When I felt the sock on my right foot being pulled off, I thought I was imagining it, until someone or something yanked off my other sock, and I immediately realized I wasn't dreaming.
My first guess was that some pervert in the park was stealing my socks. Probably one of those creepy guys my mom warned me about when I was an eleven year-old girl.
Whoever it was, the creep probably hadn't bathed in a while, judging from the strong musky odor wafting through the air.
"What the heck?" I muttered as something warm and wet brushed across my bare toes, accompanied by the sound of heavy breathing. "Excuse me?"
I quickly sat up, and slipped my specs on, so I could catch a glimpse of the perv who removed my socks and was now busy sniffing and licking my bare toes.
My body tensed to scream and kick at this impudent intruder, but the sight of him quelled both reactions.
A dog. A large white dog, clearly male, was zealously sniffing my feet with a wet, black nose.
He was one of those White Shepherd breeds. When I was five, I had a friend about the same age who used to believe that a White Shepherd was just a regular German Shepherd that's been painted white because its owners didn't like the original color. Even at five, I knew my friend was being stupid. I recalled telling her that it was stupid to think that. No one turns a German Shepherd into a white one by painting it. You would have to bath him in bleach.
I assure you, I don't believe that anymore. I'm not five years-old anymore, either. I haven't been for seventeen years.
Seeing the dog, with a pair of my short blue socks between his strong-looking scissor jaws, I almost laughed. Partially because I felt silly mistaking him for a dirty old man in a dirty old raincoat, and partially because my feet were slightly ticklish, especially in-between my toes.
But I was also annoyed, as well. I mean, who wouldn't be at having one's peaceful nap in the park under a shady tree on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon disturbed?
"Excuse me," I repeated, shifting to a kneeling position, and withdrawing my naked feet from the dog's tormenting tongue. "Can I have those back?"
He just stood there, while my socks dangled from his mouth.
I found his silent stare rather intimidating. Those dark almond eyes were quite striking. They, and his wet black nose, stood out amongst the clean whiteness of the rest of his body. My feet started to tingle a bit. Those dark staring canine eyes were having a weird effect on me.
"Uh, those are mine. I'd like them back, please."
When I slowly reached my hand out, the Shepherd started backing away.
The dog stopped, tilted its head slightly, and began chomping away on my socks.
The head standing proudly on muscular neck was distinctive. His muzzle was long and well-defined, like the rest of its cleanly-chiseled facial features. His expression seemed quizzical, almost like he was trying decide if he should stay or go. His long triangular-shaped ears were erect, and they added to the strange impression of wary curiosity I was sensing.
As the dog began mangling my socks, I noticed his black-leather buckle collar around its strong neck, and the blue-plastic ID tag attached to it. My vision may not be 20/20, but I was close enough to read the dog-tag's number.
Hoping to retrieve my socks before before this canine enigma destroyed them, I slowly rose to my feet. The dog started backing away. He must have played this game before, I thought, as he seemed to be anticipating what my next move would be.
Sure enough. I only took one small barefoot step forward, he whirled and took off like the wind.
"Hey," I protested weakly. "Waitaminute!"
I started after him, but stopped as soon as I was out of the shade. The glaring sun assaulted my eyes and blinded me. I stopped, removed my glasses, and rubbed my watery eyes. Without my specs, I could barely make out a large, blurry shape diminishing rapidly against the equally blurry green and brown of the park's landscaping.
By the time I put my specs back on, and my eyes cleared up, that canine sock-snatcher was gone.
Irritated and half amused, I did the only thing I could do - I stamped my foot and shrugged. What else could I do, except collect the rest of my belongings and get on with the rest of my plan for another solitary afternoon.
After leaving the park, I spent the next three hours of the afternoon at the library which was right next to the park. My original plan for the day had been to hit the park, then the library where I intended to pick up a couple of biographies for my normal evening reading.
I spent about an hour looking for something to catch my eye, but found that my usual fascination with other people's lives was rather wanting.
Frustrated, I wandered into the pet section and eventually found myself sitting in a plush chair perusing a thick, heavy book about dog breeds.
