“How’s your day going, Teke?” Apogee asks.
“Haven’t got much done,” I tell her, “nobody has, I don’t think. You?”
She grins the widest I’ve ever seen her grin, although she doesn’t usually grin particularly wide, so I don’t know if it’s actually a particularly wide grin, or whether it just seems completely unfamiliar on her face. Either way, it makes me slightly nervous.
“Guess what,” she says to me.
“What?” I say, far more apprehensive than I typically have to be inside this building (or, at least, away from medical or the gyms).
“I got a dog,” she says.
I blink at her repeatedly for at least several minutes.
“Would,” she says, suddenly nervous, “would you like to meet my dog?”
“Um,” I say, looking around her, where there’s a conspicuous absence of dog, “yes?”
“Pepper!” she calls, and a huge Newfie – huge for a Newfie – comes bounding down the hall, ramming straight into my stomach and wagging her tail in every direction.
“Oh, hello!” I say, and then the rest of what I say devolves into nonsense, because I’m playing tug-of-war with my own sleeve at that point.
“She’s great, right?” Apogee asks.
“I thought you were afraid of dogs,” I say, although, yes, she is great. I scratch her ears, and she gives me a happy toss of her head.
“Okay, first, Cheese Toasties cured me of that,” Apogee says, “also, how could you be afraid of this big lump? She looks exactly like the beshy I had as a kid, look at that face!”
“Oh,” I say. “Okay.”
Apogee beams at me.
“When did you get a dog,” I ask her.
She laughs. “Well, I ‘always like’ to try to fit in, and it seems like a great way of doing that – you know, seeing new places, meeting new people – is to take your dog out.”
“That’s probably true,” I say.
She nods. “So, I thought, well, I’ll go pick one up from a shelter, right, they’re already housebroken, some basic training – I don’t really get how to train a dog, you know.”
“I imagine it can’t be that different,” I tell her, “I think it works the same on all animals.”
She nods agreeably. “Maybe so. Well, I get there, and this floof is staring me in the face, all friendly like, and they asked me was I sure I could handle a dog this big?”
I laugh. “You, really?”
“I know!” she says, “I picked her up and held her over my head to prove my point.”
I give her a skeptical look. “What, and she just let you?”
“Oh, sure,” Apogee says, demonstrating for me, “she’s actually very calm.”
Pepper turns her head to me, legs dangling casually on either side of Apogee, and gives me a soft huff of, what is that, is she humoring Apogee? Pepper’s tail wags several times.
“But, of course I had to bring her today,” Apogee says, “for your most important state holiday of Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
I stare at her. I’m never clear whether Apogee’s joking.
“Anyway, the timing worked out pretty well, because they finished my paperwork over the weekend, and so Pepper’s getting used to everyone now,” she says, setting the dog down with a quick kiss on the nose.
Pepper yawns. I give her a pet on the head.
“This is Travis, Pepp!” Apogee says, followed by something that might be meaningful, or might not, I mean, Apogee speaks at least one more language than I do, and Pepper doesn’t speak any, so I doubt it’s particularly meaningful either way.
Pepper sniffs me curiously, investigating what particular scents I might have, and licking my hands a few times for good measure.
“Aw, she likes you!” Apogee boops me on the nose. “She’ll remember you for sure.”
“Remember me?” I repeat.
“Yes!” Apogee claps her hands together. “I’ve been training her to find people based on their names – it’s going pretty well. Pepper is such a good dog.”
“Who can she find?” I ask.
“So far, me, reliably, regardless of who tells her to find me,” Apogee says, fluffing the dog’s ears, “and Amos, and Kitty, and Chocolate more reliably than her, and sometimes Emma.”
“That’s pretty effective for just a couple days,” I tell her.
She laughs into her hand. “Since this morning, you mean? It’s a great trick, right? I had no idea that dogs could do all these things.”
“Um,” I say.
“I mean, they can,” I tell her, “but not usually this fast – are you sure you don’t have some sort of dog training power mixed up in there?”
“Hmm,” she says, and adds nothing.
“Really?” I say.
She shrugs. “I could. I used to get along with certain kinds of domesticated animals, I mean, birds mostly, but I could train them pretty fast. Could be the same thing.”
“Is this,” I say, staring, “is this normal for your people…?”
She shakes her head, tips it, and nods slightly. “I don’t know, really. It was never a big enough deal for most people to make anything of it? I guess it’s a pretty common secondary.”
“Huh,” I say.
Apogee waves a hand. “It’s probably something to do with the extra senses, you know, you can use them for intuition or something. Boosting communication, but as a side effect.”
“Yes,” I agree, “that’s probably it.”
She rubs her neck, grimacing slightly. “Well, I don’t know, I’ll mention it to someone next time I’m down for testing and see if it means anything.”
“I doubt it’ll cause problems,” I tell her, “it’s just that I’ve never heard of it except as an outlier power. Mostly it really is parallels that have it.”
Apogee nods vaguely. “I don’t know. Pepper can do a lot of great tricks. Ask her anything.”
“Uh, Pepper, sit,” I say.
Pepper sits happily.
Apogee glares. “Something better.”
“Roll over?” I offer.
Pepper rolls onto her back, letting me scratch her belly.
Apogee makes a discreet sort of spinning gesture with her finger.
“Pepper…spin?” I say.
Pepper spins in a circle several times before stopping to grin at me.