The WOOF Books

The Woof Books are kind of like Marley and Me only they're not sad and only loosely true. Maybe they’d be more alike if Marley was a German Shepherd named Max and worked as a maître d in an Italian restaurant and lived with a neurotic female named Sophie. And if there was a Golden Retriever named Buttercup and a kitten named Tilley. Oh, and a guy named Jack who was the sheriff in a small town who was the neurotic female’s love interest. So, hmmm…Maybe they're a bit more like Turner and Hooch, minus the huge Mastiff and murder. Also a bit like A Dog’s Purpose, but no one dies or gets reincarnated. They've kind of got a “Friends” feel to them only with less people and more dogs. And a cat.
Love dogs? Meet Max! He’s the most loveable, conning, canine miscreant to walk on four legs.
When Sophie Zinelli answers her phone in the middle of the night, she never expects to be asked to rescue an abused dog. She lives above her family’s restaurant (Try The Veal) and knows absolutely nothing about owning a dog, let alone a bossy, sly, and smart-alecky German Shepherd. As she tackles Max’s training, you’ll meet Jack, Sophie’s commitment-phobic boyfriend and his dog, Buttercup, the kleptomaniac hoarding Golden Retriever, and Tilley the nearly-blind kitten. So what happens when you liberate a dog you don't know? Find out what Sophie does and see just what Max, a very bad dog with a very big heart, is up to.


Love You For ALWAYS
 
I was raised on a steady diet of sarcasm and muttered obscenities generally uttered by one of my three idiot older brothers. Because I am the youngest, and female, woe to the moronic mutterer if my very Italian mama heard them utter so much as a mild oath in front of me. The wooden spoon would appear like a Jedi lightsaber, suddenly glowing in my mother’s hand, and before my brothers could make a break for it, whack, whack, whack! “Ima so ashamed!” Whack. “You no see little Sophia standing righta there?” Whack. “You gonna give her a filthy mouth!” Whack, whack. An Italian mother was supposed to be the scariest and most terrifying person in your life, and you would think all the spoon-whacking would create fear. Maybe it did with my brothers, but not with me. Nope. Mostly it just created guilt. Probably from my brothers getting whacked all the time. Hence, I learned at an early age to drown out the guilt with cannoli and to drink espresso just to keep calm.

And I make lists. I’m a master list maker. I make lists to make lists. Maybe it’s some genetic mutation since I’m sure no one else in my psychotic pain in the ass (must find a kinder adjective for my family, lest they think I don’t love them) Italian family is as list-crazy as I am. The one thing I know with absolute certainty is that stealing a dog was not on my list. Let alone stealing a pain-in-the-butt German Shepherd. But steal him I did. It wasn’t easy either since he’s noisy and bossy and well, big. Not exactly the kind of dog you can toss in your purse and go about your business with.
 
#IAmADogNapper
#WouldHaveBeenEasierToRideAT-Rex
#IWantMyHandcuffsInPink
Love dogs? Join Sophie as Max gets trained! He’s the most loveable, conning, canine miscreant to walk on four legs.
What will Sophie Zinelli’s family do when they find out she’s bringing home a dog and giving him a job in their family’s restaurant (Try The Veal)? Max’s vet insists Max needs a job. But what kind of a job can a huge, wily, neurotic dog like Max get in a fine dining establishment? Why, becoming a maitre’d of course. Maybe. If Max will quit eating the profits, stealing grandma’s dentures, and can charm a skeptical food critic. But first Sophie enlists the aid of her commitment-phobic boyfriend, Jack, his dog Buttercup, and Max’s friend, Tilley the cat. Then Sophie must figure out who is sabotaging Max at every turn before Sophie’s very large, very loud, very Italian family banishes them both for good. 


​Off The Leash: Meatballs, Mayhem, And Max
 
On my way to my execution home, I got a phone call from every single person in my immediate family. I’d been gone one half of one day, but you’d think the apocalypse had arrived and I’d been missing for months. Possibly eaten by starving koala bears.
 