Yes, my close encounter with the White Shepherd in the park was still on my mind.
I found what I was looking for. The Berger Blanc Suisse, the official breed name for the White Swiss Shepherd.
The historical facts concerning the breed were fascinating and a bit disturbing, I thought. For many years, the breed was considered 'defective', compared to the average German Shepherd, due to its white coat. It was an outcast breed, that was often rejected for entry into dog shows for years because of the recessive gene responsible for their white coat.
It sounded cruel to me, a dog having to suffer prejudice because of its fur color.
I wondered how other black-and-tan German Shepherds treated its white coated cousin. Would a male White Shepherd be rejected by a regular-looking female one?
Looking over the pictures in the book, I saw nothing at all wrong or defective with the White Shepherd. Quite a handsome dog, really. Strong, agile and well muscled. Supposedly able to move with the steady grace of a well-lubricated machine. Its gait smooth and flowing. I believed it. The dog in the park moved exactly like that.
Personality-wise, the dog was cautious and aloof with strangers. Yet, it could be very friendly with those it trusted. The book also mentioned the dog's hard to define, but undeniable inner nobility. But, nothing I read could adequately explain why that dog so carefully removed my socks and paid such loving attention to my feet. Or, why my socks were such a prize. We had never even been properly introduced.
Suddenly, at that moment, my current train of thoughts were derailed by some awkward sensations. My feet started tingling, and I suddenly felt all hot and flushed. My temperature had risen. Feeling tight and wet between my legs, I was undoubtedly aroused! I almost put my hands between my legs, before I remembered where I was. My Ghawd. I was so embarrassed at feeling like that in public. The last time this happened was in a fitness club locker room, with two undressing women.
But all I was doing, this time, was reading a book about dogs and thinking about - about that White Shepherd licking my toes.
Pulling off my size-7 shoe, I examined the naked sole of my foot. As I stretched out my toes, and wiggled them a bit as they kept tingling, I couldn't help but wonder...
Why did he lick them? Why me?
Eventually, I settled down and returned the AKC book to the shelves. As I headed toward the library exit, I took notice of the billboard. It usually sported, various notices of upcoming book promotions, and of certain guest authors scheduled to drop by for signings. It also had a lost and found section and that caught my attention. Right in the middle was a posted notice:
MISSING DOG - $6500 REWARD
LANCELOT (ID# 69031)
Large White Shepherd
Medium White Coat
It was him, and his name was Lancelot.
I recognized, and remembered the ID number on the tag he was wearing. And, even so, I knew from looking at the color-printed photo that it was the same dog from the park. The look in the eyes were the same. Even from a paper photo, I could 'feel' his look as surely as I could still feel my feet tingle. The tingling sensation increased, and my crotch got wet and 'itchy' all over again.
Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was almost six. I pulled the post off the board, folded it, and slipped it into my pocket. I needed to go home and ... shower.
My eight-floor apartment felt as empty as it always did. The second I was inside, and the door was latched and bolted, I kicked my shoes off. My feet were still tingling.
From my left-side jeans pocket, I removed and unfolded the posted notice I had swiped from the bookshop's billboard.
"Lancelot," I thought. "What a fitting name."
As my feet kept on tingling, and my bare toes clenched in the soft carpet I was standing on, I couldn't help but wonder how nice it would be to have a warm, wet nose sniffing at them again?
I checked out the words and numbers printed above Lancelot's picture - $6500 REWARD.
"Sixty-five hundred," I pondered silently. "I could really use that."
I'm ashamed to admit it. But, at the time, the reward money interested me much more than Lancelot. After all. The rent for my one-bedroom/bathroom apartment wasn't cheap, and I had bills and student loans to pay off. A little extra grocery money wouldn't have hurt, either.
At the bottom of the page was a local phone-number, and the words - 'Ask for Curtis Hopkins'.
At that point, I had made up my mind. I was going to claim the Hopkins' reward for myself. Now, I only had to worry about the second problem.
.... There is more of this story ...