Photo by Anna Kumpan on Unsplash
His name was Gunner. He was a tri-colored beagle that nosed his way into my life one misty, Wednesday morning, at first to my dismay.
My name is Gustavo Gottem, better known as Gumshoe Gus, private eye in a one-horse town named Lone Pony. I was picking my teeth with a push pin when I heard scratching outside my office door.
"Come in," I called, victorious in freeing the last morsels of breakfast from my molars. The scratching continued and wouldn't cease. I was sensitive enough to consider this potential client had a disability, so I got off my lazy butt and opened the door.
To my surprise a dog ran in, immediately investigating every square inch of my office as if there was a mass murder and all the bodies were hidden in the room. He ran up to me, got on his hind legs, and began sniffing my unmentionables. I pushed him off, but not without his lapping tongue licking my palms. This rambunctious animal continued his nose to the ground snooping until I finally realized he wanted food. I retrieved crackers from my desk and crumbled them up, feeding him small portions at a time. He made quick work of it and tilted his head for more.
I did my own investigating and noticed he wore a collar without tags. I just inherited a missing dog owner case. Most of my clients come in missing something, now I must work in reverse and find who is missing this animal.
I grabbed my fedora and led the dog outside for a walk and hopefully find the owner. While ambling along, I came across Kitty LaCoocoo, the prettiest but most promiscuous woman in Lone Pony.
"Looks like you found a new friend, Gumshoe," winked Kitty, with a gentle elbow to my midsection.
I informed Kitty the mutt was at my door, sniffed me where it counts, and now I can't get rid of him.
"What a coincidence. Kat's Kennel Club for Untrained Dogs is having its yearly competition tomorrow. I am the event organizer," Kitty announced, with bouncing eyebrows.
"Well, this dog is certainly untrained. What events are part of this competition?"
Kitty explained there were three events, Best in Bark, Best in Sniff, and Best in Poop.
"He can certainly win Best in Sniff, he would sure to be the favorite," I commented, while I spied my new friend running into a yard owned by Beverly the "Ever Lady." Townsfolk named her the "Ever Lady" because of her rapid use of the word 'ever' whenever she fuming mad. Just then, the beagle got into a squat and positioned himself to take care of business.
"Looks like your new friend can also make a run at the Best in Poop award," quipped Kitty.
Suddenly, Beverly swung opened the front door and stormed out of her house.
"I'll bet you lunch at Henry's Hot Dogs From Who Knows Where she belts out at least five evers," I whispered, challenging Kitty to a wager.
"I say at least six. You're on," Kitty agreed, giddy with excitement.
"Don't you ever, ever, ever, never, ever, ever let your dog run in my yard," Beverly yelled, with nose flaring and a finger wagging. She shooed the dog away, but not without finding a present left by the hound.
"I hear pet fertilizer is good for garden plants this time of year," I offered, as a consolation.
"Well, clean up the mess," Beverly hollered at me.
"I never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever pick up after a pet that's not mine. Ever."
Beverly huffed, hurled several expletives, and went back inside.
"Looks like lunch is your treat, my dear," I said to Kitty.
"I heard six evers, Gumshoe."
"No Kitty. You heard five, with one never stuck in the middle."
"I'm pretty sure she meant that as an ever."
"Do you want to knock on her door and get her to confirm it in the mood she's in?"
"No, it would be easier just to pay for lunch," Kitty resigned.
We headed to Henry's with our four-legged detective in tow, nosing every blade of grass in his path. I asked pedestrians along the way if they knew the owner of this lost dog, and all didn't.
Kitty ordered herself and I hot dogs, fries, and sodas. Extra fries as a treat for the beagle. As I was tossing fries into his mouth, I pondered why no one was searching for him. I figured the owner was detained in a way that made it impossible to locate the pet, and I filed that bit of reasoning under brilliant deduction number five-hundred and sixty.
Just then, Sheriff Cherub moseyed into the establishment. I inquired whether he nabbed anyone recently, and he said he arrested a man for a slew of unpaid tickets from Baytown. He had originally pulled the man over for a busted taillight and cracked windshield. He was still in jail because he didn't have bail money. He didn't notice an animal with the man, but admitted he was also preoccupied with the notion of satisfying his growling stomach with some beef and potatoes.
I inquired about the vehicle location and the sheriff led us to a parking lot two blocks away. The beagle rushed ahead and dove through an open window into the backseat and retrieved his leash with a tag attached. The name read Gunner.
I sang his name and he responded with a howl that began with his chin tickling the ground and then up toward the sky. I spied inside the vehicle and saw the contest entry receipt in the glove compartment.