Mama: Where are you? You’re not cooking are you? We don’t need the fire department do we? If you’re sick, you’d better be dying. Unless you’re… Are you… I’m telling your papa to call. Dio mio, and to think, I used to be normal.”
 
Papa: “Are you pregnant? Have you peed on a stick? What color is it? Plus or minus sign?”
 
Nanna: “You have a boy over, eh? Good for you, cara. I’ll keepa your secret.”
 
Nonno: “Who broke your heart? I’ll send Luca. He can pop a top in his ass plus he has a bigger trunk than me. Where’s the closet swamp? We may need alligators for this.”
 
Gio: “Does he have a sister? Is she hot?”
 
Paulo: “Good grief, Sophie, anything for attention. You’re not really dying are you? Is it cancer? Nonno said to have your prostate checked.” Then a whisper, “Is it the mob? Are you in somebody’s trunk?”
 
Luca: “Nonno said something about a trunk, a gun, and alligators. I’ve been holding him off, but you’d better hurry. You know I’m weak when it comes to keeping secrets from the family. I gave them all a head’s up you were bringing a dog home, but that’s it. You owe me.
 
How could I tell them I stole a badly abused dog then escaped to Live oak where my friend Bailey (the town veterinarian) lives because I loved this dog and didn’t want grief from my family?
 
Ha, I could SO not tell them I stole a dog. My Nonno might approve, but that’s the mobster in him. Everyone else would give me the shocked, “Little Sohpie’s a criminal?” My Nanna would pop my Nonno upside the head and assure him that it was all his fault that I now led a life of crime. My mother would cry, wring her hands, then get out the wooden spoon. My father would get that far away look in his eyes and start calculating lawyer expenses. Gio would snicker. Poalo would hide until he was sure no mobsters were involved, and Luca would look all smug.
 
So, I’d lie. 

When Sophie Zinelli accepts an invitation to go to a speed dating event for dog owners (Bring your dog!), she balks, then figures why not? After all, Jack, her commitment-phobic boyfriend, hasn’t called in a month. A month! Between Jack not calling and her family pushing her to go, she’s feeling more than a little expendable. Only she has nothing to wear, has a dog who is out of control, and has no idea what to expect.
Find out how her dates get sabotaged, what Jack is up to, and see what kind of mischief Max gets her into this time. Even Danny The Dog Drawler’s Training Guide can’t help her now.
Love dogs? Well, Max is at it again! He’s the most loveable, conning, catastrophic canine to walk on four legs.

Max Goes Speed DATING

Speed Dating Doggie Style!

(Holy saints, get your mind out of the gutter)
 
Are you fed up with being the ONLY ONE of your friends who stays home on Saturday nights completely and utterly ALONE?
 
Are you tired of hearing things like: “You’re still single? At your age?” Or “Don’t worry, dear, love will find you when you least expect it.” Or “You should try online dating!”
 
If hearing these things make you smack your head, roll your eyes, or want to throw yourself head first into a fifty foot well, then clearly, you need to stop all those wild couch/television/alcohol threesomes and …
 
Come to Live Oak’s First Annual Labor Day Speed Dating Doggie Style Extravaganza where we hope your dogs will have fun and you, yes YOU, will find a mate for life! (Mating of minds not dogs) Featuring a fenced and grassy exercise and play park where you will do your actual dating. Instead of the normal 5 minutes (or whatever those weird speed dating rules are), you’ll have 10 whole minutes to mingle and play with those of the opposite sex! Don’t forget to bring a list of questions to help you remember your date and help your date remember you! Let’s make sure your dogs and your dates are compatible!
Come and join us, this may change your life forever!!!

SOPHIE
Exasperated, I marched back to my office in the rear of my family’s restaurant (Try The Veal) with Max (my portly 95 lb. German shepherd) close on my heels, then slumped down at my desk in defeat, still glaring at my cellphone. What have I just agreed to? Why? How did Bailey O’Donlan-Mitchell get me to say yes when I firmly had no on the tip of my tongue? I must have taken it as a personal challenge when Bailey said, “Seize the day, Sophie, seize the day!” I’ve even got hotel reservations. Gah! Just because I sort of gave Bailey the idea in the first place (which she hastened to remind me more than a dozen times) didn’t mean I could leave my position as manager at my family’s restaurant (Try The Veal) on the two busiest days of the week!
 
