“Look!” Vector Analysis has a dog. Vector Analysis is not supposed to have a dog yet, she was supposed to have a dog in a month or two months or something. She has a dog now. It’s a border collie like I expected, but it’s still early – is this an extranormal dog? Can it time travel?

I stare at the border collie for a moment, who stares back at me, cocks its head, and tentatively wags its tail. Still suspicious. Then it reaches up a paw to gently pat my knee, and, okay, wow, yes, best doggo, wow, what a good dog. Amaze.

I’m making incoherent doggo-talk at the pupper by the time Vector tells me his name is Potato. Potato! The best dog name! What a good dog you are, Potato, yes you are, yes you are a good dog.

We have become the best of friends.

“Aren’t you going to ask me where I got a dog, Trav?” she laughs, setting down her tray and organizing it a little, whoa, when did she get food, have I been talking to her dog the entire time she’s been getting lunch, okay.

I look up. “Oh? Oh, yeah, where did you get a Potato?”

Vector gives Potato a soft pat, which is not very effective, because I’m afraid I’m monopolizing scritchie time, but we’re getting along really well, for sure.

“You remember the waiting list?” she says.

“Sure, sure,” I agree, patting this great doggo.

“Anyway, I’m not on the regular one,” she adds, “I mean, I wasn’t. It was for the reject dogs –”

“Who rejects a dog?” I ask her, staring wide-eyed in horror.

“Assholes,” she says, then shakes her head. “No, it’s for the ones that don’t conform to show standard. Some of them you can tell right away, some of them it takes weeks – you can even get a dog several months old if it turns out to be the wrong size or just not trainable.”

“Go on,” I say, fluffing up these pointy fluffy ears, and wait, wow, she got me to dogsit this entire time without even asking me, that is so rude, I mean, I was right here the whole time talking to her dog – actually, you know what, she probably did ask me and I just didn’t hear, yeah, that sounds like me, but, really, it’s probably fair to take it as agreement when someone keeps playing with your dog instead of talking to you, because look at this dog, look, will you lookit, what a good doggy yes.

“Anyway, right, I was on this list,” she says, “with no preferences, because you know, pet, what do I care what the breed standards are? Or what kind of junk it has?”

“Potato,” I say, softly, to much tail wagging.

“Which means I was also their go to if any of the older dogs were up for adoption,” she says.

“The ones that are too big or too small?” I clarify.

“Or don’t like being trained,” she agrees, “so they call me up and say they have this puppy, this somewhat older puppy, looking for a home.”

I regard Potato more closely (although I don’t stop with the fluffs and pats), and, yeah, I can see that, a little older than I might have expected for a new puppy. And so fluffy!

“So the story is, this was one of the overflow puppies, just not quite the right color they were looking for, so they sent him off to some family,” she tells me, “and they wanted to know if he’d get along with their other dogs, which he did not.”

I look up. “What? What happened?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know, apparently the other dogs were super happy to have a puppy around, but then Potato doesn’t like the attention? And doesn’t like loud noises? And their other dogs are super loud, so they say, one of them is a chihuahua, you know how noisy they can be.”

I make a sad face, and give Potato gentle pats.

“So they got along at first, but then later not so much, and they think he’d do better in a one-dog household, and you know, I don’t have any other dogs and needed one by Tuesday, so.” She grins.

“Aren’t their other dogs going to be sad the puppy’s gone, though?” I ask, barely managing to pay attention to my words over the puppy mlems.

She shakes her head. “I think they’re taking the puppy I didn’t, so it all works out.”

“Potato,” I say again, and Potato licks my hand.

“Oh, yeah,” Vector tells me, “that’s because he kept curling up, you know, into a potato, and would keep falling asleep like that when they held him. It was a nickname, but now he responds to it, and won’t respond to his old name at all.”

“What was his old name?” I ask.

“I know, right?” she says, “nobody remembered to mention, so I don’t even know, and I bet that’s going to bother me for days, not that it even matters.”

I rest my hands against Potato’s paws where he’s resting them on my legs. “Maybe it was something horrible. Like a slur. Or the brand name of some awful company. Or Juggalo.”

Vector snorts, almost dropping her juice as she struggles not to spit it all over me. I catch it and float it toward the table while she waves her hands in front of her face, turning kind of red.

“You okay?” I ask.

She shakes her head at me. “No, of course not, Travis, what the hell kind of name is that for a dog, why would you say that to me?”

I dip my head ruefully. “I’m sorry, Jules, I won’t do it again.”

“And in front of Potato no less!” she adds.

I nod at the puppy, too. “I’m sorry, Potato. I shouldn’t have said something so terrible.”

Potato gives me a happy little bark.

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