Peteena closed the door to her apartment behind her as quietly as she could, furtively turning the key in the lock. She adjusted her scarf and dark glasses as she walked down the stairs, knowing all the while that no disguise was good enough. They always found her, hounded her, followed her everywhere. Fans.
Most didn't bother her, they just stared, whispered to each other, stared some more. Occasionally one of them would work up the nerve to approach, ask for a pawtograph. Peteena always obliged graciously, though sometimes it was all she could do to keep from snapping at them. The ones ignorant or cruel enough to ask for an autograph were met with a snarl and a low growl, if they persisted she would make a feint toward the offender, teeth bared. That was usually enough to get rid of them.
Peteena glanced quickly up and down the street as she stepped through the front door of her building. No one in sight--she breathed a sigh of relief. The Three Dog Bakery was only a few blocks away. She hated to call a car for such a short distance. Besides, she needed the exercise.
She headed down the street at a slow trot, trying to look nonchalant. She stopped to sniff the hydrant a half-block from her building. First she detected Fuji, the handsome Siberian Husky who lived in the clapboard bordering the alley. She sniffed again. Valmont, her downstairs neighbor, a loquacious Airedale, had also been there, though not as recently. And before him, someone else, someone she didn't know. She lingered, but she couldn't identify the new guy, and everything else was old news. Peteena added her own calling card, and continued down the street.
Peteena quickened her pace slightly and tried to look purposeful as she turned the corner from her quiet street onto the main arterial that the bakery was on. Heads turned as she passed, but whether because people recognized her or because they just weren't used to seeing a dog so smartly dressed she didn't know and didn't care. Eyes straight ahead and tongue protruding no more than necessary, she pressed on.
She gained the bakery door and stepped inside without incident. She touched noses briefly with a couple of dogs she recognized from the neighborhood, and barked twice at Fuji, who was curled up on a mat in a corner of the shop with a pile of gourmet dog biscuits, a cappucino, and the morning paper. Fuji barked once in reply, inviting her to join him. Peteena wagged her tail in affirmation, and approached the counter.
A young, blonde woman in a pink smock turned towards Peteena with a bright smile. "Hello, how may I--" The girl stopped in mid- sentence, eyes wide, her smile turning into a surprised "O"- shaped mouth. Peteena averted her eyes and politely ordered a half-dozen cheese-flavored doggy bagel biscuits and a single shot mocha latte.
The girl, whose name tag read simply "Al," grabbed a waxed tissue out of the box on the counter and opened one of the bakery cases. Her face slowly flushed and her lips pursed together in a half- smile, taking on that silly, star-struck expression Peteena knew so well. Peteena studied the other items arrayed in the cases, and mused for the hundredth time how much less appealing everything was to one who could have anything.
Al carried Peteena's order on a pink plastic tray over to where Fuji was sitting. For a moment, Peteena thought that would be the end of it. But the girl wouldn't leave, and after a moment exchanging pleasantries with Fuji Peteena turned a patient eye towards her.
"Excuse me," Al said, blushing again. "But I was wondering, if you don't mind, if it's not too much trouble..." She hesitated, looking at Peteena expectantly. But Peteena waited her out. She'd played this game many times before.
"If you don't mind," Al finally continued. "Could I have your, your, um, pawtograph?" She said the word carefully, as if she never said it before. Then she fumbled in the pocket of her smock, producing a crumpled receipt and a beat up stamp pad.
Peteena obliged graciously, relieved then that the girl left with only a couple of effusive thank you's. She turned towards her friend, head held regally, ignoring the stares and giggles from both people and dogs nearby. She was a star, after all.
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