Have just informed Luca (the oldest of my three older male siblings) he would be in charge of restaurant over busy weekend. He’s ecstatic. Want to smack him for making me feel so … so expendable. Note to self: Let Max watch Silence Of The Lambs again, then explain that older brothers taste quite good with a nice Chianti.
 
Mama and Papa are happy to see me go as well. “Go, spread your wings!” they said. Jeez. I’m thirty. Wings have been spread for years. Feel pathetically hurt about being so blatantly expendable.
 
I have now chastised my expendable-self for having hurt feelings. I’ve wanted to find a decent date instead of some disastrous hook-up ever since I realized that Jack O’Donlan, my on-again off-again almost-boyfriend is a total and disastrous commitment-phobe. Hmmph. Now that I have an entire day to explore possibilities, I should celebrate not pout.
 
But what if new date also finds self expendable?
 
The need to blame someone has overwhelmed me. I switched my glare from my phone to Max. Max, standing next to my desk in his doggie tuxedo, looked not only dashing but smug. I gave Max the evil eye. Max one-upped me with stink eye.
 
Expendable-self ignored Max to sift through bottom desk drawer, finally finding scary Labor Day brochure. I had tossed brochure aside weeks ago stupidly thinking I was non-expendable. Since I was obviously wrong, must read brochure to see what I’ve gotten myself, and Max, into.
 
Have read brochure. Eyes have glazed over. Nausea imminent.
 
THIS, I thought as I shook the brochure in the air, was NOT my idea. Have a small get-together, I’d said. A few people with dogs, I’d suggested. But this? This… timed dating insanity was not my idea. Aargh!
 
I scanned my desk hoping to get my mind off finding a mate for life! and noticed old New Year’s Resolutions peeking out from under a pile of books on desk. I grabbed the list in hopes of having accomplished all resolutions in order to make myself feel less nauseous.
 
1) Resolve to quit flapping hands about when speaking. Am in Atlanta, and not yet grandmother in Italia.
 
Crap. Made a quick note to buy duct tape before attending big dating extravaganza.
 
2) Resolve to quit putting evil eye on Paolo. He scares easily and might have Luca or Gio pummel me into paste at which point Max would eat them, thus upsetting parents. Plus I’m still not yet grandmother in Italia.
 
Older siblings deserve to be stuffed into mobster’s trunk (Paolo’s biggest fear) but having brothers whacked would probably mean jail time.
 
3) Resolve to lose ten pounds before summer. Must learn to love Zumba and Pilates. Also must take fat Max with me no matter how much he whines in protest. Note to self: Buy ear protection.
 
It’s now September. Pounds lost: Zero. Hate Zumba and Pilates. Have full belief Zumba and Pilates instructors have gotten training from medieval torture device manual. I still have no ear protection.
Want all three in one compilation? 

Get yours today!



 
​Oh, baby, I love your way. Sort of.Bottles and diapers and cries, poor Max! A laugh out loud, heartwarming babysitting disaster that will make your day a whole lot happier.

Age old question: Where do babies come from? Obvious answer: Their parents. At least until the parents decide to hatch a disastrous matchmaking scheme. Cue Sophie and Jack. And Max, of course. None of whom know how babies work. Most people Sophie’s age are making babies. Sophie can barely manage to make a sandwich.

So, what happens when Sophie and Jack are tricked into babysitting an eating, screaming, pooping machine? Sophie discovers that no outfit is complete without barf and baby food. Jack realizes babies can smell fear. Max learns silence isn’t golden, it’s suspicious. Buttercup knows the baby needs to be changed. Like into a couch or something quieter. And what does buh-buh-buh mean exactly? Time for a beer? A sandwich? The Little Mermaid?

