Rex was restless. He hadn’t been allowed out in a very long time. His brain was simmering from the overload of sensory input, especially given the circumstances. Bodies pressed in on him from all sides, a panting, slavering pack of male hounds, all shouldering and chuffing at each other in an instinctive display of dominance and bravado. Rex wasn’t much bothered by them — he wasn’t so much ‘above all that’ as simply unperturbed by their nervous, ego-driven compulsions.
His snout raised above their heads and he sniffed, seeking out Little Red in the crowd of dogs, looking out for the sole member of his own pack who’d come with him, a petite red-haired terrier. He wanted to give her room to meet the other males, but remain at-the-ready to intervene should he sense she needed him to 'run defense.' Across the bar could see her being sandwiched between a German Shepherd and a Corgi, both pressing their muzzles close to hers to win ALL of her attention -- but she seemed to be holding her own, her eyes sparkling coquettishly at the attention.
Rex’s human had gradually, over time, become the Master of Low Expectations, so Rex was on a long lead. Having been out to a lot of these events, his human assumed nothing much would come of this long-avoided foray into the real world of adult singles in a basement bar downtown. (Nothing had ever come of previous forays for a couple of years, though, to be honest with himself, he didn’t ‘work it very hard.')
His human was checking his phone, so Rex's portion of their brain relaxed, scanning the room for females, eyeing a few: a Chow with interesting curves, a Spaniel with a nervous, “don’t invade my personal space” glare, a Golden Retriever who looked like she had some Fox Terrier bred into her bloodline some time back. None caught his fancy.
Another alpha male pushed his way past Rex to the bar, a silver-haired Weimaraner. Rex made room so he could order a drink. Rex’s human said, “More men than women tonight. That’s never good.”
“You can smell the testosterone in the air. We’ll have to ‘man-up’! My name’s Stan.” He held out his paw and Rex’s human shook it, shared his name and they chatted for a few moments before Stan said, “I’m going to cruise around. Maybe Ms. Right is here!”
“You’re looking to settle down with a good woman, Stan?” he inquired.
“Oh God no!” chuckled Stan, “Been there, done that. I’m only looking for Ms. Right NOW,” and with that he winked and pushed off into the crowd.
Hm, he thought. If I have any real competition here tonight, it’s that guy. He’ll zero in on the hottest woman in the place, latch on and charm her into submission, then he’ll either try to get her to go home with him, or will leave no room for escape and will ask her out to breakfast, lunch or dinner tomorrow. He recognized the type. He’d been that type at one time. Pity the poor woman.
Rex, meanwhile, was sniffing every passing female, unconsciously assessing pheromonal compatibility and a vast array of other subtleties lost on humans. Rex was feeling, as always, calm but ready to act in the moment. His human spent time thinking things through, Rex just took action when he saw an opportunity -- and ran when it seemed wise.
What Rex and his alter-ego had come to realize over the years was that, despite all his canine characteristics, the sum of their combined parts was not actually interested in female dog, but in another species altogether. This particular “Man’s Best Friend” and his inseparable counterpart were far too complex, and too specific in their predilections, to ‘settle’ for another dog. Their search for a companion was for a 'muse'-come-‘nester’; a quirky mind in a hard-to-resist package; a queen, not a princess — regal bearing with a commoner’s humility.
Then there she was.
Between the bobbing heads and crush of bodies, a feline presence glided. A jet-black, long-haired Persian. An image of the Egyptian goddess, Bastet, came to mind. Movements that were elegant and delicately seductive, a bemused look upon her face. A cat among so many dogs. Interesting. She’d be likely to suffer one of two fates, either carefully and skittishly avoided by the thronging male dogs who’d be too threatened by her ‘otherness’ to approach, or set upon by the likes of Stan, who’d be unlikely to let her squirm free if he got his fangs into her.
She made her way through the crowd. Their eyes met only briefly. She disappeared. He realized he hadn’t been breathing.
For a moment he wondered if she’d been real, or just imagined, some unassuming female upon whom he’d projected his imaginings of the ideal woman. He went round the bar in the opposite direction, smilingly brushing off some come-ons from an aging Bulldog and a couple of Pekinese.
No, another look around told him she was no longer in the building.
Crestfallen, he grimaced and nodded as a plump Latina stood on her tip-toes to earnestly tell him she was looking for true love this time 'round. (He was impressed with her conviction that her Love Train was about to pull into the station any second as there were no pending arrivals posted on the cartoon balloon call-out he imagined he saw hovering over her head.) The waitress headed by and up some stairs with a tray of drinks. Excusing himself he followed her and found himself on the back patio and where the glossy-maned Persian was looking decidedly non-imaginary and just a little bit stunning. Their eyes met again, and this time she held his for a beat or two.
He pondered diving into the fray, taking the bold approach, holding her gaze, walking up and introducing himself, but realized she likely spent a lot of time batting her paws at the muzzles of the panting, slobbering hounds doing their level best to sweep her off her feet. He turned, hesitated, then decided to bide his time. Rex let out one loud, surprised bark inside his brain. He ignored him.
He returned to the bar to check on Little Red, scaring off a couple of suitors inadvertently, then apologetically trying to reel them back in for her, unsuccessfully, however. (Few dogs can deal with another dog on the scene while in mid-pick-up -- it throws them off the scent!) Waiting a few more minutes, he checked back out on the patio. Gone. Coming back in, he slipped into the back of the adjoining room and was dazzled by the bright pool of light at the far end, the regal feline and her courtesans standing, laughing in it. Rex didn’t hesitate this time, directing them on a purposeful course direct for the trio, fully prepared to dodge any interference enroute.
He enjoyed a friendly welcome from her ladies-in-waiting and did his best to give them the bulk of his attention at first, though with the queen at his elbow, her melodious laugh, scintillating aura and alluring scent, his wavering attention faced formidable distractions. The shorter of her two handlers put her best foot forward to test the waters of possibility, but quickly conceded to the more likely outcome and offered to give him back his hat, which she was wearing jauntily, for her Queen’s phone number (not knowing how many favourite hats he’d lost to ladies like herself in the past). She went so far as to repeat the number loudly not once, but twice -- so assertively the second time that Rex almost leapt out to clamp one paw over her mouth to prevent any of the desperate competitors in the vicinity from writing it down for themselves.
The proverbial cat was out of the bag, it seemed. He tipped his head over hers and suggested, as her friend was so keen on visiting his favourite hat shop, she let him contact her with the name. He was duly rewarded with an email which he graciously accepted in lieu of the shouted phone number. (To have given THAT up again, with the echo of the digits still floating in the air, would have come across as less-than-regal, indeed...)
He entered the address into his phone under her proper, if not given, name -- not Bastet, but Regina. He then left the hovering Stan to do his best to ‘close the deal’ with her, knowing the Weimaraner was going to do his best to transform “Regina, Queen of Felines” into “Ms. Right Now”. Rex and his human preferred to see her in a different light.
Making his way home, regardless of what the immediate future might bring with regard to feline royalty, the encounter left him feeling that, just maybe, his own Love Train hadn't really been permanently derailed...