"Looks like he's going to miss the competition," Kitty lamented. "But, if Gunner wins, there will probably be enough winnings to get his owner out of jail."
"How can he win without his owner?" I tsk-tsked.
"That's where you come in, Gumshoe," Kitty offered, with puppy eyes and a mushed mouth. Somehow, I knew she would goad me into this.
"I'll do it on one condition, Kitty. You must get Beverly the Ever Lady to show up for the competition. Don't ask why. I have an idea." Kitty frowned and slowly nodded.
Great, now I have the task of being a makeshift dog trainer, lead Gunner to victory, and bond his owner out of jail. I should start wearing a cape as part of my getup.
I noticed Gunner sniffing and scratching at the trunk of the vehicle as if there were a vast amount of contraband inside. I popped the trunk and retrieved bacon flavored dog food. I attached the leash to Gunner's collar, and we were on our way back to my office.
We got back and I decided to feed Gunner a scoop of his food. He made quick work of it and begged for more. I decided tomorrow morning I would fill him up on the real stuff, extra crispy. I phoned Kitty and asked her to bring a plate of bacon before she went to the event the next morning and she grumbled a yes.
With Beverly making an appearance at the event, I felt Gunner had a decent shot at Best in Poop. The bacon from Kitty might net us the Best in Sniff if I planned it strategically. I was still working on Best in Bark, but I deduced that when I first called Gunner by his name it was sort of in a melodic tone that got the howling reaction.
"Gunner," I sang. Gunner howled as if it could unite wildlife and the wheels turned in my head as to how I can use this to my advantage and score the Best in Bark award.
I fell asleep with Gunner at my feet. I awoke the next morning with Kitty banging on my door.
As requested, Kitty came through with a plate of crispy bacon. I massaged her chin and thanked her for her consideration. Things were starting to fall into place, but there was still a lot of doggone work to be done.
I loaded Gunner up with a healthy scoop of dog food with a few real bacon strips added in, with hopes of achieving a championship bowel movement. I placed the rest of the pork product in a paper bag with designs of using them as a sniffing queue.
We got to the event located at the Lone Pony Fairgrounds and the fields were infested with dogs of all sizes running amok without leashes. I learned there were twenty dogs in the competition, but the favorites and past winners were Norman the Nose, Chihuahua Mouth Mollie, and Dolly Droppings.
The first event was Best in Sniff, with most of these wild dogs either barking or pooping during it. As these dogs were making fools of themselves and Gunner was preoccupied with another dog's butt, I strategically placed bacon strips in garbage cans. Gunner's name was called, and I led him to the first garbage can, and he sniffed it like a police dog, methodically going from can to can, with convincing nods from the judges. When all was sniffed and done, Gunner was announced the winner. One event down, two to go.
The next event was Best in Poop. During the break between events, I retrieved the bacon strips from the garbage cans and loaded Gunner up with them. When it was Gunner's turn, I located Beverly the Ever Lady seated on a bench and led the hound to her. The beagle was all too eager to recreate his performance in her yard a day earlier, but this time inches from her. The combination of bacon dog food and the real thing produced an award-winning performance, as Gunner was announced the winner, to Dolly Droppings yapping dismay, and Beverly's 'evers' firing off at a machine guns pace. Kitty looked on with her hand covering her mouth to prevent an all-out laugh fest.
The last event was Best in Bark. Dogs barked erratically and set off a chain reaction of other dogs barking out of turn. It was murder on the ears. When it was Gunner's turn, I sang out his name, and he responded with a howl that made the sun wish it was a full moon. I encouraged the crowd to sing his name and they collectively joined in. Gunner responded with a howling serenade that silenced the dogs as if by hypnosis. Gunner easily won the event and became a crowd favorite.
Kitty announced to the crowd that since Gunner won all three events, he would also win a bonus overall champion's share. Kitty presented the cash winnings to me with a kiss on my cheek.
Fortunately, Sheriff Cherub was a huge dog lover and took in the competition. I tracked down the man in uniform and handed over the winnings to bail Gunner's owner out of jail. He agreed to escort my new friend and reunite them. I loaded the rest of Gunner's dog food in the sheriff’s patrol car, scratched Gunner behind the ears, and bid adieu to my four-legged friend.
Gunner was reunited with his owner, "The Case of the Missing Dog Owner" was solved, and all was well in the one-horse town called Lone Pony.
Jon Moray has been writing short stories for over a decade and his work has appeared in many online and print markets. When not working and being a devoted family man, he enjoys sports, music, the ocean, and SCI-FI/Fantasy media. More of his work can be found at moraywrites.com.
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