She cut three slashes into a piece of chorizo, started wedging Valiums into it, and worried in a vague way that something unusual would be required of her. She thought she remembered David saying that he gave the dog nine of his Valiums before the groomer. It seemed like a lot, so she put the chorizo down on the counter and checked on her phone. According to PetPlace, a dog should take ten milligrams of Valium for every ten pounds of body weight. Simha weighed fifty-five pounds, so that would be five and a half pills, but Simha had tremendous anxiety. She had been banned from her first groomer, and the new groomer was already complaining. “High-energy breeds may require a double dose.” Was a Labradoodle a high-energy breed? Emily put two or three more Valiums into the chorizo and gave Simha the sausage.
In the car on the way to the groomer’s, Simha was crazy. The black part of her lips pulled strangely, and she jumped from the back seat to the front.
“Simha, no,” Emily said. She stopped at an intersection. When the light turned green, she pulled forward halfway and put her left turn signal on. Cars came toward her from the other lane. “Simha, settle down. Do you want some music?”
Emily turned on the radio and found a pop song that she thought her dog would like. A car waiting behind her honked, and she pulled forward and braked to avoid colliding head-on with another car.
Normally David would have taken Simha to the groomer’s, but a month before, Emily had had a miscarriage, and she and her husband still hadn’t talked about it. What was there to say? He was away at his brother’s wedding in Mexico—the miscarriage gave her a good excuse not to go—and Simha really needed a bath and a haircut. Simha was her first dog since she was a child, and sometimes Emily didn’t believe she was a dog. Her eyes looked too intelligent. She seemed like a smooth customer who had gone undercover. Sometimes when Emily forced Simha to snuggle, she felt attracted to her dog, which made no sense because Emily was not attracted to dogs, though her first sexual experiences were with a dog. But that had been a male dog, and a lot of children have those kinds of experiences. Sometimes when Emily played with Simha in the park, she let her roughhouse, and she got so full of fear and excitement over jumping with her, it was like Emily was a dog, too.
At the Brookside Barkery and Bath, Emily made small talk with the cashier. On impulse, she bought a relaxing peanut-butter valerian treat, which she fed to Simha before the groomer led her away.
A few hours later, the groomer called her. “Is this Simha’s mommy?”
“Yes, I’m her . . . owner.”
“She’s ready for you to come and pick her up.”
The groomer was quiet. “Simha had some difficulties this time.”
“She actually enjoyed getting her teeth brushed, which was a first for me. I caught some mats forming under her collar, so you might want to pay extra attention there when you’re brushing her. I cut her front nails, but her back nails didn’t actually need to be cut. Unfortunately, when I was trying to work on her back legs, she bit me.”
“She bit you? I’m sorry, that’s my fault. I’ve been roughhousing with her, and I let her bite me. I mean, she doesn’t bite me. It’s when we roughhouse together, she sort of mouths me.”
“Did she bite you hard?”
“Yes, she did.”
“I’m so sorry. Did she break the skin? Where did she get you?”
“She mostly got my thumbnail. Does she have issues with her back legs? She was fine until I tried to go for them, and then she got upset and bit me. Then I noticed how, when I’m going for one, they’d just flop out from under her.”
“Her back legs,” Emily murmured. “No.”