"Now that we’re in a serious relationship, we have to make sure that they can get along with each other."
Buffy rubbed her eyes, wondering why these sorts of discussions happened so early in the morning. She looked at the bed across the room and lifted an eyebrow. "We’ve been together for three months. They get along just fine."
"They seem to when were with them but what happens the first time they’re on their own together? Or what if she doesn’t like you when it’s just you and her? Or what if..."
"Angel! I get it. You want to see if they can fit into our lives. Stop being such a prima donna. I’ll take Tara for the day and you can take Willow. It’ll be like a switch...a perfectly normal doggie changeroo. Then we can all stay together at my place tonight."
At the word 'doggie’, two furry spirits moved from the comfort of a cushiony doggie bed. One of them gracefully gaited to the bed and propped her head on the edge in a cuteness-personified manner while the other bounded onto the bed and began rolling around.
Buffy patted the Yellow Labrador Retriever, scratching behind her soft ears for good measure as she watched her own pooch have a good time.
"Buffy...doesn’t she know not to jump on the bed?"
"She knows not to jump on my bed without permission...yours is a whole other story."
'Hey! I know not to jump on the bed...but it’s so soft and slip slidy. Wheee!’ The spazzy red mixed breed dog said as she rolled and glided across the silk sheets.
'Willow...you’re making my owner all broody,’ Tara replied with a look of amusement.
'He’s always broody.’
Of course the humans never heard the doggie conversation because evolution had made them oblivious to the natural order of things and fonder of Twinkies instead.
They were also oblivious to just how much of a nonproblem having the two dogs live together would be. Yes, indeed, the humans were mostly idiots, but the dogs liked having them around because they were cute and helpful in some ways...such as when they did that trick with the can opener.
"You wanna spend the day with me, Tara?" The lab’s tail wagged and she lifted her head, giving Buffy’s hand a lick.
"Now I’m supposed to take Willow to flyball practice but I guess I’ll take you instead."
'Flyball, flyball, flyball!’ Willow cheered as she jumped off the bed and began running around the room.
"No flyball, Willow. You get to go with Angel. What are you doing today anyways?"
"I have to meet with a new client that is looking for a service dog and then I have a youth acclimation session. Do you think your pup can behave long enough for that?"
'Sheesh...I can do that...I’m a smart dog...I can follow his orders,’ Willow replied as she jumped off of the bed and sat obediently next to the dark-haired man. She glanced at Tara who had a brow lifted in question. 'What? You don’t think I can?’
'Of course you can, sweetie. It’s just sometimes you get distracted...a-and you have to be really focused when working with Angel and the hurt people.’
Willow’s ducked her head down and went to sulk on the pet bed in the corner. Tara followed after her passively, nuzzling the mutt’s ear before resting with her head on her paws.
Willow turned away. 'Oh, don’t try that muzzle nuzzle with me missy. You think your life is tougher than mine. All you do is sit around all-day and let a bunch of people pet you...woohoo...big deal. I’m a champion...fastest dog around...even the human says so.’
"Of course," Buffy replied. "She’s a champion flyball dog. She can take direction."
'But it’s just chasing a tennis ball. If I wanted to do that I could.’
'You think so?’ Willow asked defensively.
'I know so,’ Tara replied sharply with a nod.
'Then you’re on. You try one day of my life and I’ll do one of yours...we’ll see who’s the top dog.’
The dogs agreed to the deal, Willow putting her bone buried in the backyard in on the bet while Tara put her favorite squeaky toy on the line, which was in the shape of a frog. The red furred pup growled at the green toy as Tara dragged it out from under the bed, impatiently waiting for the moment when she could rip the thing to shreds.
Angel retreated to the bathroom for a shower. After a long soothing wash where he sang a medley of Barry Manilow songs, he stopped in front of the mirror, shaving and pampering his hair with a large assortment of hair gels.
Buffy luxuriated in her boyfriend’s bed, the two dogs curling up around her after realizing that no one was going to feed or walk them at the moment.