Only the cute, cuddly cherub knows for sure.

Poor Max learns ‘parent speak’ for, “I’m going to count to three. Because I said so. Eat your vegetables!” Now it’s game on.
Join in the laughs, the love, and the tail-wagging fun!

The WOOF Books are perfect for a quick, entertaining read. Grab your copy now and make your day!

EXCERPT

​If You Keep Making That Face, It’s Going To Freeze That Way
 
SOPHIE

I sleepily opened one eye to check the time on my phone, wondering how long I had before my alarm went off for work. More than half asleep, I noticed it was almost nine.
 
Almost nine!! I bolted upright in a cold panic, then smacked myself in the head as my brain engaged in the holy-crap-I-am-wide-awake-now-but-I-don’t-HAVE-to-be mode. Crap balls. I still had the last two days of my vacation left. As the manager of my family’s restaurant (Try The Veal), I didn’t get two days off in a row very often. And by very often, I meant never. Unless it was during my yearly vacation. Which it was.
 
I flopped back onto my pillow, stretched luxuriously and smiled at Max (my portly 105 lb. German shepherd). Once a year, usually in early fall, my family (Nonno, Nonna, Mama, Papa, and three brothers, Gio, Paolo, and Luca) closes our restaurant (Try The Veal) and treks off to Italy for a week. It’s like some holy pilgrimage. Which likely meant Nonno’s Sicilian relatives were involved, which meant my whole family should probably be living in Jersey instead of Atlanta, but I don’t ask those kinds of questions for fear of swimming with the fishes, or eating sardines wearing cement shoes or whatever the mobster-speak was these days. Maybe I should ask Paolo since the mob was his worst nightmare and honestly, he’s become an expert authority on all things Mafioso.
 
As you may have guessed, I’m Italian. I’m thirty years old, I have dark, curly hair which I can’t seem to control, my eyes are green which makes me wonder who in my gene pool drowned in the deep end since my entire family has brown eyes except for me which always made me wonder if maybe I was adopted except that I look like a female version of my father which probably means I’ll have a mustache before I’m forty. But I digress.
 
I live in a one-bedroom apartment above my family’s restaurant (Try The Veal) in Atlanta and my biggest weaknesses are my family, my dog Max, and my complicated relationship with Jack O’Donlan.
 
This year I managed to stay behind my family’s annual trek to Italy due to Max having a raging case of Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutters which was a fancy way of saying the hiccups but I wasn’t about to tell my family what it meant or that I’d lied. Yes, I had totally lied. To my family. I should probably say ten Hail Mary’s but I think Max may have eaten my Rosary and I wasn’t sure how many Hail Marys or Our Fathers I actually knew. Obviously I was a bad person and should not be allowed to stay home alone without suffering dire consequences.
 
Crap, now I was going to worry about consequences and all things dire.
 
Okay, fine. I admit it. I didn’t want to go to Italy and leave Max behind. Yes, I had people I trusted to take good care of him, but those people weren’t me. Besides, I’ve been to Italy at least twenty-nine times. Once a year since I was born. I wasn’t worried about missing number thirty.
 
Besides, how often did I get to binge-watch Netflix, stay in my PJ’s all day, order whatever I wanted online, and make endless lists of things I knew I’d probably never do?
 
I made a mental note to shower, eat a proper meal, and hit the gym instead of staying in my pajamas and eating nothing but chips, popcorn, and frozen pizza.
 
I was almost feeling disgusted with myself. Ha, no I wasn’t. Not even a little. Not having a schedule was awesome.
 
Plus, I didn’t have to tromp around Italy with a bunch of mustachioed Mafioso. My brothers think it’s cool, but they’re morons and too old-school macho to ever believe, let alone admit, they entered this world through their mother’s vagina. I love them, but will confess that most of the time they’re a great human skid mark on the underwear of life.
 
Anyway.
 
