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“I don’t know,” Oliver said.

“How about a history of separation anxiety?” she asked.

“I’ve had him less than two weeks and haven’t really left him alone. At least, not since he destroyed my couch the day I brought him home,” he said.

“Well, it definitely sounds like the big guy does not like to be separated from his person. We’re going to give him a sedative and let our vet get a better look at these wounds to make sure there are no punctures or other concerns.” Her matter-of-fact confidence reassured Oliver. “Hey, Josie, can you help me get . . . What’s his name?” Karen asked Oliver.


The tech grinned. “Like from The Sandlot? It’s fitting. He looks like he might have some mastiff in him.”

Josie, another technician, came over and laid a calming hand on the dog’s back. “Shh, it’s okay, big guy.”

Oliver and Eve stepped back, and Beast started twisting to sit up.

“Hang on, Dad and Mom, we’re gonna need you to stand up by his head and talk to him while we get his weight and prepare his drugs.” Karen disappeared, and Eve rubbed her hand over Oliver’s back as he stepped around Josie, kneeling so he was eye to eye with Beast.

“Hey, dude. Look, I’m sorry I didn’t figure out that you really couldn’t be left alone. I feel like a tool, but I promise, if you come out of this I’ll share my eggs with you every morning for a week.”

He heard a wet laugh behind him and looked up at Eve, who was brushing at her eyes rapidly.

Beast whined, and his big, pink tongue snaked out, catching Oliver right on the nose, but he didn’t care.

Karen came back and drew up some clear liquid in a syringe. “All right, buddy, now this might sting a bit, but Dad’s right here and he’s going to talk you through it. Josie is just going to keep you still.”

Beast hardly flinched as she administered the sedative, and within moments, his whole body relaxed.

“If you want to go to the front desk and fill out a new client form, we’ll call you with an update as soon as the doc finishes,” Karen said.

“Can’t I just wait in the lobby?” Oliver asked.

“You can, but it might be awhile, especially since Beast will be a little groggy from the anesthetic. I promise, as soon as he starts waking up, I’ll give you a buzz and you can rush back over.”

Oliver didn’t argue, and with one last stroke of Beast’s big head, he walked through the doors to the lobby. Eve caught up to him and slipped her hand in his, giving it a squeeze.

Thirty minutes later, they arrived back at his place, and he was surprised when she asked to come in.

“I figure I can help clean up the cage, and the floor, and, well, you.”

Oliver looked down at his shirt and pants, which were covered in blood, and nodded. “Thanks, I’d appreciate it.”

He opened the door and let her in first, hardly knowing what to say. Guilt swirled inside Oliver, berating him for not having realized that there was something more going on with Beast than simply adjusting to a new environment. T

here was something Oliver could or should have done, and it pissed him off that he had gone to the bar tonight. He should have been home with Beast.

“This wasn’t your fault,” Eve said, practically reading his mind.

“Well, it’s somebody’s fault, so it might as well be mine.”

“Have you ever had a dog? Not just when you were a kid, but one that you were solely responsible for?”

“No,” he said.

“Then how were you supposed to know what to look for, let alone realize that Beast had a serious disorder? I mean, dogs chew things when they’re bored. It was a simple mistake,” she said.

“But if Best had entrusted Beast to someone with more experience, they might have caught his issues and . . . ”

“And what? Sent him back to the shelter? You actually think he’d be better off there than with someone who cares about him?” Eve said.

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