Please enjoy this scene from the comic mystery novel RED HOT LIBERTY where Molly takes Australian Shepherd Talisman to a dog show to visit the love of her life. It is a tragic tale of tailless tragedy!
Talisman led an interesting life, had a meaningful job, a myriad of fascinating friends and social activities, was doted on by adoring assistants, pampered by a staff of experts, and her love life was lifted straight from the pages of an epic romance novel. Spiritsong's Lucky Talisman of DeMitri was a most special Australian Shepherd.
Val had bequeathed Talisman to Molly upon his death—along with a list of detailed instructions for care and feeding. Molly found the task overwhelming, but Angelina had embraced the mission with passion, and it became a way for them all to cope with their loss. Val's untimely passing had left behind a gigantic black hole whose gravitational pull threatened everyone who had loved him. Talisman was the anchor that now kept them all grounded.
Talisman had been unanimously elected as official mascot of The Valentino DeMitri Gay Epiphany Fan Club. Angelina accepted the position of her personal assistant. Val's best friend, Toby Fletcher, became her social secretary. Molly, who had a snazzy BMW and good driving record, donned the hat of official chauffer. Today the fan club delegation made a formal appearance at an AKC dog show in Denver.
The National Western Complex sprawled over eighty acres, and the conformation events were held in a spacious indoor hall. Hundreds of people and dogs swarmed the facility, which was set up with vendor booths and rings for the various competitions. Molly found the press of people and general bedlam disorienting, but Toby appeared quite at home. She was glad for his presence on her first dog show field trip with Talisman.
Talisman had once been a show queen, but Val retired her after she won Best in Show at Westminster. Although Val said he wanted her to go out in a blaze of glory, the fact that Peter died shortly after she took her crown was the real reason. Peter had been Talisman's handler, and the shows were a family affair. However, every time major dog shows were held near their home, Talisman made an appearance to visit old friends and lovers.
Talisman always wore a scarf around her neck that declared her sentiments. Today's scarf read JUST LIKE ROMEO & JULIET.
"It's quite tragic, really," was all Toby would say by way of explanation. He led them through the wild maze of people and dogs who were milling about between shows. Where Val had been a dashing and dapper gay man, Toby reminded Molly of bright Little Orphan Annie with his huge halo of curly, orange hair and patchwork-style clothes—ever-wrinkled and paint-stained. Toby was a flaming gay artist.
Talisman led their little parade. She appeared intent on some important mission and tugged hard on the leash that Angelina grasped with both hands. Toby followed, scanning the crowd for familiar faces. Molly, Steve, and Blondie lagged behind. Blondie's greatest joy in life was sniffing people’s crotches, and Steve had to struggle to keep her moving.
Toby grew animated as they approached herding dog territory. He pointed to a Puli. "Oh, look, there's Tassel. Her registered name is Twin Peaks Bosom Buddy." A pretty Collie caught his attention. "And there's Spot—The G Spot. Oh, oh, and that Briard is Jacob Black—Kiss the Girls and Make Them Howl." Toby stood up on tip toes and craned his neck to see above the crowd. "That itty bitty Corgi is Pia—Passion in Action. And the Bouvier des Flandres over there is Flame—Desire Lights Up the Night. The GSD is Dusty—Lust in the Dust." He waved his hand frantically to get an Old English Sheepdog's attention, "Hi, Hot to Trot Scratch My Itch! You look so handsome today!"
Molly laughed. "These herding dogs seem like a wild bunch."
Toby rolled his eyes. "Oh, you don’t know the half of it, honey. And let me warn you to beware of the Border Collies. They're the bad boys of the herding breeds, a scrappy band of rebels who live by their own rules. All the bitches gravitate to them. Well, except Tali, of course. There was only one for Tali and, well, it's a tragic tale of tailless tragedy."
Molly had never before had a dog and was discovering a whole new world. It was quite an adventure.
Toby's eyes darted to a striking black and white Border Collie. "That's Studly—The Sex Machine. Do not let Blondie see him. Trust me, he'll break her heart."
Molly glanced at Blondie, who seemed much more interested in people's private parts than Studly's.
"How come you know all these dogs so well?" Angelina asked.
"I used to travel the dog show circuit with Val and Peter. I painted portraits of the dogs. They all love me."
Studly The Sex Machine growled at Toby as they passed.
"Well, most of them anyway," Toby whispered.
Suddenly, Talisman screamed—a wild screech that shocked everyone in the area to silence except Angelina, whose shriek echoed Talisman's as the dog ripped the leash from her hands. Talisman charged into the crowd and disappeared in a blur of fur.
"Tali!" Molly's adrenaline surged, she released Steve's hand, and raced after her. The sea of people parted to allow passage, but the dogs weren't so accommodating. Molly tripped over Passion in Action and came down hard on the concrete floor. The searing pain stole her breath, and before she could regain her footing, Steve was hovering over her.