Max, snuggled next to me in bed, stretched his legs and nearly sent me crashing to my death. Well, perhaps not death but certainly I would get a bruise if I fell off the bed. Which some people might consider a consequence, albeit not altogether dire. I made another mental note to remind Max yet again that he has his own giant doggie bed. Someday I’d figure out how to make him use it. Maybe soak it in beef broth as Max is a total pig about food. Ha. I couldn’t soak Max’s bed in beef broth as I was quite sure he’d eat it. Then I’d need a horse trailer to haul away his poo.

My phone rang and I hoped it wasn’t my parents calling from Italy to tell me Nonna had been arrested again for throwing her dentures into the Trevi fountain. Before I could answer, Max licked the phone, somehow managing to swipe the answer button.
 
“Donkey balls, Max!” Once again I’d underestimated Max’s obsession with my iPhone. “Hold on!” I hollered, and wiped my phone and the dog slobber on my T-shirt before putting the phone to my ear. “Hello,” I finally managed, all the while giving Max the evil eye. He one-upped me by throwing his paw on my forehead with a hard thunk, which felt like getting wonked by a manhole cover. I gently placed his paw on his pillow before I decided an empty treat bag was in his future.
 
“Hi, Soph. Put me on speaker.”
 
It’s Lana. Greg’s wife. Jack and Bailey’s sister-in-law. Who was in Hawaii on a family vacation of her own. “No. No, no, no. Max is rotten enough without you cooing baby talk at him.”
 
“Sophia Zinelli. Speaker. On. Now.”
 
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Fine.”
 
“Max? Hi, Max! It’s Auntie Lana, Max! How’re you doing my big happy baby? Are you a good boy? Of course you are. What a good boy. Auntie Lana has a big Hawaiian surprise for you, Max. I love you, Max-i-poo.”
 
Gah. I just threw up in my mouth. Then…I suddenly found myself wondering if I might get a big Hawaiian surprise, too. I should maybe let Lana blather on a bit longer.
 
Max gave a loud WOOF and rolled onto his back, paws in the air, and squiggled back and forth nearly knocking me off the bed a second time. I gave Max a hard glare. His mighty butt dry heaved with a cheerful pfffft in response.
 
Argh! Couldn’t breathe! Fat, farting, hairy phone hog.
 
Careful to breathe only through my mouth, I took the phone off speaker. “Max-i-poo? How many Mai Tai’s have you had?”
 
“Not nearly enough. I need your help.”

Am I Crazy For You? Maybe. Or maybe crazier for that taco you’re holding.

When Sophie gets tackled over a taco, she wonders what kind of a crazy person would do such a thing. Meet ex-quarterback turned cop, Jack O’Donlan. He’s sexy, Irish, and willing to go to any lengths to get a date with the beautiful Italian lady he’s just tackled by accident.

When Jack wants a do-over and asks Sophie out for a real date, she says no. Until she learns where he wants to take her. Sophie accepts, but leaves out one key detail: Her big Italian family owns the restaurant. And Jack was going to get grilled by the best.

Will Jack run for his life or embrace the insanity?

Find out how Sophie met Jack! This is a short prequel and part of The WOOF Books series. Perfect for a quick, entertaining read. Grab your copy now and make your day!

EXCERPT:

​Blame It On The Taco

In my last year of college, a week before I got my Master’s degree, I was standing in The Commons dining hall just before nine on a Thursday evening, eyeballing the last taco to be had before the place closed for the night, when a masculine voice next to me said, “I’ll take that last taco.”

“You can’t,” I blurted. “It’s mine.” Of course the taco wasn’t mine, not yet anyway, but my mouth had always spouted off before my brain could engage the brakes and this time was no exception.

Twinkling blue eyes checked me out, then one dark eyebrow raised in question. “Is that so? Does it have your name on it then?”

The question was a tad snarky, but the man said it so politely that all I really heard were the lovely lilting mists of Ireland floating above me.

Then I got a grip on myself.

“I’d think you’d prefer a blarney sandwich, Irish.”

“I’ve been standing here for five minutes, Luigi, watching you debate between the taco and the pizza. If you can’t decide, I can. Bada-bing bada-boom, I’ll take the taco.”

