Chapter One Hundred-Fifty: Ma’am is Mata Hari & Bullwinkle…

Those of you who follow me know, we lost our sweet dog Jack recently. It has been difficult. I decided to dip my toe in the pond of looking for another pup. It could never be a replacement, but it could be a wonderful addition to our family. Of course, I seldom do anything subtly so I dive into the ‘Search for a dog” rabbit hole with such focus and verve.
Those precious faces staring back at me are calling my name. I inquire about Mo who has been flown in from Puerto Rico. A dog of the streets he is looking for his forever home. Then I see Hector the dachshund. I will rename him Frank and I send an inquiry. It is as though I have Tourettes of the fingers. I inquire about a dozen dogs just to see. I sit and stare at my computer and wait…

Mo has already been adopted. Hector/Frank costs more than a car payment. Where are the days of going to the shelter and picking out your furry baby for under one hundred dollars? Then like the Holy Grail Finn’s face appears on my screen. Yes! he is the one! I excitedly fill out the application(which is more intricate than the college applications my son is currently in the throes of filling out.) The information they now want is RIDICULOUS!!! I give three of my friends as references. I group text them”DO NOT tell the story of Confused Husband bringing the wrong dog home from the groomer! It is NOT funny! and they probably wouldn’t give a dog to a home where they don’t even know what their dog looks like!” I get thumbs up and laughing emojis back which knowing my group of friends is not reassuring.

The hours tick by. I envision the long walks Finn and I will have. I peruse doggy beds and big food bowls online, as Finn is MUCH larger than sweet Jack. I send pictures of Finn to friends and family. I wait. Nada, nothing.
I distract myself by again entering the “adopt a pup!” rabbit hole. So many faces looking back at me. The hours continue to pass by. Confused Husband suggests I broaden my search radius. I do this. I expand it to Philly, we are in DC it is not a terribly long ride if we found a dog there. Theo pops up on my screen. like Finn, I am in love and read Theo’s bio. He is 12 weeks old and has to be re-homed. I inquire about Theo. Ten minutes later Jennifer, Theo’s human is responding to me! She emails me her sad tale of having to relocate and can’t take Theo or his sister Zoey with them.

My heart aches for Jennifer. I respond with a War and Peace length email about Jack and how heartbroken we are. She answers back that maybe this is fate?
We exchange phone numbers. Jennifer texts me and states that she really wants to keep the dogs together. I suggest with no promise that perhaps I can find a home for Zoey here in DC so she and Theo can see each other. I am on the case! I email friends, text people. A friend wants Zoey! I text Jennifer with the great news! I call Confused Husband and tell him we have to go to Philly either tonight or tomorrow to pick up the two dogs. He begins to protest and I inform him he doesn’t have to get me another Valentine’s gift for the next couple of years. PLUS, it was HIS idea to expand my search! I wait as this marinates. he agrees. I call Jennifer no answer. I text her and she says she has emailed me.
Opening my email there are about fifty pictures of Theo and Zoey. I share the wonderful news and ask for her address. She texts me to say that I must have misunderstood. They were in Philly up until two days ago and have now relocated to Los Angeles. I am crestfallen. She suggests that I come to LA to pick up the dogs. She is not charging me for the pups because she knows they will be going to a good home. I Google pet transport companies and within minutes get bids from all over. I call Confused Husband and explain the situation. He is headed home and we will talk then.