The blonde petted the pair of furry companions as she contemplated her situation. Angel was certainly the nicest guy she had met in a long while. He owned a canine service company that trained dogs for disabled persons. He also took Tara to hospitals and nursing homes as a full-time therapy dog. He was sweet and hunky...and he didn’t go all bad boy after they slept together for the first time. Her roommate Xander once told her that it seemed like she sucked the soul right out of those other two guys and turned them to evil. Either that or she picked 'em a little too gay for her taste. I mean peroxide blonde hair and all that leather...how could I be so dense? Even Dawn noticed the obvious...they shared beauty tips and he knew how to set a full service afternoon tea.
Angel walked out of the bathroom in a finely tailored suit with his hair spiked and positioned just so. Buffy sighed and crossed her fingers covertly.
Willow’s Day - 7:01 A.M.
Angel took Willow for a walk just as Buffy loaded his Yellow Lab into her beat up Jeep. He could only wish to the driving deities that they would help her stay away from park fountains, runaway shopping carts, and outdoor garden gnome displays at local home improvement stores - each a previous scene of the driving violation crime for the blonde. She was a serious slayer with that car.
Willow was impatient as the tall, dark, and slow took her around the block. She was accustomed to leading her owner’s morning jog. 'Come on, come on...you better get a good workout. Buffy doesn’t like chunky men. She likes really muscley men...there was that solider one that dressed up as her for Halloween and then kept wearing her clothes right through Christmas. And then Buffy found out...now that was a season without holiday cheer.’
Willow managed to get him moving a little faster by the end of the exercise session, but still felt gypped as a whole. When they returned to his house, the mixed breed let her irritation be known by throwing a substantial fit, complete with snorting and rolling around on her back erratically.
After a few minutes of complaining, she quickly grew bored and went exploring for her morning meal. Her only find was an empty bowl with Tara’s name inscribed on it. She perked her ears and gave a sniff to the air, seeing if her yellow friend had returned. She gave a sad little whimper and picked up the bowl with the teeth.
She moved to the living room where Angel was sitting on a lounger reading the newspaper. The mutt sat the bowl in the overly contemplative man’s lap and gave him the big expressive eye routine. This got a quick feeding result.
Angel gathered his briefcase and loaded Willow into his SUV. As soon as he rolled down the windows, she stuck her muzzle out the window for what was, in her opinion, an all too brief ride. For Angel it was much longer, the car finally pulling up to an old pleasant country farm after about an hour.
Angel rung the bell and was met by an older gentleman wearing dark sunglasses that masked his eyes. "Yes?" he inquired.
"Are you Rupert Giles?"
"Indeed I am. Are you from the service dog foundation?"
"Yes, I’m Angel."
"Do come in...although I’m only meeting with you because of my wife Jenny." The man moved in an almost casual fashion, only Angel’s years of experience allowed him to recognize the calculations of a blind man trying to avoid obstacles.
"I’ve always had below average vision but only recently have I become fully impaired...it was if someone willed it and I quickly lost the rest of my sight."
Back in the car, Willow was annoyed. She hated waiting in cars. She hated waiting for meals. Frankly, she hated waiting...period. Angel opened the windows to keep her cool, but she was bored...and while the windows were not low enough for Tara to houdini out of, today’s furry companion squeezed through with a little room to spare.
'Victory is mine!’ she proclaimed as she bolted around the side of the house and began to explore.
She didn’t spend much time in the country, being a small city/suburbanite dog when she wasn’t travelling cross-country to compete. The country smelled a lot different, especially the large open building just down the dirt gravel road. She ran to the building without a second thought.
She trotted through the open door and was met by the scariest sight on the face of the planet. Stalls and stalls full of horses...big take your furry arm off kinda horses.
A large bay noticed the wandering pup backing out of the stable cautiously. 'Do you want to come closer?’ The horse’s teeth showed, big and shiny, as it ducked mysteriously to the side.
Willow put her championship speed to good use running back to the SUV and jumping through the window in one clean motion.
The horse looked back over the gate with a piece of apple in its mouth. 'Hmm...I guess she didn’t want this.’ It chewed up the small piece of fruit with a shrug.
"Since you’ve been such a good girl, I’ll take you to the acclimation session," Angel patted the top of her head.
'Yep...I’m a good girl...I’m very seldom naughty.’
That thought came with the most innocent expression Angel had ever seen. "I guess Buffy was right about you."
They drove back into town, the red mutt sticking her head far out the window to catch all the scenty action.