Luigi?!?! Bada-bing bada-boom?!?! My eyes went squinty and my hands started moving. Like the Italian in me just instantly morphed into Tony Soprano and suddenly out of nowhere my hand just sort of smacked this gorgeous Irishman upside the chest. Not hard or anything, but still. Apparently my brain didn’t have any more control over my hands than it did my mouth. My mother would possibly be horrified. My nonna would be horrified I hadn’t smacked him twice. Upside the head. I, personally, was horrified to be caught acting like a second-grader with a crush.

“Okay, jeez, fine,” he said, “you take the taco. I’ll take the pizza. Chumley would prefer the taco, but that’s because he’s Latin.” The man looked at the kid serving the food. “Add two Cokes to that, if you don’t mind.”
 
Chumley? I wasn’t sure if the guy was referring to himself in the third person which would’ve been a huge scary tinfoil helmet kind of red flag, but then I saw where he was looking and my gaze landed on the most pathetic-looking dog I’d ever seen.
It may have been a Basset hound but it looked like a brown, black, and white blob that gravity had grabbed and slammed to earth then wouldn’t let back up. Skin hung in folds, ears dragged the ground, and the dog’s eyes had bags within bags and looked like he’d been hitting a bottle and a bong non-stop. Possibly he may have sneezed and his whole face fell forward then stuck there. “Basset hounds are Latin now, are they?”

“Aye, this one is. I think. Maybe.”

“He’s er, really cute.” I wanted to pet him, but didn’t want to bring attention to him either, and get the very handsome Irishman in trouble. I leaned toward him and whispered, “But, um, you know you can’t have a dog in here. And he can have the taco, I’ll take the pizza.”

“Ah, but I do have a dog in here. And I’ll bet you’re no snitch, eh, Mario?”

For the first time since we’d been standing there, he turned toward me with a boyish grin. And that’s when I saw the blood. He had two bullet holes in his shirt, blood dripped down one arm, and spatter covered his jeans and one side of his face. I reached into my purse to grab my phone. “Oh my God! Call 911!”

“What? Why?” He grabbed me, threw me to the ground and then collapsed, possibly dead, right on top of me and my new yellow dress. “Is there a criminal? Does he have a weapon? Is it you? Are you hurt? What’s going on?”

He sure asked a lot of questions for a possible dead guy. “No, I’m not hurt! You’re hurt!”

“I am?” He asked, not moving.
 
A heartwarming, magical, Christmas romance. Max style.

Sometimes you need to listen to your heart. Other times you need to listen to Max.

It’s Christmas Eve and Jack is visited by three ghosts. Sort of. First, there’s Tilley the kitten, who takes Jack back to Christmas Past. Then there’s Max, who shows Jack the joy of Christmas Present and reminds him that people should love the way dogs do, forever and without conditions. Buttercup is last, and shows Jack what is Yet To Come if he doesn’t move forward and let go of old hurts. The threesome help to remind Jack that love is much more than broken promises and heartache.

“Sometimes love is like a huge tornado that keeps changing directions. You move one way and it either moves with you or it moves on without you. You never know which way to turn because the heart is unpredictable. So you run and run and run and you wind up running headfirst into a blinding chasm that lifts you up or throws you crashing downward. If you’re not lifted, your heart shatters and bleeds. If you are, however, you will live in wonderment for the rest of your days, reliving a joy that you welcome, loving a soul that isn’t yours, and yet is.” Buttercup looked at Jack with somber resignation. “You're going to have to decide what you want, and what you're willing to do to get it.See how Jack learns exactly what love is, what could be, and just what he’ll lose if he doesn’t make the right decision in time.The WOOF Books are just right for a quick read. Grab your copy now and make your season bright!

