Home > Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(17)

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(17)
Author: Patricia Briggs

In addition to breeding, he and his wife rehabbed the “aggressive” dogs that were brought to the local shelters that would otherwise have just put the dogs down. Joel had scars on his arms and a huge one on his leg from a terrified, half-grown Rottweiler who now, Joel had assured me, lived happily with a huge family. Mostly, they had success, he’d told me, but a few were too badly damaged to ever be safe in human company.

The Marrok took damaged werewolves into his pack, where he could control the conditions under which they interacted with the rest of the world. Joel had told me with tears in his eyes about a battered pit-survivor he’d had to put down a few months ago. He was as passionate in his desire to save his dogs as the Marrok was to save his wolves.

Joel’s wife brought in three glasses of sun tea and sat down in the chair opposite the couch while I explained about Christy’s stalker—and how I thought that if the dog breed he had was rare, maybe we could find someone who knew him in the dog world. I gave her the bare-bones description Christy had given me.

“Molossers,” Lucia said, then gave Honey a grin. “It is a type, not a breed. It includes mastiffs and Saint Bernards. How familiar is your husband’s ex-wife with dog breeds?”

I called Adam’s cell phone.

Christy answered yet again. “Adam’s phone,” she said. “He—”

“So how much do you know about dogs?” I asked her without giving her a chance to tell me why she was answering his phone—again—and why he couldn’t talk to me.

“I grew up with golden retrievers,” she said.

“Do you know what a molosser is?”

“No,” she admitted reluctantly.

“Ask her if she could recognize a Newfoundland,” Lucia suggested.

I decided this three-way had gone from awkward to ludicrous, and I handed the phone over to Lucia. Eventually, Christy got on the Internet to look at dog breeds.

“Cane corso,” Christy said. “They look right.”

“Cane corso are smaller than you describe,” Lucia said. “Also, they usually have nice temperaments. But poor handling can turn even a Labrador into a dangerous animal. We will keep the cane corso as a possibility. You said these dogs were black.”

“Yes,” Christy agreed. “Really black. In the sunlight, it looked like they were black striped on black.”

After twenty minutes of questioning and checking out various breeds, Lucia’s tones changed from cautiously professional to profoundly sympathetic. Christy was good, even over the phone.

“What language was the dog’s name in?” Lucia’s voice was soothing.

“I don’t speak any foreign languages,” Christy apologized.

“She’s been to Europe,” I murmured.

“Did it sound German?” Lucia asked. “The Broholmer might fit.”

“Not German,” Christy said even more apologetically. “Maybe it was Spanish or even Latin.”

Lucia stared at her white dog as she thought. Finally she said, “The fila Brasileiro—a Brazilian mastiff—might fit. They are rare and very much one-person dogs. They can be very aggressive if not socialized when they are young.”

Christy made her spell it out so she could look it up. After a few minutes, she said, “No. These dogs … their heads were more in line with their body size. And the fila Brasileiro look like bloodhounds to me. Kind of friendly. There was nothing friendly-looking about his dogs. This is sort of stupid, but I just remembered something.” She paused, and said, sounding embarrassed, “The dog’s breed. It sounded like a bird’s name.”

“Perro de presa Canario,” Lucia said immediately. “Some people call them dogo Canarios, presa Canario, or just presas or Canarios.” She spelled it for Christy without prompting.

After a minute Christy made a disappointed noise. “No. These dogs’ ears are too small. His had long ears, like the last breed we looked at.”

“Presas usually have their ears clipped—like boxers or Doberman pinschers. They do it to the American Staffordshires like my own dogs, too. I chose not to. They say it is because they are used with livestock—to prevent damage. We had a Doberman once who was not ear-clipped, and he always had trouble with his ears being sore where they bent over. But the primary reason for clipping is that it makes them look more fierce. There are people who breed presas who do not crop their ears. See if you can’t find a photo of one with natural ears.”

“I will keep looking…” Christy’s voice trailed off. “There’s one with unclipped ears. That’s it. Presa Canario.”

I took the phone back. “I’ll call Warren and let him know what he’s looking for.”

“I’ll let Adam know, too,” Christy said brightly. “He’ll be glad I figured it out.”

“Sounds good,” I responded after sorting through the things I’d rather have said to her and remembering that I had resolved not to be spiteful or petty today.

I disconnected my phone.