The loud, ear-piercing jangling of a cellular phone interrupted her good time. Angel pulled fumbled for the contraption from the center console as he pulled off the country road.
He flipped the case open and put it to his ear but no sound came through.
"Piece of junk...I will never figure out how to use this thing." He pushed several random buttons before tossing it aside on the passenger’s seat.
Willow hopped from the back seat to the front, her paw smooshing the on button. Both Angel and the dog paused as they heard loud barking emanating from the small silver phone.
'WILLOW! WILLOW! WILLOW!’
'TARA!’ Willow cried out. 'TARA! TARA! TARA!’ To Angel it sounded like a chorus of excited barks.
"Hush, Willow," Angel chided as he picked up the phone. "Angel here."
"Hi Buffy...and Anya?" Willow tried to wedge next to his ear to get close to the receiver. "What do you need?"
Willow couldn’t hear the response.
"Absolutely not...you can’t be serious." The broody man rolled his eyes. "For no price."
Willow whined loudly, 'Tara?’
"Sure, we’ll be there at four, Buffy. Love you."
As they walked through the park, Willow became more and more excited. This was one of her favorite places to chase toys. When they diverted from the open field to a sitting gazebo area, she tugged lightly in the opposite direction to tell Angel his error.
"Sorry, little one...not today."
They came to a group of around twenty kids. Many were shy and hiding behind the benches. A couple of kids were throwing a Frisbee back and forth. Willow saw the white blur dancing through the sky and began to jump up and down. 'Frisbee!’ Several of the kids began screaming and running away.
"Down Willow," he commanded as she sat on her own with her ears curiously perked. "Its okay children...don’t be scared...she’s just excited to see you all."
’Scared? What do they think I’m big bad Willow or something? I’ve got red fur not black...I’m a good girl.’
Willow sunk low to the ground in a submissive position as Angel began his talk with the disadvantage children. Many of them came from poor families or had experienced some previous bad situations with dogs so they were very scared and tentative.
Willow went through the motions of commands Angel gave during the speech. She was tempted several times to run off and chase squirrels she saw scampering through the park, but she kept focus as the kids got more comfortable.
One of the other grownups began barbecuing as the children slowly approached the red mutt. She stayed subdued and rolled on her back as the children came and petted her soft fur. Within the hour, she had kids jumping up and down all over her and feeding her bits of hot dogs and hamburgers. She walked back to Angel’s SUV busting at the seams.
'I wish Tara was here to nuzzle my tummy,’ Willow groaned.
"Whatta good girl you are...yes you are, you pretty, pretty little thing. Let’s go home you sweet girl." Angel stood up and looked around. "Let’s keep the puppy talk between me and you."
Willow’s only response was a lick and a tail wag.
Tara’s Day - 7:01 A.M.
Tara tried to take a nap in the car, but it quickly became obvious that her time would be better spent digging her claws into the fabric of the back seat so she wouldn’t fly out of the transportation. She briefly worried that she would get in trouble for damaging the upholstery, but upon further inspection, she realized that she was just leaving another set of slightly larger 'hold on for dear life gashes’ next to Willow’s.
Tara panted between sucking down gulps of water from a bucket. Her normal leisurely morning walk had turned into a jog from hell.
The house was smaller than her own, but she managed to track down Willow’s favorite resting spot. She watched the door for a few minutes, wondering if Willow would come back soon before succumbing to a midmorning nap.
Tara woke with a grump. Buffy’s enthusiastic calls from downstairs took her from sleep just as she was getting to the Snausage Bridge.
'Harumph...doesn’t she know that I need twenty hours of sleep to be at my best?’ Tara obediently loped down the steps and was loaded into the car. Buffy’s driving pulled her around to fully awake within moments.
Buffy and Tara entered the gymnasium late, the only relic left from when the high school blew up from a gas explosion. Lanes and lanes of hurdles and spring loaded boxes that held the coveted tennis balls lined the old wooden basketball floor.
Tara found that it was loud...excruciatingly loud. At least sixty dogs were barking, whimpering, and otherwise making a ruckus. Not to mention the crazed owners who were cheering and yelling commands. There was even one enthusiastic and obnoxious woman with a whistle and a stopwatch taking precise measurements. Tara realized that was the nut they were heading towards.
"Anya," Buffy greeted with a wave.