EXCERPT:

Christmas Present


​Max jumped onto all fours, tail wagging. Bounced around with a boink, boink, boink and said, “OH, OH, OH, I almost forgot we were going out! Yay, a car ride, let’s go! Are we going to the park? Are we? Is that it? Can-we-go-now-can-we, huh? I get to fetch a stick! Like a boss! And, oh, what about balls? I can’t stand it, oh my gosh, quick, quick, go grab some balls! Yay, we’re cooking with gas now, baby!”
 
“Max. Control yourself. You’re taking Jack to Christmas Present, remember?” Sophie said, and sat on the bed next to Buttercup.
 
“Right, right, gotcha. I kinda forgot since my stomach needs a steak. At this rate, I could die of hunger.”
 
Sophie shook her head. “Don’t be such a hog about food, you’re already chubby. You’ll die of hunger when pigs fly.”
 
And poof, Max sprouted a pig’s head and snorted. Then wings popped out of his fur and he yelled, “HOUSTON, WE HAVE LIFT OFF! Oink, oink, oink.”
 
“You know that bacon you’re so fond of?” Sophie asked. “Guess where it comes from? Pigs, Max, that’s where.”
 
Max’s eyes rolled back in his head, his body returned to normal, and he plopped onto the ground. “Eeuwww, disgusting. I may never eat bacon again.” The he burst into laughter and rolled onto his back, holding his sides. “Hahaha, as if. I also like ham sammiches. And pork chops. And sausage and hot dogs and pork ribs, too.” He rolled back onto his feet. “Wait, you better back that truck up a minute. What’s this chubby business? Are you calling me FAT? You are, I can see it in your eyes.” And that’s when Max went off on an Italian tirade. He gestured with his paws. He cursed in perfect Italian. He pulled on his fur. Then he dragged his butt across the floor.
 
“No cursing, Max! Cavolo! And no wiping of the back end on Jack’s nice floor.”
 
“Have to. Can’t help it, I’m FAT. I can’t lift my fat a--”
 
“Max,” Sophie said, half in warning, half cajoling. “I never called you fat. I said you were chubby. One is cute, one is unhealthy.”
 
“So I’m cute, huh? Like I’m big boned, dad-bod, gothopotamus, obeast, pigfest, frumpy lumpy, tubbo, porker, lard-o, do-these-jeans-make-my-butt-look-big cute?”
 
“Cuter even than that. Charming and handsome, Max. My favorite chubby puppy in the whole world.”
 
“Oh, all right. If you’re sure I’m not fat,” Max said, looking at his butt.
 
Jack stood there, amused. “Are you two done? Don’t we have places to go? Or people to see?”
 
“Yeah, we do, we do, let’s go, oh boy! Hold onto my harness, Jack. I love you forever and ever, Sophie, I love, love, love you, see you sooooon!” And off he went pulling Jack behind him.
 
Jack held onto Max’s harness but let go just as he was inches from smacking into the bedroom wall. Jack still had enough momentum going that he thwacked into the ivory plaster head first anyway and sort of bounced backward. “Ow, shite! What happened to poofing around?”
 
The front half of Max’s body had disappeared through the wall, then he poked his head back through looking weirdly disembodied, and gave Jack the flat eyes. “I told you to HOLD ONTO my harness, not to LET GO of my harness. Jeez, buddy, you gotta trust a dog.”
 
“Sorry. I thought we were going to sort of do an Avengers Super Dog thing and Infinity Stone it outta here. Like snap your fingers and be gone.”
 
Max’s eyes went even flatter. “I don’t snap. I am not an Avengers Super Dog. I ghost. Like a Ninja Warrior Dog. I have crazy mad skills. Quit mixing metaphors and trust me.” When Jack didn’t move, Max raised his eyebrows. “Growing old over here.”
 
Jack rolled his shoulders, stepped forward and said, “Back it up. Your harness is on your front half which is in some other dimension.”
 
Max scooted backward. Jack held on, took two steps, and Max went, “Ow, ow, ow, aroooo!”
 
Jack let go and bounced off the wall again. “Darn it, Max!”
 
“Psych! Hehehe,” Max said, his white teeth showing in a grin. “Just keepin’ it real. Remember all those times you only PRETENDED to throw the ball?”