"You okay?" he asked.
Molly groaned and allowed him to help her up. "Did I hurt Pia?"
The little Corgi sat unscathed a few feet away, her person seemingly oblivious on the other end of the leash.
Steve shook his head. "But you're bleeding."
Molly glanced down, more dismayed to see the rip in her new jeans than the skinned knee. "We've got to find Tali." She couldn't imagine how Angelina could survive yet another loss.
Angelina and Toby caught up with them.
Toby gave Molly's back a gentle pat. "Don't worry. I know right where she is. Follow me."
They traipsed off in search of her.
Talisman's beauty was spectacular. Her long, full coat was a marbled swirl of black and silver with copper highlights, and she had a lush white collar and gorgeous white markings on her face, chest, and legs. Her sky blue eyes reflected extraordinary intelligence, and right now those eyes were staring into her mirror image.
"It's a boy version of Tali," Angelina said with wonder.
Molly had known Talisman for six months, and never before had she witnessed the prim, prissy dog exhibit anything other than ladylike behavior—except when she was lifting her leg to pee like a boy dog. (Val had once observed that Talisman could be somewhat gender-confused.) However, in the presence of Chance, gender-confusion was most definitely not an issue. In a wanton display of canine coquettishness, Talisman danced for Chance. She dipped low in a coy play bow and then bounced up and butt-slammed him. In response, Chance smiled and twisted his body into a U-shape and wiggled toward her. She chirped and trilled, and he chattered his teeth. Talisman stared at him with a wild gleam in her eyes, batting her eyelashes in a decidedly come-hither manner. Chance smacked his lips and nuzzled her ear. Both shook their tailless bottoms shamelessly.
"Tali is spayed, right?" Molly asked.
Toby nodded. "She is now, but their passion goes much deeper than hormones."
"She's acting like he's some kind of rock star," Angelina said.
"He is. Champion Caitland Isle Take A Chance—the first Aussie to win Best In Show at Crufts, the most prestigious dog show in the world. That's where they met." Toby placed his hand over his heart. "It was love at first sight."
"So, what's the tragic tale of tailless tragedy?" Steve asked.
Toby looked at them all like they were imbeciles. "Well, they're both blue merles, and merles aren't allowed to mate with each other—it's a genetic thing. Their babies could be blind and deaf."
Angelina gasped. "Oh, poor Tali and Chance. How sad."
There were so many things Molly still had to learn about being a mom to an Australian Shepherd. She glanced at Chance's handler and he gave her a conspiratorial wink as if to say, "Let them have their fun."
Suddenly, Talisman threw back her head and let loose a feral howl. Her body went rigid, her fur stood at attention, and her eyes slid past Chance to narrowly focus on a beautiful red, white, and copper Australian Shepherd who stood nearby.
"Uh oh," Toby said.
"Why 'uh oh?'" Molly took a few protective steps in Talisman's direction.
"The redheaded bitch is the other woman who came between them," Toby said. "She's a tri-color, so she and Chance weren't forbidden. Her name is Vixen—I'm Too Sexy for My Fur."
Chance, apparently sensing the awkwardness of the situation, sat down and averted his gaze.
Vixen's amber eyes and coppery red fur shimmered in the bright overhead light. Her face was delicate and pretty. She was undeniably ravishing, in a canine sort of way.
Steve gave both Vixen and Molly an appreciative once-over. "Well, there is something to be said for sexy redheads."
"Your eyes and hair are the exact same color as hers," Angelina said to Molly, her tone reproachful.
Molly noticed that everyone was staring at her. "What?" Both bitches had her in their sights as well. "I don't want him. I swear." She pulled Steve closer and made a point to snuggle into him. "I'm very happy with the stud I've got."
Chance sighed, lay down, and rested his chin on his paws.
Angelina always took her role as Talisman's personal assistant very seriously. She marched right over to Vixen's handler and said, "Please take your dog somewhere else because she's simply ruining everything."
Startled, the woman glanced at Molly.
Molly struggled to keep a straight face. "What she said."
The woman tossed her head, muttered something about their impertinence, and quickly led Vixen away.
Angelina patted Talisman, and the two of them shared a high-five. Then Talisman lay down next to Chance and licked his ear, which set his teeth to chattering, and then their angst-filled reunion began anew.
Steve hugged Molly. "They've got a passion that rivals ours."
"Yes, but theirs has an unhappy ending," she said.
"Ours won't. I have an entirely different ending planned for us."
His words reminded Molly of an old family saying, but she didn't voice it. Instead it bounced around inside her head like Talisman's flirtatious little dance. You know how to make God laugh? You tell Him your plans.