"Where is your dog?" Anya asked, ignoring the pleasantries. She brought her two Border Collies to a halt with a quick command.
"Willow’s with my boyfriend today. I’m taking care of his dog Tara."
"Can she run?"
"I don’t know...she’s a service dog."
"Just great. I didn’t bring our alternate dogs - Commerce or Retail. I only brought Profit and Revenue with the expectation that you would bring Willow and we would have the fastest heats today," Anya said with irritation.
"It’s just practice...and Willow is ready for the race this weekend," Buffy replied nonaffected.
"Ladies, Ladies...no need to fight...unless you want to change into bikinis and step into my mud pool." Xander said as he brought his wolf dog over on a leash.
Tara cautiously approached the new dogs - She was far more accustomed to dealing with people rather than groups of other dogs.
'So you’re Tara?’ The wolf dog asked with a curious expression on his face.
'H-how do you know who I am?’ Tara responded nervously.
'You’re Willow’s girl right? She just goes on and on about you. I’m Profit, by the way.’
Tara shyly ducked her head, but couldn’t help the pleased expression that was shining like a neon sign across her face.
'I’m Revenue...Mr. Stoic over there is Oz.’
'N-nice to meet you.’
Buffy took Tara separately through the motions for twenty minutes before letting her join the others.
Anya began blowing the whistle fiercely and the three other dogs lined up...Tara followed behind. Oz turned and gave her a hopeful look. 'Don’t worry...just copy what we do.’
"Twenty seconds? That’s despicable," Anya spat. "Let’s get it together pooches."
Two hours later, they had dwindled the time down to around eighteen seconds...even Anya seemed impressed at the Yellow Lab’s quick ability to learn and improve. Tara, though, just wondered if she could trade in her thick coat for a smooth coat Chihuahua as she panted in despair.
Anya filled up several water bowls again for the dogs and they all flocked to drink. As Tara was drinking down hers, she flinched as she felt hands begin to pet her. She turned to find Anya with a strange look in her eye. Anya checked her neck, back, and hindquarters before the dog maneuvered away.
"Is this a purebred dog with papers?" Anya questioned.
"Yeah...why do you ask?"
Both Tara and Buffy could see the dollar signs forming behind the bottle blonde’s eyes.
Buffy and Anya exited the gymnasium, Anya loading her pair of Border Collies into a van.
"Call your boyfriend," Anya directed as she flipped out her phone and handed it to the blonde.
Buffy dialed the number and handed the phone back to Anya. She tapped a series of numbers and motioned for Buffy to pull her own phone out. "Why do you want to talk to Angel?"
Tara’s ears perked at the name of her owner.
"Lucrative business opportunities," the bottle blonde replied.
Buffy rolled her eyes and opened her phone as it jingled. She listened as Angel’s phone rang repeatedly with no answer. Anya was just about to hang up but caught Buffy’s hand motion and stayed on.
"It takes him forever to answer his cell phone. Angel’s so technophobic...you would think he was born two hundred forty years ago or something."
Tara edged closer when she heard Angel’s name again. It caused Buffy to trip over the curb, both phone and leash flew out of her hand simultaneously. The yellow lab bounded for the phone.
'WILLOW! WILLOW! WILLOW!’ Tara started.
'TARA! TARA! TARA! TARA!’
"Hush, Tara," Buffy chided as she picked up the phone.
"Buffy’s sex slave?"
"Hi Buffy...and Anya? What do you need?"
"I want to breed your purebred dog...she will make healthy and profitable litters," Anya spoke candidly.
"Absolutely not...you can’t be serious." Angel replied.
"I’ll give you thirty percent of the litter sale and a ten percent cut on the first two years worth of winnings on the dog show worthy ones."
"For no price."
"Phhht...idiots...the both of you." Anya said as she flipped her phone shut.
Tara whined loudly, 'Willow?’
"Hey...keep quiet you." Buffy shushed with a pat on her head. "Can you make it to my house by four?"
"Sure, we’ll be there at four, Buffy. Love you."
The Jeep skidded to a disturbing halt in front of a disturbingly pink shop. Buffy pulled out the lethargic dog and opened the glass door.
"Welcome to Chase’s Pet Spa. Oh...Ms. Summers...did you get a new dog?" Harmony the peppy blonde assistant asked as she greeted.