“So,” I asked, “just how rare are presa Canarios?”

“They are rare in the US,” Lucia said. “But a few years ago there was a man who wanted to breed them for pit fighting. He was put in jail, and his lawyers ended up with a pair of his dogs. The dogs had been mistreated, and the lawyers had no idea of how to handle them. The dogs killed a woman in their apartment building who was coming home with her groceries.” Lucia’s pretty mouth tightened, and her white dog bumped her leg to comfort her. “Do you know what happened?”

I nodded, because I remembered the incident, though I hadn’t known what the breed of dog had been. “They became suddenly popular.”

She made a growling noise, and the big dog who had been sleeping with his back to us turned around so he could see her. He didn’t get up, but he remained alert. The dog whose head was on my knee leaned on me a little harder and sighed, groaning a little as I let my fingers search out another good itchy spot.

“Canarios are not evil dogs,” Lucia told me, “any more than my Amstaffs are evil. Canarios are guard dogs, bred to protect their people, their herds—and to hunt for food by taking down big animals. Trained and raised with common sense, they are useful and valuable members of the family.”

It sounded like a rant. I have a few of those, usually involving idiots who try to replace fuses with pennies, people who text while driving, and tax codes so Byzantine not even the IRS really knows what they mean—so I nodded sympathetically.

“I know that you are married to the werewolf,” Lucia told me. “You understand about animals who can be dangerous under the right circumstance. If your friend’s stalker has Canarios—he could train them so that they kill on command.”

Honey bared her teeth and growled. All four dogs rose to their feet and surrounded Lucia—but they didn’t act upset, just ready. Dogs are better than people at reading body language.

“Big dogs are just dogs,” said Honey. “I am a wolf.” She looked at the Amstaffs, who returned her look unafraid and ready to defend their person if they needed to.

“But you, little brave cousins,” Honey said, half-amused under their regard, “you I would take with me on a hunt.”

Not many people could call Lucia’s dogs little and mean it. I would guess that it took a werewolf to feel that way; they looked plenty big to me.

Lucia, far from being intimidated by Honey, smiled. “Brave? Yes. They will take on anything to defend Joel or me.” Her smile dropped away. “Your friend”—Christy had promoted herself from my husband’s ex to my friend—“said that this man’s dogs were difficult, but he had no trouble with them. That tells me that they are his dogs and that they are very well trained. His dogs then will be as mine. They will not know that he is a man who attacks women who cannot fight back: a man who is a coward. They will only know that this man is their god, the one they must listen to and protect. Canarios are courageous. They will not run from you just because you are a werewolf.”

“I’m not actually a werewolf,” I told her apologetically. “But I appreciate the insight. Do you know anyone who raises Canarios? Someone we can talk to about other breeders?”

She nodded. “I do.” She left and returned with a card. “These people live in Portland and breed Canarios. They are very well-known and reputable. If Christy’s stalker is a breeder or an avid fancier, they will know of him.”

I called Warren as soon as we were in the van. He took the information and assured me that he was doing his best to find Juan Flores, so Christy could go back to Eugene.

“Thank you,” I told him sincerely, and he laughed as he rang off.

Honey was thoughtfully silent on the drive back to her house. I stopped in her driveway, and she opened the door. But she stayed in the van for a moment as she looked at her house. “Maybe I need to get a dog,” she said.

Between the prison trip and Lucia’s help with the dogs, I managed to come home very late on Tuesday and escaped quality Christy-time, for the most part. Though I hadn’t planned to, I left before breakfast was made the next morning. I had a last-minute fix Wednesday night that kept me nearly an hour later than usual. The thought occurred to me that if I could avoid home long enough, maybe I wouldn’t have to talk to her before she left.

I went home, confident I’d be too late for dinner, but when I came in the door, Christy met me with a smile.

“You are in luck,” she told me. “Adam had an errand to run so I waited dinner for him. You have about fifteen minutes to shower.” She wrinkled her nose.

“Thanks,” I said, as if she hadn’t just sent me off to clean up. I’d intended to shower because I was sweaty and dirty. I wasn’t going to behave like I was thirteen and refuse to do it because she’d told me to. No matter how strong the impulse.

I was in my bathroom, pulling off my clothes, when I heard Adam come into the bedroom. I didn’t want to have him see how agitated she’d made me, so I just continued to get ready to shower.

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