Couples' Therapy: Never trust a dog quack.
I shrugged. "Same as ever, I guess."
"Huh." A pause. "You know, Lucy and I have been there before. We get it."
Another pause while we both watched the empty sky.
"I know you're not into stuff like this, but we know a great guy who can really..."
"Listen, Dave. We've had this discussion before. Like twenty times. We're not interested. Either of us."
Dave raised his eyebrows. "Alright, alright. I get it. Just sayin'--there's no shame in getting help. Couples' therapy has done wonders for us. Wonders."
Dave couldn't see my eye-roll, which was probably for the best. But dang it, the guy was persistent. And he had a point.
I thought of the backyard barbecue at Dave's house a few months ago. He and Lucy were inseparable the whole evening, like a couple of middle schoolers at their first dance. She never left his side, even leaned against his leg while we all sat around the campfire. He probably wasn't even aware of how he twirled Lucy's auburn hair between his fingers as he sang, but I was. Painfully. I couldn't remember the last time I'd shown my Tiffany affection like that--or the last time she'd been willing to receive it.
"It's even helped us in the bedroom," Dave turned to look me in the face this time.
"Really. She hasn't chewed the bedposts in months. Or drooled on the sheets."
My eyes fell to Tiffany in the corner of the blind. The springer spaniel sat primly upon the muddy plywood, flashing pride and passion and severity from her eyes all at once as only Tiffany can. She was beautiful.
I sighed. "What's this guy's name again?"
"Clifton--Joshua Clifton," he extended a hand, "But you can call me Dr. Josh." He smiled warmly as we shook, then gestured toward a leather couch. "Please have a seat." He was younger than I expected, and better looking. With his turtleneck and mustache, he looked like he stepped off the pages of a 1970's LL Bean catalogue --or the mandolin player for that super-cool indie folk band.
I started toward the couch, but Tiffany remained by the door--obstinate, as always.
"And you must be Tiffany," Dr. Josh turned to face the spaniel, then dropped to all fours. Eyes locked with the dog's, he began to sway side to side--slowly, rhythmically--like a snake charmer.
Tiffany glanced over at me, confused. Dr. Josh began to creep closer as he swayed--six feet, three feet, six inches--until his mouth was directly adjacent to Tiffany's left ear. Tiffany remained statue still, and Dr. Josh began to move his mouth--whispering, I supposed, but from my vantage point it looked like he was simply tickling the dog's ear with his mustache. Tiffany began to tremble.
"Alright, now--listen, Dr ...uh ... Dr. Josh, I...."
He cut me off with an urgent wave, but didn't move his face--still in Tiffany's ear, still whispering. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Tiffany's mouth opened as her tail slapped the floor. Abruptly, Dr. Josh stood up.
"That'll do it for today, I think," he wiped his mustache with a silk handkerchief, then turned to me with a grin.
"Not as bad as you thought, huh?"
I searched for a clock on the walls. "We're done? Like, done, done?"
"Well, for session one at least," he walked behind his heavy oak desk and began shuffling some papers. "Why don't you take her hunting this weekend, and we'll try again next Thursday?"
Fat chance, I thought as I pulled Tiffany out the door. If this quack bills me for the full hour, next time I'll see Mr. Mustache Mumbler will be in small claims court.
I was mistaken. That Saturday's hunt was a dream. Tiffany was a new dog, working like never before: chasing cripples, staying in place, following hand signals--shoot, she even collected her first triple retrieve, a feat undreamable just a week earlier.
Needless to say, our appointments with Dr. Josh became part of our weekly routine, and Dave was right --the changes in Tiffany extended beyond the marsh. I'd return from work most evenings and find Tiffany curled in the corner, paws muddy, tail thumping, the same sort of pleasant exhaustion in her eyes that we all feel after a day well-spent--as if the afterglow of our weekend hunting trips was lasting through the week. Ur the man Dave, I texted my buddy, Dr. Josh is unreal.
It wasn't until the next Thursday that I recognized the full truth of that statement.
We were just wrapping up our weekly session when I interrupted Dr. Josh mid-mustache wipe with a hearty slap of gratitude on the back--too hearty, I guess. Dr. Josh coughed in surprise, and his handkerchief flew behind his desk.
"Ah man," I apologized as I rushed to retrieve the handkerchief, "Let me get that."
"No please," he sputtered, waving me off, "I can...."
But it was too late. I stood motionless behind the desk, staring in disbelief at the doc's laptop screen. There, as his desktop background, gleamed a high-def photo of Dr. Josh and Tiffany. He was crouched at the edge of a cattail slough, Tiffany under his arm, a fat greenhead clutched in her teeth.
I felt sick as other images began to coalesce in my mind in stunning clarity. The muddy waders in the back of Dr. Josh's truck in the parking lot, his intimate knowledge of Tiffany's hunting habits and preferences, my dog's satisfied mid-week languor ... All at once, everything was clear. They had formed a strong and he had crossed professional boundaries, taking her hunting behind my back. Tiffany was cheating on me--hunting ducks with another man. The whole "falling in love with your therapist" thing, but with a dog.
I knew I should have locked the kennel.
I raised my eyes to meet Dr. Josh's. "You snake," I whispered, "You lying, two-timing..."
"Look, I can explain," he took a step toward Tiffany, shielding her, "I was only..."
But I was already out the door. As I peeled out of the gravel parking lot, I caught a glimpse of Tiffany's face in the office window, watching--that characteristic smirk on her face. "At least one of us got what we wanted," I mumbled. I hit the gas and never looked back.
So needless to say, I'm in the market for a new retriever. I'm open to recommendations from anyone except Dave. We're not on speaking terms at the moment. His wife is optimistic about our friendship, though. She signed us up for our first session of buddies' therapy next week.