' collar, and Allison's
attention was drawn to another room. Sam looked up and saw a partially open door to what
looked like an office; there was an artist's drawing desk, stacks of paper, and part of a
computer visible. There was a flashing red light next to the desk that Sam identified as
an answering machine loaded with messages.
Allison sighed. "I really have some work to do. I'd love to, but we
can't. Thanks anyway."
Sam nodded, and said, "OK," and headed for the door. He got the
feeling Allison wanted to stop him, and would really rather go with him, but she made no
motion to stop him. He turned at the door. "Tomorrow, then? Same time?"
Allison started to say something, then closed her mouth.
"Yeah!" Tori said excitedly. "Please, mom? It's Sunday!
That did it. Allison smiled, resigned. "Sure. 9:00?"
Sam grinned, "Tomorrow, 9:00. See ya then," and gently closed the
door behind him.
When Sam finally collapsed late in the afternoon at Glenn's house, he
realized that he hadn't seen Al since the morning. He could see why he hadn't noticed the
time pass; he was certainly busy enough. His hands were all wrinkly from handling wet
dogs, and he was picking dog hairs off his face and arms as he sat in the overstuffed
chair. Ziggy sat patiently in front of him. For what, Sam had no idea.
Sam knew he had to work with two more dogs before bedtime, and saw he had a
couple of more hours before bedtime. "No wonder this guy's single. He has no time to
date!" he said out loud. The furry Ziggy gave no comment other than swish his tail on
When the Imaging Chamber door whooshed open, the dog jumped to his feet but
held his ground. Al walked through the bright portal and noticed Ziggy's glare.
"You too? Don't dogs like holograms?" He questioned out
"You certainly took your time, didn't you?" Sam asked, throwing
his legs over the chair arms and relaxing.
"Yeah, sorry about that, Sam. And we were right about the jumpy dog.
Angus was trying to run from the loud noise made by a garbage truck when he went into the
street and was killed. The little girl was lucky she wasn't squashed, too." The
hologram pocketed the link. "Nothing happened while I was gone, did it?"
." Sam drawled out. He could feel his cheeks flush
Al started to say, "OK," but gave Sam a double take and ended up
studying his friend through squinted eyes. "OK, what's up, buddy? I know you too
well. Something did happen, didn't it?"
Sam squirmed slightly, but didnt want to reveal what he felt yet.
"Ah, why don't you tell me what you found out first? From Glenn."
Al didn't drop his gaze for a few seconds longer. This subject was not
closed. "All right. First off, Mr. Thomas is pretty confused, and somewhat reluctant
to talk. It took awhile for Beeks to gain his trust. He talks about his business happily
enough, what he can remember anyway, but doesn't give us much in a personal way." He
hesitated. "You haven't found out something, have you, Sam?" Al's eyes gleamed,
and his voice was light. He knew he was on to something here.
Sam still dodged the issue. "Nothing about his past? You said he had
an ex-wife? What was her name?"
Al was punching buttons before Sam even finished the question. "Says
here he was married to one Brittany Shoup for less than two years
." Al kept
punching buttons. "He met Miss Shoup here in New York. She was an artist. Had a loft
off of 20th Street and a furry, artist type, rat-in-a-dogsuit dog. Came from a rich
family, I guess, and met Glenn while walking her fuzzball dog. Hm. Makes
"What makes sense, that she met him walking?"
"Yeah, that makes sense too, but that's not what I meant. It's an old
story, Sam. You know, rich girl marries poor boy to piss off parents." Al studied the
"Doesn't make sense to me. I don't know anyone that would do that. I
Al snorted. "Of course you don't, Sam. You Becketts hung with a
.or herd, I should say."
Al didn't give his friend a chance to question further. "Anyway, he loved her, but
she got bored and left. That's what Beeks was able to finally get out of our Visitor,
anyway. He's not too comfortable talking about it. He's a pretty good lookin' guy, too,
just gun shy."
Al rolled his eyes. "You know. Afraid to try again. Get back on the
horse that threw him. Win one for the old
"OK! I got it!" Sam cut him off. Much to his discomfort, he was
afraid his feelings about this leap were right.
"Uh, Al? Ask Ziggy what the chances are that I'm here to get Allison Jones and Glenn
Al grinned a huge grin. "Oh, man you lucky dog! No pun intended."
Al quickly tapped on the link. "You got it, Sam! Ziggy says it's 97.56% that's why
you're here! You're Glenn's nerve!" Al continued to tell him how lucky her was.
