The Bark Before Christmas

The Bark Before Christmas by Laurien Berenson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Bark Before Christmas by Laurien Berenson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurien Berenson
himself another profession. I’m sure Mr. Perkin will find my remarks eminently useful.”
    â€œOr something,” I agreed.
    Sam watched the byplay with a small smile, but he knew better than to get involved. Instead, he reached out and patted Davey on the shoulder. “It looks like today’s going to be a wash. So just go in and have some fun, okay?”
    â€œSure, Sam.” Davey grinned. The politics of exhibiting are meaningless to him. As long as he and Augie were together, he was having a good time.
    Oh, to be twelve again, I thought. When life was just that easy.
    Augie, now mature and ready to take on the best of the competition, had been entered in the Open Dog class. When the puppies were called into the ring for the start of the Standard judging, Aunt Peg produced a comb from her pocket. She leaned over and ran it lightly through Augie’s ears to smooth them down. The rest of us pretended not to notice.
    â€œHey, doll,” said Terry, coming over to stand beside me. His partner, Crawford, was handling a handsome, brown puppy in the ring. By my estimation, he would probably win the class.
    I glanced at Terry over my shoulder. His look is an ever-changing, work-in-progress and I never know what to expect when I haven’t seen him for a few weeks. Now Terry’s hair was dark again. It was also gelled and marcelled into waves.
    It was a style few men could carry off. Terry, however, has the panache to make anything look good. With his smooth skin, chiseled features, and baby blue eyes, he could have been a model. Luckily for all of us, Terry had opted for a career in dogs instead.
    â€œWhat’s new?” I asked.
    That’s my standard greeting for Crawford’s assistant. Terry always has all the best gossip and he loves to share.
    â€œBertie’s in the doghouse,” he said in a low tone. “She broke the major in Minis.”
    â€œThat’s old news,” I sniffed. “What else have you got?”
    â€œOh my.” Terry reared back. “We’re snippy today, aren’t we?”
    â€œYou try being assigned to run a school Christmas bazaar on one week’s notice, and see how cheerful you feel about it.”
    â€œNo, thank you very much. I think I’d rather stick to Poodles.” He turned an appraising eye on Augie. “He looks good.”
    â€œOf course he looks good,” said Aunt Peg. In a roundabout way, Augie was a product of her breeding program. “For all the good that will do him today.”
    â€œWhat do you mean?”
    She lifted a brow. “Have you been watching the judging?”
    â€œNo. But we took the variety in both Toys and Minis,” Terry said with a shrug. “Crawford was happy.”
    That pretty well summed of the life of a professional handler. As long as the end results were good, it didn’t much matter how they’d been achieved.
    â€œMr. Perkin is all over the map with his placings,” said Aunt Peg.
    As if to prove to her point, the judge pulled a weedy apricot puppy from the back of the line and sent it up to first place. Even the puppy’s handler looked surprised by that turn of events. Crawford and his handsome puppy ended up third out of four.
    â€œIt looks as though Mr. Perkin is spreading things around,” I said to Terry. “And you already got yours in Toys and Minis.”
    â€œBetter than not getting it at all.” He favored us a cheeky grin and hurried away to help Crawford.
    The Bred-By class, with its single entry, was done in a flash. Then it was Augie’s turn.
    â€œIn you go,” said Sam. He gave Davey a small nudge toward the gate.
    The long line of seven, black, male Standard Poodles that comprised the Open Dog class filled one entire side of the ring. Standing among his peers, Augie looked great, I thought. But either the judge didn’t share my opinion, or else he was so overwhelmed by the sight of so many large black dogs

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