Nothing about Finn, nothing about Theo. I have a short pity party for myself. Confused Husband comes home grinning like the Cheshire cat. He hops on the computer and announces:” Pack your bag, well don’t pack your bag, because you get no bag nor food, and you have the middle seat to save money.” “WTF?” I ask.
He informs me that he thought about it and then did some research(Google) and found a round trip ticket from National to LAX much cheaper than any pet transport and he was going to book my flight. I am GOBSMACKED! For a moment. I picture myself dressed all chic walking in Beverly Hills with Theo! Maybe I will visit some of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while I am out there! My excitement grows. I then say:” But, between the hotel, Ubers, food, shopping, etc won’t it be a lot more than a pet transport?”
He looks at me like I have just said: “I am pregnant.” I watch his mouth open and close like a fish out of water. His eyes study me like I am an alien. “You aren’t vacationing! You will just fly in pick up Theo and fly back all on the same day!” Look I found you a ticket for 250 bucks! He bellows with a flourish and hand wave that would put Vanna White to shame, pointing toward the computer screen like he has just solved the puzzle (Okay Vanna White simmer down!).
I call Jennifer, she text’s that her English isn’t very good. I tell her to Facetime us so we can meet Theo and her. She sends me pictures of Theo and herself. This is getting weird.
Bobby- Jo from Bobby-Jo pet transport calls me. I put him on speakerphone. He offers to fly the two dogs to Dc for 800 bucks. He can have them to us by tomorrow. Confused Husband happily tells Bobby-Jo that he can send me for a quarter of the price! Bobby-Jo points out there are two dogs and the airlines only let you bring one per person. He also states that will not only fly the dogs into DC but he has a dog nanny on board to make sure the pups are taken care of during the flight. It does make sense. But the pissing contest has ensued. Confused Husband then brags to Bobby-Jo that although I don’t get baggage, food, snacks, or a window or aisle seat in the long run it’s still a better deal. For who? I wonder! I hiss to Confused Husband that I can’t go an entire day without eating and he loud whispers back: “Pack some sandwiches!”
During this stand-off of who has the better idea of how to transport the dogs here, Jennifer texts me and says that she found a transport place in Los Angeles and they are going to make the arrangements and the company will be calling us shortly. Five minutes later a Los Angeles number appears on my phone and we have to cut it short with Bobby-Jo who is bellowing: “Your wife won’t even get snacks on the plane! The dogs will be served a meal!” I wonder if Bobby-Jo would consider transporting me?
The transport guy has a thick accent and tells me his name is Sergei. I have an extremely hard time understanding him and he assumes it is the connection. I give him Confused Husband’s number and he calls back. Meanwhile, Jennifer is texting me things like”Promise me you will take pictures of my babies and send them frequently!” I retort: “I would like to see them on Facetime PLEASE!” My phone rings and it’s Jennifer. With an accent similar to Sergei’s she tells me that her video isn’t working on her phone. In the background, I hear what sounds like a person trying to bark like a dog, and she tells me: “That’s Theo all excited to meet you.” She then begins to blubber about:” How can she choose? Which one?” I quip: “Who are you Sophie in Sophie’s choice?”
She says:” I don’t understand? Who is Sophie?” then the sobbing continues.

Meanwhile, Confused Husband is raising his voice to Sergei saying:” What do you mean your credit card machines are all down? What do you mean I am to Zelle the money to someone named Kelly Chelsea? Who is that? The transport company’s accountant?! This is absurd Sergei!”
Sergei attempts to explain how once the money is wired then the contract will be emailed with the tracking number and flight info for the dogs. I have had ENOUGH of this Boris and Natasha swindle! We hang up on both of them and call our friends to inform them we were almost Hoodwinked!

The faux transport agency emails come flying at me with things like: ” Theo is waiting at the airport! Once you pay we can put him on the plane.” I am inundated with text messages as well. I Google the FBI contact number and fraud and file an online report. I am six pages in and the calls from Boris and Natasha keep coming. I am now receiving pitiful emails with photos of nonexistent Theo wearing a sombrero and now he is a black dog. In all the other pictures he was brown. I feel like a Detective Constable typing up her report. I use words like “scam, swindle, con-artists.”

Throughout the night, our phones are ringing off the hook with the LA numbers. I tell Confused Husband not to block them in case we need to talk to them for the FBI. I explain to Confused Husband that Boris and Natasha aren’t getting away with this! I tell him to call me Bullwinkle and he is Rocky. These are our code names. He has no clue what I am talking about and I have to Google them to show him. He is appalled as he insists he looks nothing like a squirrel. I point out Boris and Natasha as well. I dub our case: “Operation Bullwinkle.” He begs me to go to sleep.

The next morning I see that I have received a whopping 58 calls from Boris and Natasha. Confused Husband has only received about 20. He claims that they know better than to mess with him! “Whatever Rocky!” I reply.
I am contacted by a woman named Alice in regards to my report. I ask her what she thought? She said, “In all my years of reading these reports yours was definitely the most colorful and entertaining one I have ever read, and my colleagues agreed.” I am ELATED! I inform her that:” I am a writer and would LOVE to maybe get a job at the bureau zhuzhing up their mundane reports! I notify her of my love of espionage and perhaps I could assist the bureau in the sting to capture Boris and Natasha?”
There is a long silence and I wonder if we have been disconnected. Finally, she says that she is connecting me to Agent Davis who is handling the case. I hear a beep and another sound and realize they are recording me. I HATE my voice on tape! Now I am extremely self-conscience!

