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Doggy Style (Rescue Me Book 1) by Alana Albertson (1)

Yessi

I burst through the shelter’s door at four fifty-five in the afternoon and almost retch from the smell of bleach and dog shit. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it always makes my eyes water.

Damn LA traffic. I have five minutes. Five minutes left to save the lives of three dogs who are in the euthanasia room scheduled to be slaughtered.

The lobby is packed with irresponsible jerks waiting to surrender their pets. I blink back tears when I glance at an elderly Chihuahua with a wagging tail and a pink collar.

Dammit, this shelter is brimming with dogs. An old, tan Chihuahua doesn’t stand a chance of making it out of here alive.

I know I risk getting arrested, again, if I interfere with the surrender, but I can’t help myself.

God save me.

I approach her owner. The man even looks like a douchecanoe, wearing a white wife beater tank top and stained green cargo shorts. “Excuse me, sir. Do you realize that the second you sign over your dog, they’re going to kill her? Before you leave the parking lot, she’ll be taken away on a red leash, injected with poison, and then tossed in the bins in the back to be rendered into dog food.”

The guy points his finger in my face. “I’m moving. I ain’t got no choice.”

His breath reeks of vodka and vomit. I resist the urge to recoil. “You’ve always got a choice. I’m begging you, mister. Please, she’ll be murdered.”

“You want her, lady?”

Don’t look, Yessi. Don’t look at the dog!

Like a rubbernecker fixating on a car crash, I look down and stare into her sad eyes. She should be happily retired from her days of barking at the mailman, content to sit on a sofa and be loved for the rest of her life. Instead, she’s about to meet her end in a cold, dank cage, waiting for the kennel attendant to lead her to her death. Her sweet face will haunt me forever if I walk away.

No. I can’t take another Chi. They never get adopted. I’m over my dog limit. If animal control stops by my house one more time, I’ll be evicted.

“I just can’t,” I force myself to say, wanting to say that I’ll save her no matter what. “I’m begging you to keep her. Don’t you have a friend or family member who will take her?” I plead.

Loser shakes his head. “Nope.”

He’s next in line. That Chi is a dead dog walking.

Don’t do it, Yessi. You can’t take another dog. You’ve already committed to pulling three dogs today.

I stand closer to the guy, toss my hair back, and stick out my tits. I’m not above flirting with him to save this dog’s life. Forcing myself to touch his shoulder, I use my best sexy, breathy voice.

“Listen, I can tell you’re a good man.” I touch his tiny biceps for added effect. “But she’ll die. I’m not lying. They will kill her. Today. If you give me a week, I may be able to find another foster. Please, please, give her a chance. If you ever loved this dog, please don’t leave her here.”

The guy stares right in between my tits. “Fine, lady. I’ll give you twenty-four hours. But only because you’re hot.” He scribbles his number on a piece of paper on the counter. “If you don’t call me by tomorrow, I’m coming back here to dump her in the night drop.”

Asshole. I grab his number. “Thank you. I’ll find her a spot by tomorrow. What’s her name? Is she good with other dogs and cats? Does she like kids?”

He nods his head. “Yup, she loves everyone. Her name is Gidget. Had her since she was a puppy. She’s potty-trained and loves to cuddle. She wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Then why are you dumping her, you piece of shit? I kneel down to snap a picture of Gidget and upload it to my rescue’s Instagram page.

This is Gidget. Being surrendered today. Has twenty-four hours to find a foster or will DIE! #pugsnroses #rescuedog #adoptdontshop #chisofinstagram #chihuahuasofinstagram

I write down my number on another piece of paper and hand it to the guy. “Okay, I’m Yessi. Please call me before you dump her.”

The guy eye-fucks me and then strides out of the shelter, Gidget happily trotting beside him.

Gidget lives another day.

But only one day. I need to find her a place, stat.

Deb, the shelter director, sees me. She picks up her phone and makes a call to the back kennel. Once she hangs up, she barks at me, “They’ll be right out. That’ll be eighty dollars each.”

Two hundred and forty dollars to save three dogs? It was only supposed to be one hundred and sixty because fixed dogs are free. My heart races as I quickly check the rescue’s bank balance on my phone.

One hundred and seventy-one dollars and thirty-two cents. Dammit.

Last month, we were wiped out by the medical bills from a sheltie who needed ACL surgery. Donations are trickling in today, and we had a few adoptions last week, but the funds must not have gone through yet. I can’t use my personal credit card again. It won’t even go through—it’s maxed.

But if I don’t, one of these dogs will die.

I look back at Deb. “Did any of them come in fixed? Because then it would only be one hundred and sixty dollars.”

She types something on the computer, and her eyes brighten. “Actually, yes. The beagle was spayed. One hundred and sixty it is.”

I slap down the rescue’s debit card.

Today must be my lucky day. Actually, it’s these three dogs’ lucky day.

