Where's Bartlet?

I let the dogs run around the backyard while I folded back the cover and swirled the stick. The steam rushed up. The purple, green, blue, yellow swatches matched those on the bottle perfectly. The chemicals were balanced. I walked back into the house to grab my towel. Draper followed me in, and over the whir of the hot tub bubbling I thought I heard Bartlet bounding up the steps, no doubt to perch and impatiently wait for three pieces of Life Cereal, his favorite treat for peeing outside.  

As I walked back outside, I slid the glass door behind me, as always leaving it open just a crack. I softly jumped from the 18 degree air into the 114 degree water, slinking in up to my hairline to warm up quickly. It was only 5:00, but it's December in Washington and the clouds were already a dark flannel gray and hundreds of black pines were silhouetted against the sky. The streetlights and traffic and office buildings downtown twinkled. From underneath the water, blue light rippled on the ceiling.

And then I heard a cry.

Kind of a bark, kind of a soft wail. A dog sound for sure, and not one I usually hear in our house. 

I peered through the crack in the curtains and saw Draper sitting in the middle of the floor looking around him. He wasn’t hurt. And even better, they weren’t fighting. Then my heart skipped.

But wait.

Then… where is Bartlet?

This dog is my shadow. He is constantly underfoot. Guards me in the shower and waits for me by the front door whether I’ve gone to take the trash out or flown across the country.

If he’s not in my line of sight, but I can hear a dog whining – then it must be him. He’s somewhere. And he’s hurt. And he can’t get to me.

Panicked, I sprung out of the hot tub. There was no time to grab my robe, so I sloppily wrapped myself in the hot pink towel. I turned to run into the house but heard leaves crackling in the yard behind me. As I whipped my head around, I heard something like a swish-swish-swish. I saw it moving. Something was coming towards me. Up here on this bluff, it could be anything. I have seen a moose, foxes, deer, wild turkeys. I’ve read about coyotes attacking.

It’s walking in front of me in the pitch blackness. All I can see is the bristle of a tail getting closer. Closer. Closer. 


And just then Bartlet and I both turned towards the neighbor’s house when we heard their yip-yip dogs whining and chattering away on the deck.


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