"Al! Stop it, will you? Is this what Glenn wants? I mean, how does
Ziggy know that? I can't do this if Glenn doesn't follow up!"
"Well, according to Ziggy," the dog perked up at the mention of
his name, but Al didn't notice. "The ex Mrs. Thomas and the current Allison Jones
were roommates in college. Both artists, but not real close friends. Allison mostly put
herself through college, while Brittany's parents bankrolled her. They had different
lifestyles. According to Beek's notes, after Brittany left Glenn, he was devastated. He
really loved her. When he met Allison, he liked her immediately, but is afraid to make a
move. Allison is a successful graphic artist and has earned her money; Brittany is an
unsuccessful artist that was born with money. I don't think he sees them as any different.
In fact, Glenn blames the money on why Brittany left him. He's not interested in the
money. Gee, guess you can tell that from his spread here
" Al looked around at
the simple property. It was true; no one could say Glenn Thomas was a gold digger. He
"Have Beeks talk to him about that, will you? I really think that's
why I'm here."
"I don't think even Beeks can cure cold feet in a day,
Sam smiled. "It hasn't been only a day, Al. Allison and Glenn have
known each other for a long time, and I think she's waiting for him to make the first
move. Or maybe she thinks it's too soon after losing her husband. We both have some work
"I'm on it, Sam. I'll check back with you later."
Sam was glad to see the Imaging Chamber door take his friend so he could
The next morning Sam took extra care in dressing for the walk. He arrived
at her door promptly at 9:00, and they were all ready to go. Tori fumbled a bit with the
collar, but was finally able to buckle it with Sam's help. Allison stood back, watching
their interaction and smiled. Sam noticed the office door was shut this time.
Sam was impressed at how much Tori recalled from the day before, and how well Angus
behaved. Sam made an effort to drop back and walk with Allison a little, as he found Tori
needed little coaching, anyway. Allison seemed preoccupied, and it was a quiet walk. Sam
noticed bags under her eyes, but didn't mention them.
This time at the end of the walk, Sam invited the two to his place again to help care for
the dogs, and this time extended the invite to Angus.
"I'm sure Ziggy would love to play," Sam said. The comment
couldn't help but make him smile.
Tori turned eagerly to her mother, whose face seemed to relax a bit at the
invitation. "You know?" She said, "I found myself thinking about that all
day yesterday while I was working. To heck with deadlines, let's go!"
Tori jumped up and down and cheered. Sam and Allison laughed, and they all
headed off towards Sam's place. It wasn't that far, really, and Allison's tenseness seemed
to drain away with each step. By the time they got to the kennel, the bags under her eyes
had actually faded and her cheeks were pink.
Ziggy and Angus got along famously after some curious sniffing. Sam was
very surprised; he thought dogs newly introduced would tend to fight, but there was the
proof romping around right in front of him that it wasn't necessarily true.
He secured the gate in the driveway so the two would have the run of the
Allison and Tori were completely enthralled about the place. They fussed
over each dog, and volunteered whole-heartedly to pitch in and help. Nothing was too dirty
or two physical for them; they loved it.
After the cleaning and brushing were done, Sam led one of the boarded dogs, a vigorous
Chesapeake Bay retriever, to the small work area in one corner of the yard and put him
through some obedience paces. Sam was glad he'd watched his partner do this the day
before, and thanks to his photographic memory was able to copy the routine. Allison and
Tori watched with Angus and Ziggy sitting by their sides. The Jones' applauded at the
finish, and Sam gave a bow. Then he released the dog to play with the other two giving
Tori the chore of throwing the ball for them .
Allison was glowing. "This is terrific, Glenn. I'm so glad we came.
Thanks." She gave Sam a happy smile as she spoke. Sam invited her to sit on a
swinging bench to watch Tori. The little girl was in heaven, laughing and playing.
Sam brought some ice water from the house as the swung and watched.
"I haven't seen her this boisterous since her father died,"
Allison said quietly.
"How long has it been?" Sam inquired, hoping he wasn't supposed
"Almost two years," Allison mused. "Sometimes it still seems
like just yesterday. But we've come a long way. I'm doing well at work, and able to
support us very well." She took a sip, and Sam respectfully kept quiet.
"Work is what saved me when Ben died." She continued quietly. "Between work
and Tori, I was able to keep busy. It was very hard, but I think we are on the path to
acceptance now. You know, the stages of grief thing? Denial, anger, and all
Sam nodded. He was very familiar with all those feelings.