The kennel attendant comes out from the back room and hands me leashes attached to the three sorriest-looking dogs I’ve ever seen—a one-eyed black pug mix with a crooked smile, followed by a senior beagle with a foul-smelling ear, and a limping miniature pinscher with glossy eyes.

Three dogs I’ll never adopt out. Three dogs destined to live in overcrowded foster homes while people waste their money purchasing purebred puppies. Three dogs who gave their best years to their owners, only to be dumped when they were no longer cute and fluffy.

But they don’t know that. And I’ve just saved their lives.

I secure them with the leashes and harnesses I brought before I dash out of the shelter. The cries from the dogs in the back room who will be murdered today will ring in my head at night. And forever.

But I have to focus on the ones I can save.

Once inside my beat-up car that barely runs, I unclip their leashes and indulge in doggy kisses. Then the min pin cowers on the floor, the pug mix pukes all over my seat, and the beagle pees on my foot. Basically, my typical Saturday night.

Is it too early for me to start drinking?

I grab some old rags and clean up their messes. Now it’s off to the drive-thru for puppuccinos.

The dogs indulge in their treats, and the pug mix licks my face. That’s the closest I’ll get to some action anytime soon. Unlike Avril—the foster coordinator of the rescue—I never hook up. I can’t even remember the last time I got laid. I’m not sure of the real reason for my lackluster sex life. Maybe it’s because I hate online dating and would rather spend my nights on the sofa cuddling with my foster dogs watching the latest true crime docudrama than in a crowded bar meeting someone who’s more interested in checking out women on his phone than getting to know me.

Avril even bought me a pillowcase that reads, Sleeps with dogs. Pathetic but true.

As I’m pulling out of the parking lot, I call Avril. “Hey girl, got them. And we need to find an immediate foster for a Chi.”

She sighs. “Dammit, Yessi. I saw your Instagram post. We don’t have an open foster. Eden’s going to kill you. I have thirteen dogs at my house. Thirteen! I’d have better luck finding a unicorn.”

She’s right. Eden, the president of the rescue, will flip. She’s always lecturing Avril and me about responsible rescuing. What the hell is that? Sounds like an oxymoron. “Well, at least we could find a foster for a unicorn. Don’t worry. That one is on me. She was just so cute. We shared a moment—I can’t let her down. I’ll figure it out.” But my gut wrenches as those words leave my mouth. No matter how many dogs I save, there’s always another one about to be murdered.

Despite my best efforts, it’s never enough.

I will never be enough.

Sometimes I wonder if all my hard work matters at all, because I can’t even find a foster for a dog about to die. Or someone to watch my dogs when I need a break. Sure, Avril and Eden will. But they’re in the same boat as me.

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t care so much.

I take a deep breath. “Anyway, I’m dropping off the newbies at the vet, then heading home.”

“Well, thanks for picking up the three. Are they adoptable?”

I look at the min pin shaking on my seat. I reach down to pet him, and he bites me. I blot the blood with a straw wrapper. “Nope.”

“Of course, they aren’t. Get some cute pictures, and I’ll network.” She pauses and lowers her voice. “By the way, do you know who Preston Evans is?”

Preston Evans? Believe me, I know all about Preston Evans. He’s a legend. Not only is he ridiculously hot—sporting a fitness-model physique, dark, wavy hair that begs women to run their fingers through it, and bedroom eyes that could seduce a nun—but he’s also a war hero turned social media superstar. The guy has like half a million followers on Instagram. Ever since his celebrity ex Snapchatted a video of him doing her doggy style, Preston Evans has been everywhere.

He even came out with a line of t-shirts reading, I’m an animal, let’s do it doggy style. Hell, I own one of them—I even sleep in it. I can’t even fathom how many women that man has bedded.

And unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

“Yeah, I know who he is. Why? Did you sleep with him?” She probably did. I would be so jealous.

“No. I wish. Did you hear that he’s about to open a new puppy store on Main?”

Oh hell no! Almost immediately all my desire for him turns to disgust. “Nooooooooo! What store?”

“It’s called Doggy Style.”

“Of course it is,” I say somberly. Normally I would laugh at the name choice, but my brain immediately realizes what a new puppy store will mean for all the local shelter dogs.

Fewer adoptions and more dead dogs.

“Grand opening is in two weeks. A bunch of us are going down there to protest when it opens. We’re going to bring red paint and pour it over our heads to represent the blood of the shelter dogs who’ll die because of the morons who will buy his puppies. Should be fun. Want to come?”

“Sounds like a blast. I’ll be there. I hate people, Avril. I really do. You should’ve seen the guy with the Chi. Didn’t care at all that his dog was going to die. What the hell is wrong with everyone?”

Most days, I fantasize about moving somewhere off the grid with my dogs, so I don’t have to deal with the public. I can’t handle the heartbreaking stories in the news every day. It seems like no one cares about anyone other than themselves anymore.