Agent Davis introduces himself. He asks me to go over the contact from beginning to end. I feel like I am auditioning for a leading lady role in a film. I explain how this all started, how I really wanted Finn, and how sweet Finn looked and he would really have benefited from being adopted by our family. I begin to go into detail about the things I wanted to do with Finn. Agent Davis is a man of few words. He interjects; “Please get to the part about when you first had contact with the alleged scammers.”(Well he is no fun!). I tell him as much as I can recollect but share that:” It was Valentine’s day and I was very upset because of Finn. I wanted to be exact and can’t remember all of the details but it was all in my report. Hadn’t he read my report? Alice said it was one of the most entertaining that she ever read what did he think?”

I hear the clicking and beeping and Agent Davis breathing into the phone like one of those weird phone calls you may get. He FINALLY says: “Yes. I read the report. Have they attempted any contact since?” I tell him they have called MANY times since yesterday, but I haven’t picked up. I told him I had attached all of the emails and screenshots of text messages as well in my report.” I also sent the faux dog pictures.”
Agent Davis says: “About the photos, the ones you sent weren’t the dogs they were of a melanoma.” I am so perplexed “What?” He clears his throat. “It seems to be a melanoma on someone’s back.” I open up my emails and look. OMG! I sent pictures that one of my single friends snapped of their back in the mirror to show me a mole they were worried about and wanted my input. I hadn’t opened them yet.

I am trying not to freak out! I ask Agent Davis if: ” He knows for certain that is melanoma?” He clears his throat and says: “I am not a dermatologist but I would get that checked out. Could you resend the puppy pictures please?” I CAN NOT believe he is worried about the puppy pictures when my friend has the continent of Africa on her back!
I attempt to get off the phone as soon as possible and deal with my friend’s situation. Again, I offer my services to zhuzhing up reports or pulling a Mata Hari in a sting operation. Agent Davis blandly replies:” No thank you, we’ve got this.” They wouldn’t have a case if it wasn’t for my METICULOUS report and undercover work! Okay, the melanoma pictures were a slight misstep but other than that! I feel like I was a huge contribution in this case. I daydream about what I will wear when Hoda and Savannah interview me on shutting down the PuppyGate scam! Is it possible to lose twenty pounds in a week?!
Agent Davis is clearing his throat. He informs me that they will be in touch if need be. The phone beeps and I hear him breathing like one of those creepers. It is so awkward that I say something like “We should have a code.” Silence: “For what?” he sighs.
“In case I am kidnapped by Boris and Natasha! They have my address! What if they realize that I am the snitch? I have seen MANY crime shows and the snitches or informants always wind up bloated in the river, tied down with cement blocks., it’s not a good look!” Again silence, heavy breathing. I really don’t like these awkward silences. So I throw in: “Perhaps I should come down to the bureau and we can discuss the next step of the plan.”
“Thank you for your assistance, we will be in touch.” The phone goes dead. Well, that’s a nice “Thank You for your help we wouldn’t have a case without you!”

I Google”How to get into the FBI”. Up comes all of the stuff I have to do to enter the academy. I don’t want that. I want to know how to get into the building to speak to Agent Davis’ superiors and tell them how rude he was. Also, I would like to meet Alice in person(I think we would be friends!).

Confused Husband bursts into the room with laptop in hand to show me how massive our Puppygate is! There are hundreds of people who were sucked into this abyss and they lost thousands! He smiles proudly and says that: “We were lucky, on the brink of the cliff but we didn’t jump!” (Says the man who had me booked on a plane without food and water!). He shows me there are support groups for victims of the puppy scam and looks to see if there are any near us that we could join. I explain that I am not going to sit in a circle with a bunch of strangers and talk about what idiots we all are! He replies that: “We wouldn’t join to talk about how dumb we were! We would talk about how smart we are that we didn’t lose any money!”
I cannot believe him, “You mean you want us to join a group of people that lost money so we can brag about how much smarter we are than them?”
“Pretty much,” he says.

It is then I realize, this is going to be Confused Husbands war story that all men need. His tale to tell over a drink with the guys, or while watching a soccer match. It will go something like this:” Did you ever hear of that massive puppy scam by that Russian gang.”(what Russian gang? Isn’t a gang a whole group of people? This was more like a Russian duet!)

“Well, they tried to pull that on my wife when she was looking for a puppy.” (Leaving out the part where he had me booked on a no food, no baggage, same day flight.)

“We had to help the FBI.”(Omitting the part where I filled out the forms and spoke with them.) “Yes, we were the ones that brought them down.” (There is no WE in me!)

