by Susan J. Kroupa
Some dogs work for their humans out of love and a desire to serve. Not Doodle, the labradoodle narrator of the Doodlebugged books. His motto? Do the work. Get paid. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, things don't always work out the way he plans, especially when he's around Molly, his new boss's ten-year-old daughter.
In this excerpt from Bed-Bugged, the first of the Doodlebugged mysteries, Doodle and the boss have just finished a job, but the client refused to pay.
“Molly. Doodle.” The boss heads for the door and we follow behind.“Doodle” is not a name I would have picked for myself. Too “cute-dog” for my taste. Not my style at all. But we can’t control what the bosses call us. It’s a communication thing. We can understand them, but we’re pretty much at the mercy of gestures and body language to get them to understand us. Frankly, they’re not very good at it.As the boss unlocks the van he murmurs, “Another freakin’ charity case. More clients like this and we’ll be out of business. And we have nothing scheduled for the rest of the week.”He opens the van door and I hop in and go straight into my crate, which is bolted to the floor so it won’t flop around. “Keeps on like this, you’ll be back in the pound.”I growl, feeling his stress and having to let it out a bit. By “the pound” the boss means the animal shelter. Been there once. Never want to go back.“Doodle did a great job,” Molly says snapping her seat belt into place. I can always trust her to take my side. Did I mention she’s the best part of the new job?“Yep,” the boss agrees. “Went straight to them.” Then, after a pause, “Which he ought to, given his cost.”The new boss is always worrying about money. He says I cost “an arm and a leg,” because the bed bug trainer had to teach me how to distinguish bed bugs from the millions of other interesting smells that cross my nose daily. Evidently I was not cheap and he still owes money on me, even though the trainer gave him a discount because of what he called my “attitude.”“He’s smart, that’s for sure,” my trainer told him. “But to be honest, sometimes not as strongly motivated as some of my other dogs.”To which I say smart and obedient do not always go hand in hand.“Which he ought to,” the new boss repeats now, sounding downright grumpy, which makes me a little nervous.So far, he’s been a decent boss. Nothing like my second one — don’t get me started. This new boss feeds me on time, makes sure I get outside when I need to. Has a gentle touch when he pulls burrs from my coat. He’s a quiet man, keeps to himself, worries about Molly — I can see that in his eyes. We have a cordial business relationship, which is as it should be.His phone rings just as we’re pulling away. He brakes hard and I skid forward in my crate. Good thing it’s bolted down or I’d be in the front seat.He flips open his phone. “Hunter Detection. Josh Hunter speaking.” His frown fades as he listens and I can smell his excitement. “Yeah. You saw our flier? Yeah, the rates on that are still good. Tomorrow? Let me check my calendar.”He holds the phone away from him a moment, his face now in a broad grin. I’m not sure what a calendar is, but the boss just said we had no work scheduled for the rest of the week. “Let’s see. I have an opening at 3:00 tomorrow. Will that work for you?”“Good. Yeah.” He signals to Molly who hands him a notebook and a pen. “1789 Broadview. Got it. See you then.”“Hear that?” He slaps the phone shut and beams at Molly. “A real job. One that can pay. Doodle will finally be earning his keep.”Humph. My job is to find the bugs, not the work.Molly turns around and reaches a skinny arm toward my crate. “Good dog,” she says. “What a good dog.”Just doing my job. Do the work, get paid. That’s all I’m in it for.But I lick the tips of her fingers sticking through the bars and my tail thumps against the bottom of the crate.And I hope the new boss isn’t serious about the pound. I don’t spend time worrying about the future the way humans do. Live for the now is my motto. Which in this case is a good thing. Because going back to the pound would be one future I wouldn’t want to think about at all.
Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.
She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa