Goldie moved out of the way so that Romy could take position behind Brutus. "Now," Goldie began, "lift his tail just a little and put the paper towel I'm going to hand you over his backside while placing your thumb and forefinger at four and eight o'clock."
Romy did as she was told.
"Gently squeeze. You'll know when it expresses." Romy closed her eyes.
"Don't close your eyes," Goldie said.
Reluctantly, Romy opened her eyes. She squinted. "I can't tell that anything came out," she said.
"Squeeze just a little harder," Goldie replied. "Not too much." As she squeezed, Romy bent down to get a better look.
"No!" Goldie said, gasping. "Don't put your face so close to his—"
But it was too late, and Goldie watched, as if in slow motion, as Romy recognized her mistake seconds after the stream of liquid shot out onto her face.
Romy stumbled back, knocking into Goldie, who reached out toward the stainless-steel table where Brutus was standing. When Goldie's hand grazed Brutus's backside, he let out a disgruntled bark, no doubt already irritated from the injustice he'd just endured, and leaped off the table and skittered out into the lobby.
Goldie ran after him. For a bulldog, he was fast. He ran past his unassuming handler, and in a split second, he was out the front door, which at the moment was being held open by Mrs. Griswold, an elderly woman who'd once been a chorus girl during Hollywood's Golden Age, married quite rich, and now regularly brought in her Lhasa Apso, Benjamin, to be seen for depression, PTSD, and general anxiety disorder.
"Dr. Goldie!" Mrs. Griswold gasped, tightening her grip on Benjamin's leash. "What is this ruckus?"
"Sorry, Mrs. Griswold," Goldie said, rushing out the door after Brutus. "I'll be right back!"
"Benjamin can't handle this much excitement!" Mrs. Griswold called after her.
At that very moment, Goldie wished she were taking the same medication she'd prescribed to Benjamin. Instead, she was chasing after a renegade bulldog that was heading south out of the veterinary parking lot and straight for the busy street in front of them. "Come back here!" Goldie screeched. "Your toenail is worth more than my life!"
Brutus paused for a split second to glance back at her, and Goldie could have sworn she saw him smirk. Just before he was within reach, he took off again, right through the crosswalk at the stoplight, causing a man on a Vespa to swerve out of the way, just missing a woman in a convertible who had her music up so loud that she didn't even notice.
Goldie could feel her black pencil skirt straining against her stride, and it was a relief when it finally gave way and ripped, allowing her more room to run. It was an impractical work outfit, anyway. She just liked the way the skirt looked with her favorite pair of red heels, which were, at this very moment in time, 'incredibly' impractical.
Brutus, deterred by neither Vespa nor person, continued on until he got to the construction site of a new hot yoga studio. Several men in orange vests watched as Goldie came barreling onto the lot, tripped on a pile of gravel, and went flying through the air, nearly doing a somersault, and landing prone right in front of Brutus.
Goldie wished the earth would just swallow her up whole. That would be preferable to whatever fresh hell was awaiting her when she finally willed herself to get back up.
There was a chorus of concerned voices hovering above her. "Hey, lady, are you all right?"
"Do you think she's knocked out?" "Maybe she's dead."
"Nah, she's breathin'."
"Mumphulump," Goldie replied. And then, turning herself over with a groan, continued, "Don't let that dog get away."
"He ain't goin' nowhere," one of the construction men said. "Reggie is givin' him some beef jerky."
Another one of the men helped her to her feet and sheepishly handed her one of her heels. "I think you lost this, ma'am."
"Of course," Goldie said, staring down at the mangled shoe.
The heel was hanging on by a thread. "Thank you."
"You don't look too bad. I guess you're all right," the first man said. "That your dog? He get away from ya?"
In the distance, Goldie could see Brandon running in her direction, waving his hands in the air, and shouting something.
"This dog look familiar to you?" said a man who Goldie assumed was Reggie from the metric ton of beef jerky he was holding in one of his hands. "I coulda sworn I seen him somewhere before." "'Dogapalooza 4'," Goldie replied automatically. "He wore a pink tutu through most of it."