“Yup they messed with the wrong guy when they met me.”(Okay, they never met you I just couldn’t understand the guy that is why I gave him your number!) I can just picture him mosying up to someone all dramatic and announcing: ”I am a survivor.”

Chapter One Hundred Forty-Nine: Ma’am and the Wordle virus…

I keep hearing whispers of Wordle. At first, I assumed it was the new strain of Coronavirus. I overhear a guy on the metro blathering on about how he has a bad case of the Wordle. I move away from him.
I hop off the metro afraid he has given me Wordle. I wonder if I now need to get a Wordle booster? I feel like everyone knows what Wordle is but me. I planned to go to Target. But now I am probably contaminated with Wordle so what good is purchasing lipstick and deodorant when I am on the cusp of a Wordle apocalypse?
I head towards the pharmacy. My anticipation grows. Two ladies in front of me are arguing. One says: ” He prefers Wordle over sex!” The other says:” Can you blame him? I mean, I got it in three tries and it was sooo stressful! But now I am addicted!” The other woman yells:” I will not become infected by Wordle!”

“I hear you sister!” I want to say! Omg! Everyone knows about Wordle but me! I am in a Syfy movie and people are being poisoned by a strain called Wordle! I will be the lone survivor hunted by Wordle Zombies! I am freaking out!!!

What if I have Wordle and don’t know it? Is there a blood test? Can I use my rapid Covid test? Do I need a different test? I need these questions answered!

I call my know -it- all friend who is a walking font of knowledge. She is a 24-hour news service and needs her own ticker tape. It goes to voicemail and says:” I cannot come to the phone as I have been bitten by the Wordle bug!” She sounds carefree and jolly at this declaration! I am about to faint from fear! She to has been INFECTED!

I bolt into the pharmacy, of course like a bad Lifetime movie albeit a major emergency I STILL have to wait in line. I look around at the other customers and ponder are they Wordle carriers? I wonder what the symptoms are? A guy near me looks a little rough and I speculate which stage of the Wordles’ he has. I feel my anxiety climb. Is Wordle painful? Will I be in a Wordle ward? I attempt to Google it but all that comes up is some stupid game.

I Google Wordle virus. Pictures of people dying from diarrhea, vomiting, and what looks like a heightened state of Zombie stare back at me. WTF?! I don’t want to turn into a Zombie! I could never be a cannibal! My mind begins to wander, do vegans and vegetarians that become Zombies not eat people? Do they only devour veggies? Is it too late for me to turn vegan so I won’t crave human flesh? I call, Confused Husband to ask if we have a Wordle emergency plan?

He bellows into the phone to ask if: “I am at Happy hour somewhere during lunch? Isn’t it a tad early to be drinking margaritas at this time of day?” I hiss back that: “He will be the first person I eat once I turn into a flesh-eating Wordle zombie!”
He mutters something about: “Do you know a five-letter word that starts with I and ends with E?” I holler back IMBECILE!” before hanging up, hear him say: “That’s eight letters.” Obviously, I am in this horror movie myself!

FINALLY, it is my turn at the pharmacy. Skippy who, is no more than a day over twelve and looks like Harry Potter in a lab coat is looking down at his phone and saying to no one in particular: “Yesterday the word was camps and, I just couldn’t figure it out! I tried every possible configuration and it just baffled me! Today the same thing is happening! I am in a Wordle conundrum!” (OMG! He is infected as well!) I clear my throat he looks up.’Oh! Sorry, he shrugs and whispers: “Wordle!”

“EXACTLY!” I say a little too forcefully, causing him to jump. “Do I need a jab for it? Is there a rapid test? What are the symptoms? Will I have a hankering, for human flesh? Can you tell me if I have to quarantine? ” I wait for Harry Potter’s response. He stares at me and blinks. ” Ickle”, he replies. Sighing in relief.
I am SOOOO bewildered! What the hell is an ickle? Is it the name of the Wordle ant-virus drug I need to take? I wait and he says: “I can’t believe it was so simple yet so difficult all in one! It really stumped me!”

It is obvious that Harry Potter was a much better wizard than pharmacist. I give up. Like an exhausted animal that has been chased, by hunters, I relent. I walk away from the pharmacy slowly in defeat. I will face the Wordle virus head-on and fight it on my own. I am the lone survivor like Kiefer Sutherland, but without any staff or access to a bunker. I will be more like Will Smith in I am Legend, but my title will be I am Wordle…