"Little Angus was a huge help for Tori. She still doesn't laugh like
that very often," Allison giggled as she pointed at her daughter. Tori had turned on
the hose to get a drink, and the dogs went nuts trying to bite at the water. Sam smiled,
too. "Now I'm getting restless, and I don't know why." Allison drew a pattern on
the wet side of the drinking glass.
"Still like your work?" Sam asked.
Allison hesitated. "The stress is tremendous. Deadlines, meetings,
pitching ideas; I used to live for that. Now, it just isn't enough. I need the money,
though, to keep Tori in the style she's used to living. Sometimes, though
"Sometimes, what?" Sam urged gently.
"Sometimes," Allison said with a big sigh. "Sometimes I just
want to scale back and live more simply. Do more 'hands on' things. Like this," she
swept her arm over Glenn's property. "But outside the city. I'm really getting tired
of New York, and having second thoughts about raising Tori here. But I'm too
Sam finished for her. "Too scared to try?"
Allison smiled. "Yeah. It's scary making a big change like that when
you have a child to think about. You're always wondering if it's the right thing for her,
or the selfish thing for you."
Sam turned this over. "Well, I think that if you find something you
truly love to do, Tori will see that, and do the same for herself. You are her role model,
"Yeah," she responded. "That's very true. And all I want is
for her to be happy."
"For her to be happy, you have to be happy," Sam said
Allison simply nodded.
Sam let her think some more and brought another dog out for Tori. He kept
her busy, and she learned a lot. By the time they left, they were both tired and dirty and
the happiest they had been in awhile. Angus had even lost his bandanna; Sam finally found
it in a corner of the yard. It had obviously been the target of a tug-of-war..
"Oh, well." She laughed, dropping it in the trash "There's
sometimes a price to pay for fun, huh?"
Sam was readying himself for bed when Al made his appearance. "Well,
you look tired, Sam. Another dog-eat-dog day?" Al chuckled.
The dog Ziggy was lying on the floor with his head on his paws. He only
cocked one ear on Al's arrival. "Ha ha. You can drop the dog jokes, Al. Hey, I think
I'm getting somewhere with Allison. I think she's ready for a change."
Al looked suspicious. "What do you mean, change? Does she want to run
off with you
I mean, Glenn? Leave all this behind?"
"Well, kinda. Not in the sense you mean, though!" Sam pointed at
the hologram as he opened his mouth to elaborate on that thought. Al shut his mouth and
looked miffed. "I think she's looking for a new lifestyle. And she is sure fond of
"Well, the feeling is mutual, according to Beeks. I think your guts
were right again, buddy. Ziggy says it's almost 99% now Allison and Glenn are why you're
"So Angus is all right tomorrow?"
The Observer tapped the keys. "Well, it's down to 50-50 now. Still
looks like you should be there, though."
Sam nodded. "OK. It looks better though."
The friends said their good-byes, and Sam slept like a rock.
Sam got up the next morning with butterflies in his stomach. He didn't know
why, but he felt the need to be at Angus' walk time appointment early. After picking up
Rolls, Royce and Raleigh, he walked quickly to the Jones' building.
"Morning, Glenn!" Sam recognized the voice of the blind
newsvendor. "In a bit of a hurry this mornin'?"
"You can say that!" Sam panted as he strode by. "See ya
later!" The vendor waved as he sped by.
Just as Sam and his charges reached the apartment building, he glanced up
and saw Tori and Angus walking briskly up the sidewalk, away from them. She hadn't seen
Sam, and was alone. He pulled on the leashes, trying to get the bush-sniffing dogs moving,
when the Imaging Chamber door whooshed open.
"Sam! History has changed somehow! It's 89% that Angus becomes burger
meat, but this time Tori gets hurt! She loses her hand when it gets run over by the truck
that kills the dog!"
"Oh, great!" He gave the group a mighty tug, and they finally
followed Sam up the sidewalk. In fact, the run was so fun for them the passed Sam and were
pulling him. He had a hard time keeping his feet and watching for Tori. The Observer
floated next to Sam, getting only the occasional puzzled sideways glance from the running
They stopped at a crowed corner. People were everywhere, hurrying in all
directions, and Sam couldn't find Tori. The dogs sat and panted. Al attacked the
"Find her, Al!"
"I'm trying! Ziggy! Lock in on Tori!"
Royce's ears perked up suddenly, and he jumped to his feet and pulled
anxiously on the lead. He glanced back at Sam and whined. Sam stood on his toes and looked
in that direction, and for a fleeting second, saw Tori's bouncing ponytail in the crowd.
