Moxie Cinnamon Creampuff, Detective

The Nose Knows

Chapter 1 – George Comes to Greta’s Greenhouses

 

The moment he stepped inside the door, I could smell that he was not to be trusted. He had recently eaten hot dogs and wiped his hands on dirty jeans that carried the smell of other things—gasoline, dirt with well-rotted plants mixed in, and something I couldn’t define that made my nose twitch. That was the smell that made me distrust him. I had smelled the other things on plenty of humans, decent ones who patted me on the head and said, “Good dog.”  Some gave me doggie treats coated with lint, dug from coat pockets where they had been for years, but the humans were still decent.

He ignored me when I discreetly ran my nose up his leg to get a better sniff of the mystery smell. No “Good dog.” No ancient, lint-covered treat. He just stood there looking around, his eyes moving over things as if he was memorizing the location of the furniture in my human’s entryway.

I have four humans in my pack. Mom is the alpha although the second female in line, Abby, doesn’t understand that sometimes. Abby is afflicted with something called “the teenage years.”  She isn’t as interested in me as she used to be when I was a puppy and now is more interested in her phone that I think is permanently attached to her left hand. The only male in the pack is Charles who is still a whelp and hasn’t grown into his feet yet. He and the youngest female, Elsa, spend the most time with me, but Elsa loves me the most. She went with Mom to pick me from my litter of brothers and sisters, whom I barely remember anymore. And my mother—I sometimes dream of her scent. But it pains me to think about it.

Elsa named me. Most of the time they call me Moxie or Mox, but when they tell people my full name, Moxie Cinnamon Creampuff, it always gets a laugh. I used to enjoy them laughing, but now it’s embarrassing. It’s undignified to be labeled a cinnamon creampuff even though I have cinnamon colored, curly, fluffy fur that I suppose looks like a creampuff. I don’t want people to look at me and think of some idiotic pastry. I want to be known for my intelligence, my keen nose, and my sense of humor, which isn’t always appreciated.

Charles, too, has a naming problem. Mom calls him Charlie honey, but recently Abby began calling him Chuck, which makes him growl at her. He told me once in private that he thought the name Chaz was cool, but he didn’t feel like a Chaz. He feels like a Charles, so that’s what I call him in my head.

But back to the man with the mystery scent. When he rang the doorbell, it woke me from my mid-morning nap. I ran to the door barking to scare the intruder away and arrived there the same time as Mom.

After looking through the little hole at the top of the door, she opened it. “Hello,” she said. “What can I do for you?”

“I heard you’re hiring,” he said, looking around at everything but her. He coughed.

“Yes,” she said in her perky, “let’s get it done” voice. “Do you have gardening experience?”

“Some,” he said.

I followed them out the front door to the office at the end of the house next to the greenhouse with the big sign that I’ve been told says, Greta’s Greenhouses. People outside the pack call Mom “Greta.”

It was early spring, and the ground was soft. My paws felt the damp ooze go up between my pads and I knew Mom would have fussed over my muddy feet if the stranger wasn’t there. But he was, and she let us both into the room after demonstrating to the stranger how to wipe his feet on the mat just outside the door. She wiped for a long time and he caught on and scuffed his big boots a couple times on the mat.

The office is my second home. When it’s really hot in the summer, I lie under the desk in the air-conditioned coolness, near enough to the action, but not where I block customers in the narrow aisles of the greenhouses or get whacked by the side of a car door as it opens. In the spring and fall, when it’s cool enough to be outdoors, I lie under the willow tree and sometimes Benji, the dog from next door, comes over to lie there with me. It’s near the exterior display tables and we get a good view of people’s feet as they walk back and forth trying to decide between the more expensive large pots or the cheaper small six-packs. Every once in a while, someone, usually with kids, will come over and say hello to us. I’ll wag my tail for them and if they have a treat, I’ll get up.

“So, tell me about yourself,” Mom says to the untrustworthy man.

“Uh, my name is George Kingman. I came to town recently and need a job. I like plants.”

“Well, I need someone to help me transplant seedlings for the spring opening. And there’s always heavy work I need a man to do. You know, move boxes of planters and haul compost and soil to the work areas. My last guy was great but he had a bad back and couldn’t handle the heavy stuff.”

“I can handle heavy stuff.” George coughed and reached inside his jacket pocket for something. It was small and as soon as he removed it, the smell, that mystery smell, became stronger. He unwrapped it and the smell became overpowering. He popped the small, unwrapped thing into his mouth. “Allergies,” he said.

I tried to combine everything I knew about allergies and coughs and came up with a time last winter when all the pack was sick--except me, of course. Abby liked something to suck on that was wild cherry flavored and Charles and Elsa liked honey. They called them cough drops and ate them like candy. This didn’t make sense to me because the little candies didn’t make them cough. Abby ran out of her kind and tried a honey one. She spit it out and I got to taste it. It wasn’t good. You’d think they’d make bacon-flavored ones.

From the smell of it, I could only imagine the vileness of the flavor of the small thing George put into his mouth--far worse than honey.

Mom and George shuffled papers around and soon Mom said, “OK. We’ll see you tomorrow morning, 7:00 sharp.”

I took one more sniff of George as he walked out the door. It made me sneeze, which cleared my nose, but left me with an uneasy feeling about the man.