The Pet Psychic

The Pet Psychic
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His name was Duck, but unlike ducks, he hated water. That’s probably because he was actually a dog. A rescue dog to be precise. Half Pug, half Chihuahua, my sister found him hovering in the corner of a shelter deep in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, snarling at her, as if begging her not to adopt him. She took him home anyway, ready for motherhood. The rescue people said he was two-and-a half-tops, but we knew they were lying. He was at least five. Whatever his age, the only thing she knew for certain was that he came with a lot of baggage.

For starters he hated men. He barked at the postman, the deliveryman, a boy that was a friend, anything with testicles. And he wouldn’t stop barking until every last male chromosome was out of his domain. The only thing he loathed more than men was water. If there was so much as a drop of rain in the air he refused to step outside. He’d get down low and use all of his weight not to move an inch. Once I accidentally sneezed and he mistook it for a light mist and sprinted back inside the house.

That’s the thing about shelter dogs, you never know what mysteries lurk in their past. We made up stories about where he came from. I was convinced he only understood Spanish and was picked up in a section of Los Angeles known for its high concentration of gangs. Duck was probably left outside in the rain after his last owner, a female gang leader with a tear drop tattoo below her eyelid, was shot by a rival gang member who was obviously a man. I had other versions of what happened to him, and so did my sister, but this was the one I comfortably settled on. It just made the most sense. Still, we were desperate to know Duck’s backstory.

A few weeks later while lying in bed watching trashy reality television, a sister tradition, an episode came on featuring a D-list celebrity with a depressed dog that had separation anxiety. The celebrity hired a pet psychic to understand what happened to poor Sugar Pie. Bingo! That’s it! My sister needed to hire a pet psychic! Not just any pet psychic - this pet psychic, who, after a quick Google search, we discovered lived near my sister’s home in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, my sister was not as bowled over by my plan. “A pet psychic? Seriously? I don’t think so.” But I wasn’t about to give up, so after some thorough convincing (I was head of the debate team in 7th grade), she finally consented.

Three days later, Tanya, with her soft eighties perm parted to the side with the help of hairspray, arrived looking like she just came from a jazzercise class. Despite her petite frame and small features, she spoke with a commanding voice. If she had told me to sit, I would have dropped to the floor. After introductions and niceties were over, Tanya asked for some private time alone with Duck. Taking a few of Duck’s favorite toys, they escaped into my sister’s bedroom.

With ears planted firmly against the door, we couldn’t hear a thing. Annoyed, we gave up and headed back to the living room. Then the panic hit. What did I convince my sister to do? We let a complete stranger with a perm into the house and left her alone in a bedroom with cash and jewelry. What were we thinking?

Fifteen minutes later, Tanya emerged, smiling. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Which one of you is the writer?” My sister looked at me. “That would be me,” I said. “Oh! Duck loves your writing. He just thinks you’re so funny! Tell me, who wears the red sandals?” I had been living in a red pair of espadrilles, a final purchase from my favorite New York City shoe store Tootsi Plohound before they went out of business. I wasn’t wearing them that day in case you’re wondering. “He thinks they are so much fun. It makes him beyond happy when you wear them.”

My sister was starting to show her annoyance. This was her session. Her money. Duck was her baby. She gave him a home filled with boundless love, endless treats and an overbrimming basket of plush toys. “What about me? What did he say about me?” Tanya looked blankly at my sister. She had nothing. After a long pause she said, “Do you drive a silver Volvo? He loves the way the soft leather feels on his paws. He says it’s really comfortable.” I was the one that owned the silver Volvo. “Do you know what happened to him?!” I shouted, way too loudly, hoping to change the subject, but also genuinely wanting to know the answer.

It turned out I was completely wrong. Duck was not part of a gang, he didn’t understand Spanish and it wasn’t raining when his previous owner was shot in front of him. According to Tanya, Duck lived with a family in the Valley with a strong male figure who never wanted a dog. The man refused to let Duck inside the house and whenever he was angry or bored, he would turn the hose on and point the nozzle at Duck, pinning him against the wall in fear.

$150 later we had the answer to our $64,000 question. My sister and I never spoke about the pet psychic again, but each time I glance at the red espadrilles that sit in the bottom of my closet, I can’t help but think, “They are fun.”

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