He urged the dogs to follow Royce, and they plowed through the crowd, scattering the
people for Sam to pass.
"I see her, Al!" Sam yelled as pedestrians cursed at him in New
York fashion when he pushed by.
"Just a few more yards, Sam! I'll show ya!"
Al popped out of sight as he centered himself on Tori.
Sam saw Al floating above the crowd, waving at Sam to hurry. Behind the
floating hologram, Sam saw a garbage truck rolling up to the curb. He urged the dogs
onward, increasing the crowds curses tenfold, but didn't care. The dogs seemed to realize
something was going on and pulled Sam through the crowd in earnest.
"Come on, Sam! Here she is!" Al pointed frantically. "She's
moving out to the curb to get out of the crowd!"
Sam's arms were tangled in leashes, and couldn't point out the truck.
"Behind you!" He yelled.
Al turned and saw the garbage truck, and froze. He was so close to Angus
now, he didn't want to frighten the dog with any sudden movement; then he got an idea, and
tapped furiously on the keys.
Sam could see he was going to reach Tori at about the same time as the
truck. The dogs tried to pull him faster, but the press of people was too much. He didn't
want to yell and distract Tori; that may put her off balance enough to allow Angus to pull
her into the street, too.
Feeling like he was is a warped version of the Iditerod dogsled race as his
team pulled him towards the curb. He could see Tori's back as she walked smartly with
Angus by her side. Then Angus paused at a light pole, too close to the street for Sam's
comfort. The panting of the pulling dogs caused enough of a ruckus from the crowd that
Tori turned to look over her shoulder. First she looked alarmed, then Sam saw her eyes
move up to his face and smile.
For Sam everything slowed down. He heard a Taxi honk loudly right next to
Angus, who then jumped forward, scared, right into the street. Sam saw the pointed lift
arms of the garbage truck a mere feet from the dog, then and image of Al popped into
existence right in between the lift arms. Sam saw Al waving menacingly and heard him yell,
"Boo!!! Shoo!! Get along little doggie!" and generally made himself a
Angus' tail was clamped so tightly to his body that Sam could hardly see
the stub as he changed course for the sidewalk and the safety of the crowd. Tori's smile
turned to alarm as she was dragged into the crowd, and Sam saw the truck's tires smoke as
the driver slammed on the brakes. He'd missed them!
Al was jumping up and down smiling as Tori finally stopped Angus in the
crowd, and turned to Sam. His face went from smiling to surprise when he saw the speed of
Sam and his team approaching, and he started to wave his arms in a stopping motion.
"Sam ! Stop!! Stop!!"
Just then the world snapped back into regular speed as the team of dogs
tore into the crowd, Raleigh on one side of the light pole, and the other two on the other
side. The last thing Sam recalled was the speed of the approaching light pole just before
he saw stars.
There was humming. "Sam?" The humming turned to buzzing.
"Hey, Sam, you OK?!" The flashing stars turned into fuzzy faces, with one
familiar voice calling him. "Sam! Wake up! There ya go! Boy, you look
Sam blinked at the faces looking down at him, and realized that his head
"Mr. Thomas? Mr. Thomas! Oh, dear! Lie still, the ambulance has
Sam looked at the woman blankly.
Al intervened for him. "That's Allison's maid, Sam. Remember? Remember
Allison? And Tori?"
"Tori?" Sam mumbled.
"Oh, Mr. Thomas, she's fine, thanks to you! I didn't realize you
weren't with her when she left the apartment! I saw you go by out the window, and had such
a fright! Are you all right? Mr. Thomas?"
Sam tried to sit up, but was forced back down by another man. "You'd
better say down, pal." The man said.
"I'm sure your nose is busted, and I think your arm's in the same shape."
Al interrupted. "Yeah, Sam, I think he's right. You'd better lay
still. You're kind of a mess."
"The dogs?" Sam choked, the world still reeling around him.
"Oh, they're right her, Mr. Thomas." Tori piped up. Sam painfully
turned his head in the direction of the voice, and saw four fuzzy faces sitting obediently
in a row near him. "They're OK." Sam could tell by the slight motion of the dogs
that their tails were wagging as they sat.
The sound of an ambulance pulling up made Sam's head pound painfully.
