“If Izzy Franklin had smaller feet, then Lonny Johnson would probably be in jail,” crowed Hooter.
He could barely make it through a sentence without collapsing in laughter as he related how Lonnie broke in two earlier that day, charging around his feed store counter after a customer.
“All because this poor sap, a paying customer mind you, had the audacity to ask Lonnie if he carried natural dog food,” bleated Hooter. “It was way worse than a colt stepping on a rattle snake. Calm as you please one second, then blam!”
“Ain't funny,” said Lonnie through clenched teeth. “None of it.”
Links and Lengths of Pethood
A fellow by the name of Reginald Cooper was the unfortunate victim or instigator depending on your point of view.
Izzy, sitting on a sawhorse and leafing through the latest issue of Cattle Today, is what saved the man from a world-class whuppin'. By his own admission, Izzy didn't even know someone else was in the store until Lonnie tripped over his feet, cursing on his way to the floor.
Hooter happened to be there at the time, sifting through Lonnie's bolt barrel for the last nut needed to complete a project. He'd been listening with amusement to the conversation.
“What would you recommend as the optimum protein component and level for a Yorkshire?” asked Reginald. He didn't look at all like a pig feeder, not even an investor type, what with his Bermuda shorts and alligator skin loafers.
“How much are you wanting them to gain and by when?” Lonnie asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“How much are you wanting them to gain? Are these fair pigs or freezer pigs?”
“Oh, I see,” Reginald had said kindly. “Oh, that is rich. No, you see I'm looking for a ration for Bartholomew, he's my Yorkshire terrier. I take it there must be a pig breed of a similar name.”
Even from the back of the store Hooter could see Lonnie begin to glow.
“Well sir, I carry dog food, too,” said Lonnie, pointing out the location as he rifled a stream of Mail Pouch into the coffee can by the door. “In fact, like all of the other feed here, I mix it myself; none of those brands you get at them city stores.”
Reginald looked relieved. “That's precisely why I'm here. I'm from Lubbock, you see. I teach at the university. In the wake of this Chinese wheat gluten fiasco I've searched high and low for a ration with more assurance.”
Both Hooter and Lonnie figured, as would Izzy if he'd been paying attention, that Reginald wouldn't know gluten from a PTO shaft, but he did know headlines.
“Like I said, I've got dog food. Folks around here have bought it for years,” said Lonnie.
“Actually,” continued Reginald as if he hadn't heard, “I can't help but think adulterated gluten might have something to do with Bartholomew's lethargy. You know, he's only 4, but he doesn't play much any more, and when he does it certainly seems to tax his constitution.”
He looked at Lonnie; Lonnie looked at him.
“Back to my original query, if you'd be so kind, what would be the proper protein content for his ration, and how does that compare to what you offer?”
The muscles in Lonnie's jaw were now doing push-ups as he bit down on his chew. “Well sir, you've told me what kind of dog he is and how old, but I still need to know what he weighs. I assume you want to maintain his weight.”
“Indeed. Bartholomew is in excellent condition. I weigh him every week and he's up to 10 pounds. He's never without. I keep food and water in front of him at all times, plus the occasional treat, of course.”
Hooter dropped a bolt—probably the one he as searching for—as he stifled a laugh.
“Let me make sure I understand,” said Lonnie. “You've got a Yorkshire Terrier. I've never owned one, but I've seen them. They're tan and blue and stand under a foot tall. Is that right?”
“Quite so, but you're wrong about the height. They're only about 9 inches. And, I might add that Bartholomew is the product of championship stock.”
Hooter could have guessed what was coming next. Lonnie had no use for anyone who misused a feed bucket, either out of intent or ignorance.
“Well sir, he could be a world champion himself, but that dog of yours is not in excellent condition,” announced Lonnie. “If that dog of yours is 9 inches tall and weighs 10 pounds, he's fatter than a bowling ball on steroids. It doesn't much matter what the ration is if you're going to let him eat all he wants.”
“I beg your pardon…”
“It's not me you need to asking forgiveness, it's that dog. Nine inches and 10 pounds, that borders on abuse.”
“Now see here…” began Reginald, and then altered his course. “To be fair, Bartholomew's doctor has suggested that we might need to increase the exercise regimen. Though, I must say he wasn't quite as direct as you.”
Lonnie looked at Reginald; Reginald looked at him.
“Indeed. Well, might you at least tell me if this ration of yours is all-natural?”
That's when Lonnie exploded, came for Reginald and tripped.
Before Lonnie even hit the floor, Hooter was between him and the flummoxed customer, like a champion bull fighter.
Give Izzy credit, too. Once his concentration was broken he sensed what needed to be done immediately: He ushered the still cursing feed store proprietor into the warehouse.
“All I'm trying to do is find the safest ration for my little one,” explained Reginald.
“Don't mind him, he's grumpy by nature,” explained Hooter. “And when it comes to feed he's temperamental, like an artist. You couldn't know, but asking him what you did was kind of like asking Da Vinci if he thought a different shade of blue might be better, then wondering if he had something besides a paint-by-number portrait in stock.”
“No offense, but all things considered, you'd best be on your way. Izzy's big, but Lonnie's faster than he looks.”
“Oh and for what it's worth,” said Hooter as he ushered Reginald out the door. “You might want to take what Lonnie said to heart.”
“You mean about not feeding Bartholomew quite as robustly?”
“Yeah,” said Hooter pulling the door closed. “Either that or buy a pig.”