December 29, 2018

“Love and Loathing at the Dog Park” by Helia Rethmann

A story in dialogue.

Speaking parts:

MELANIE, a female person

BRUCE, a male person

Non-speaking parts:

ZADIE, a German Shepherd

MICKEY, a mutt

CLARA, a three-legged toy poodle

“Hey, girl! Can I have that? Pretty please? Can Clara have her baby back? That’s a good—ouch, that hurt!”

“ZADIE – drop it. DROP IT! Here you go. I am so sorry about that.”

“Thanks. I guess.”

“Let me look at your hand. Did she get you? Skin’s not broken, is it? Should I…—I can’t believe she did that.”

“It’s fine. Really. It was only a little nip, no damage done.”

“I swear she’s never done anything like that before. Zadie, really—what a way to make a first impression!”

“It was my fault, I’m the stranger. I should have known better than to stick my hand between her teeth.”

“Oh, no, the blame lies solely with this dog. Sit, Zadie—SIT! That’s right: Keep sitting and ponder your crimes. Do not move. I swear she’s all mixed up these days. No, no, no—you can’t get up until you apologize.”

“Aw… look at that face. She says she’s sorry. May I accept her apology yet?”

“Let’s give it another minute. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6….—okay, Zadie: you’re off the hook. You’re very lucky your victim is not the vindictive kind.”

“It’s not like I’m bleeding. It hardly hurts anymore. I like how she listens to you. She’s very smart, isn’t she? And absolutely gorgeous.”

“Shhh – don’t let her hear that. She’s full of herself already. I’m Bruce, by the way. You’re sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m Melanie. (Pause) So…your dog speaks English?”

“Fluently. Also French. And some German, although her German of late is a bit rusty.”

“That’s awesome. My Mickey is trilingual too: English, German and Spanish.”

“Really? Can you prove it?”

“I can. Mickey: Come here! Komm her, Hund! ¡Ven aqui! And here he is, my little Schatzi!“

“Impressive. Hello, Mickey—aren’t you adorable? I’m Bruce and this is Zadie, a very bad dog. Maybe you guys could practice your German together?”

“Maybe they can. Mickey is usually a bit shy with new friends. Has to get to know them a little before he whips out his German. Beer seems to help.”

“Haha. Smart dog. Beer seems to help with lots of things. Should we all go and get one?”

“Maybe give them a bit to sniff each other’s behinds. That seems to help too.”

“You’re right. Let’s wait until they are properly acquainted.”


“Are they properly acquainted yet?”

“Are you new to the neighborhood, Bruce? I’ve never seen you before.”

“Moved here last week from San Francisco.“

“San Francisco? Wow. That must be quite the culture shock.”

“It is and it isn’t. I like it here. It’s a lot more relaxed. And the people are charming.”

“Well, you must have met the right kind.”

“I seem to be lucky like that.”


“Excuse me—can you hold on a minute? I need to get this… slobbery old doll… back to Clara.”

“My feet are rooted to the ground.”

“Back in a sec!”


“So—what brings you to Nashville, Bruce? Other than its charming, laid-back people?”

“Change of scenery. Change of family status. Business. I’m starting over, basically. I won’t bore you with the details. Not without beer. So, what happened to that little dog’s leg? I didn’t even notice she was missing one.”

“Clara? She had a tumor. It was either put her down or get rid of the leg. “

“Oh my gosh, I’m not sure I agree with that choice.”

“Her handler says she’s faster on three than most on four.”

“Well, it’s good of you to look out for her. You are a charitable person, I can tell. Now I feel extra bad for Zadie making off with Carla’s toy.“

“No need. Dogs will be dogs.”

“Isn’t that the truth? That old lady—you said she’s Carla’s ‘handler’? What is she, specifically? Her nurse? Her therapist?”

“Haha. No. She’s Clara’s person. I just don’t like to call the people dogs live with their ‘owners’, you know? It’s a bad word. Like we own them. It’s more like they own us, don’t you agree?”

“You’re funny. I like that. So few people have a sense of humor these days.”

“I wouldn’t know how to survive a single day without a sense of humor. I had to stop reading the paper because of all the divisiveness and hate.”

“It will all still be there when you start reading it again.”


“So…what are things like in San Francisco? I heard it’s a beautiful city.”

“It is. It’s also crowded, and expensive as hell.  For the money I spent on my two-bedroom there I can get a six-bedroom house here, plus acreage.”

“Wow. That’s something. What are you going to do with a six-bedroom house? You have family here?”

“Just Zadie and me, for now. But we like to plan for the future, you know?”


“How about you? Is there a Mr. Melanie? I should be embarrassed to ask, seeing we’re not drinking beer together yet, but here I am, asking anyhow.”

“Ask away. It’s fine. I’m not one for idle chitchat myself. What’s the point?”

“Right? Right.”

“No Mr. Melanie for now. Look—they’re playing. Having fun, it looks like.”

“They are! Zadie—don’t be too rough! I swear that dog doesn’t know her own size. She thinks she’s Mickey’s size.”

“Mickey can take it. He likes big dogs.”

“No offense, but is there another dog park for large breeds? Everyone here is tiny.”

“It’s only 4:00—the big dogs must all still be at work. It’s just us little mutts and newcomers today.”

“In SF, they have parks for regular sized dogs, and separate parks for the little ones.” “Really?”

“Makes sense if you think about it. To each its own.”

“Does it? Do they also separate them by breed and fur color?”


“Do they also separate dogs by breed and fur color?”

“I don’t get your meaning, Melanie.”

“Never mind, Bruce. I just wish we could all play together, you know? Go, Mickey! Don’t let that big dog run you over—Ouch. That looks like it might have hurt.“


“He’s okay. He’s getting up. No permanent injury. Your Zadie is a bit of a bully, isn’t she?”

“Not usually. Your Mickey brings it out in her, maybe.”

“And here Zadie goes—taking Clara’s toy again!”

“ZADIE! Spit out that disgusting thing. It belongs to the disabled dog.”

“Her name is CLARA, by the way, not CARLA.”

“And I’m Zadie’s OWNER, by the way, not her HANDLER. What kind of person is afraid to own a dog?”

“What kind of elitist wants to separate them by size?”

“What kind of imbecile doesn’t understand basic concepts of biology? The weak are meat the strong will eat.”

“That’s a disgusting quote.”

“But true.”


“I obviously mistook you for somebody smarter.”

“I obviously mistook you for somebody kind.”


“Yeah. Whatever.”

©Helia S. Rethmann


About the Author: Helia grew up in Germany, but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she teaches, writes, and cleans up after too many animals. Her fiction has recently appeared in Black Elephant, Intrinsick Magazine and in Pure Slush and Virgins anthologies. Her story ‘Animals’ was published recently by the Breakwater Review (U of MA at Boston), and “The truth about the children you rooted for” will be included in the ‘Fairy Tales and Folklore Re-imagined’ anthology by ‘Between-the-Lines’ this September.

Helia has work coming out soon in River and South Review.

Check out this story in our anthology: The First Annual Two Sisters Writing & Publishing Featuring International Writers by clicking here.

Helia S. Rethmann Author Photo

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