“I agree. The world’s insane, and it’s getting worse. It’ll be even harder for us to have successful adoption events with his store there. Maybe we should burn it down tonight, so it doesn’t open.”

I love how Avril just brings up arson like it’s a logical solution. Or a legal one. “You’re nuts. Talk to you later.”

“Bye, babe.”

I turn down Katella Avenue and head to the vet clinic, which is where I spend most of my free time. We are so lucky to have them—they work on credit, allow us to board our dogs there for eight dollars a day until they’re healthy enough to go to foster homes, and give us medical care at a considerable discount.

The tech, Stace, greets me with a smile. She knows the routine. Shelter exam, fecal, dental, microchip, and all shots. I pray these dogs don’t have a bad case of kennel cough. When they’re healthy enough, Avril will pick them up and take them to their foster homes, where they’ll stay until they get adopted. If they get adopted.

Stace shines a light into the black pug mix’s remaining eye. “Well, at least his other eye looks good. I’ll have the doctor examine him. What’s his name?”

I think for a second and partake in a few more pug kisses. “Pirate. Let’s call the beagle Lucy, and the min pin Nemo.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll text you when I have an update.”

I say goodbye and leave the vet. Time to head to the liquor store to buy some booze so I can drink myself into oblivion.

How is this my life?

Three years ago, I offered to help pull a dog from a shelter for a rescue who had posted a plea on Facebook. Now I help run a dog rescue and spend most of my free time transporting dogs, conducting home checks, answering emails, and dealing with flaky fosters.

My personal life has been in a shambles ever since my boyfriend left me last year because he said I cared more about the dogs than I did him, which was sadly true. I’m broke from all the veterinary bills from my own dogs who I’ve adopted—or, well, inherited, after they didn’t get adopted. My day job as a tattoo artist, while creatively fulfilling, doesn’t even cover my living expenses in pricey Orange County.

At least it’s summer. But then again, it’s always summer in the OC. And summer means the Fourth of July—D-Day for dog rescuers. So many dogs get lost after they get frightened by the fireworks and even more are killed because the shelters fill up so quickly. I used to love the Fourth—now it’s my least favorite holiday.

I really need a vacation.

Not that I plan on taking one. I haven’t had a break in years. I’m dying to attend the huge pet expo conference in Hawai’i this week. There are going to be all these great seminars on rescue strategies, finding grants, and fundraising. But I can’t afford the ticket to get in, let alone the cost of flying there and back. Plus it’s impossible to find a pet-sitter because I have eleven dogs at my house—six of my own and five fosters.

I drive down Main Street in search of the closest liquor store, but then the glare of a neon-pink sign stops me.

Doggy Style.

Preston’s puppy store.

Who opens a puppy store in this day and age? Millions of dogs are murdered daily in shelters. Sweet, fantastic dogs, including purebred dogs and puppies. There’s never, ever an excuse to breed or buy when shelter pets die.

I pull over and find parking. Once I walk over to the shop, I peer into the window.

Puppies.

Puppies everywhere.

Pug puppies panting, goldendoodles gallivanting, British bulldogs barking.

Next week, the residents of Huntington Beach will be snatching up these puppies. Meanwhile, I can’t find a single new foster family and have twenty dogs in the rescue who desperately need forever homes.

I close my eyes as hard as I can as if my eyelids can prevent the tears that I’m about to shed. But it doesn’t work as I feel my skin become damp with my sadness. This guy is going to capitalize on his fifteen minutes of fame by selling puppies while hundreds of sweet, older dogs will die. Like that poor Chi. I don’t have a place for her. I can’t save her. I can’t save them all. Gidget will be murdered when she is dropped off at the shelter. Her crime—not having a family.

My chest constricts. I know her pain—for I don’t have a family either.

I force myself to open up my eyes. As I wipe my tears, I see someone walk toward the back of the store. A tall, dark, handsome figure who I recognize immediately.

My chest constricts—Preston Evans is inside.

I should smash in the window. That would get his attention.

But that would also get me thrown in jail.

Hmm. I ponder my options for a bit—then it hits me.

I return to my car, open the passenger door, and pop open my glove box, retrieving a pair of pink, fuzzy handcuffs. My ex and I had been into some light bondage. He had given me back my stuff the other week, and I have been too busy to clean out my car.

And now these restraints will serve a higher purpose.

I grab the cuffs, a bottle of water, plus my purse, and walk back to the store.

I take a deep breath and clamp the cold metal against my wrist, the familiar tightness causing my heart to race. I lock the other end of the cuffs and place it on the door handle. The clink of metal against the steel exhilarates me as the handcuffs give one click of finality.

Preston Evans will not open his store.

He’ll have to get through me first.

And I’m not going to go down without a dogfight.

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