"This is my boyfriend’s dog...just give her Willow’s usual - a massage and a grooming."
Harmony took the exhausted dog to the back so that Larry could work a legendary pet massage before Wesley did his magic with a brush and a set of scissors. Buffy was lucky enough to always have an open appointment since she had dated Larry back in high school.
Tara could only sing the praises, which was given in the form of licks, to the two miracle workers as her muscles, joints, and fur went back to where it belonged. An hour later she was given back to Buffy who took her behind a dark purple curtain.
"Cordelia...do you have time for a quick question?" the blonde asked to the woman sitting behind the desk with a plaque that said - Cordelia Chase: Pet Psychic.
"Certainly," she replied as she moved from behind the counter and kneeled on a large maroon pillow off to the side of the office. "Bring her here."
Buffy moved Tara next to the brunette and she picked up her fuzzy yellow paw. Instantly Ms. Chase was wracked with sharp pains that caused her to release the paw and grab at her head.
"She will live contentedly with the other as you hope. My vision has foreseen it."
"Oh...thank you, seer," Buffy replied happily as her question of whether or not the two dogs could live compatibly was answered.
She packed up the dog and drove home singing pop songs in a loud, flat voice. Tara was so tired that she fell asleep, not noticing the bad singing or driving.
Tara eyes popped awake as the door opened wide to Willow and Angel.
’Hey,’ Willow greeted as she noticed Tara resting on the couch. Tara sat up and her stomach growled loudly.
’You haven’t eaten yet? What kind of degenerate owner have I raised?’ Willow began on a tirade.
’Sweetie...I was sleeping,’ Tara’s stomach growled again. 'Um, but maybe now we could eat?’
’Of course...this is one conflict that Buffy can always solve.’ Willow trotted to the kitchen where Buffy and Angel were commending their good behavior today. The red mutt scratched her paw against the food cabinet and look up as if she had never been fed before in her whole entire life.
"Is it time for you din-din?" Buffy instantly responded as she open the cabinet and filled a bowl for both Tara and Willow.
’See? No problemo.’
The two dogs ate merrily.
'It looks like you charmed my owner.’ Tara said with a sense of delight after finishing her meal.
'Yeah, I could write a book...if I ever figure out how to use a computer. It would be called Please: The Series of Pouty Expressions That Manipulate Owners Into Anything.’ Willow replied with a touch of self-satisfaction.
'Don’t you think the title is really long?’
'Well, something tells me if I didn’t use that title the great owner in the sky would be very disappointed.’
'Oh...well, one must always obey the great owner in the sky because she rocks.’
Tara moved her toy squeaky frog in front of Willow and flopped over on her side into the pile of blankets at the foot of Buffy’s bed. 'Who knew that flyball was so hard? And loud and tiring...or that I would be propositioned for breeding?’
'Anya is truly disturbing,’ Willow agreed, knowing the likely scenario without having to ask. She moved her unearthed bone to her side and pounced on the evil squeaky. She reluctantly put it down after a moment, saving her instinct for massacring green hoppity things for later.
'Who knew that being a service dog was so hard? And tiring...and that little kids could pull ears so ouchy...’
'Can we agree that we both are the top dogs in this house?’ Tara asked as she lifted her head and scooted back to make a place for the smaller dog to lay in front. Willow happily burrowed in.
The pair looked over at their owners.
"You should really consider adding a medieval influence to the decor," Angel suggested innocently. "Dark, rich colors are so good in the bedroom."
"Wow...you’re right," Buffy agreed. "Do you know what else is good in the bedroom?"
"Hmm...automatic retractable curtains? I hate that morning sun." Angel contemplated as he rubbed his chin.
"No...you silly," Buffy replied airily, setting back blondes worldwide another ten years by playing to stereotype.
"Oh!" They both gave a good chuckle.
Willow turned back to the golden lab. 'We are most assuredly at the top around here.’
'Do you think we can make this work?’ Tara asked as she rested her head on Willow’s shoulder.
'Of course...all we have to do is keep our owners on the straight and blissfully narrow. No paths diverged/divulged.'
'That shouldn’t be problem then. After all we’re dogs - the best darn moochers and manipulators on the whole food chain.'