"I saw the whole thing," the maid was telling Sam. "If your
dogs hadn't chased Angus onto the curb, she would have been killed by that truck! Thank
you so much! I'm calling Mrs. Jones right now!" She bustled over to Tori and gathered
her up. Raleigh took the opportunity to break the line and bounce over to Sam and lick his
Al updated Sam happily as the paramedics prepared to transport Sam, and
Tori took charge of the dogs with the maid's help.
"Holy, moly, Sam, you did great on this one! Glenn needs surgery on
his arm and his nose so he's in the hospital for a couple of days. Between Allison, Tori
and Chris, the business is handled nicely, nary a pup is neglected, and the Jones' become
hooked. In fact, Allison quits her job and takes Chris' place when he leaves to become a
truck driver. Allison and Glenn are happily married, they sell the biz and move to the
country where the train and show Scottish terriers!
They also still board some dogs, and part of the area is set aside for
training Canine Companions and introducing kids to the dog show world. They have two more
kids, Tori is doing very well in Veterinarian school, and everything's perfect! Good job,
Sam cringed from pain when the paramedics raised and locked the gurney with
a jerk. "It's not how I exactly planned it to go
" he mumbled through the
ice pack on his nose.
"It's gonna hurt to talk, mister, so just hang on for a bit." The
paramedic said, looking for whom his patient was talking to.
"Maybe not, but it worked out anyway. Say goodbye, Sam, Ziggy says
As Sam was pushed into the ambulance, he rolled his head to see Tori and
the maid waving at him. Raleigh barked at Sam as he faded away in a blue fuzz.
Sam was self-aware once more. He found that he was sitting down in a
comfortable armchair. It was very warm, and he could here what sounded like a crackling
fire. A crackling fire, just like the ones that burned in the hearth at his parents' home
in Elk Ridge, Indiana.
Sam pondered that yet another Leap had opened with a nostalgic memory of
the past. Perhaps, he thought, that was not such a bad idea. It gave him a sense of
balance in his topsy-turvy life.
Opening his eyes, Sam saw that he was sitting in a small, but comfortable
and tidy sitting room. To his right was the fire that he had heard, and he observed that
the room was laden with Christmas decorations.
"Kris," said a voice from without, "it's nearly time to go.
You haven't fallen asleep again have you?"
So, thought Sam, my hosts name is Chris. Christopher? He wondered
what the surname was. Never mind, he thought. I know enough to respond when called, and
I'll find out the surname soon enough. I always ignore somebody by mistake early on in a
Leap. He had a quiet laugh to himself about that.
An itch reared its ugly head on Sam's chin, and it suddenly dawned on him
that he had a beard. As he reached up to scratch the unfamiliar Julian facade, he saw the
first time that he had a red jacket with white trim. He grabbed hold of the beard, quite a
mop of hair it was, and brought it up in front of his eyes. It was snow white, and thick
as an Elk Ridge snowdrift. Sam had an uneasy feeling about this. He knew the image that
was being painted, red and white (with black boots he noticed as he looked down), but it
was not immediately available amongst the holes of his Swiss Cheesed Memory.
I, he mused, am going to kick myself when I remember what this image
The door to the sitting room opened, and in walked a very petite woman
dressed in a very Al-like manner.
The kind of color scheme that causes a 911 call to the fashion
Her top was a red and white striped affair, which was complemented by brown
braces, with large white buttons. The sleeves to the top were trimmed with green felt. Her
skirt was also of green felt, as were her elfin boots. She was wearing red tights, and on
top of her head was a hat that had it been red, would not looked out of place on Noddy's
head. It too was Pixie green. To cap it all, her make-up was more extreme than anything
Tina ever wore, and the overall image was as it was meant to be.
The woman who entered the room, at this point nameless, was one of Santa's
helpers. "Are you ready?" the helper asked of Sam. "We need to go now. We
can go slowly and steadily, so we don't strain you too much, but we have to go now or we
will be late."
"Yes, yes," said Sam, "I'm ready."
He got to his feet, and moved towards the door. It was half-open, and as
Sam took hold of the handle he noticed a mirror on the back of the door. He pushed the
door shut and looked in the mirror.
The image looking back at him gave nothing away about the face of the
leapee, but it swiftly filled the holes in the Swiss cheese. Stunned, Sam muttered under
his breath, my surname must be Kringle.
"Yes," said the helper, "it is. And for once, the luck has
fallen your way. The department store manager thought it would be funny to have Kris
Kringle as his temporary Santa."
Sam tugged the beard away from his mouth, shook his head, and said with his
tongue in his cheek, "Oh, ho, ho, ho, boy!"