When our girl started spotting, just a few red drops here and there at first, she was confused and a bit scared. I tried to be the mensch that the situation called for.

“Listen, Willa [short for Wilhemina], this is perfectly natural,” I told her. “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

But soon enough, dudes came calling — they have radar for this sort of thing.

“Go on, get out of here, you horny old dog. She’s just a kid!” I shouted at the first suitor, chasing him down the street and throwing a few stones to make sure he got the message.

Then I realized he probably wouldn’t get the message, since he was, in fact, a horny old dog.

And Willa was in heat. We found this out after we took her to the vet when the blood started showing up in little droplets on the floor. We had assumed she was fixed, since she was a rangy, almost-grown pup when a friend of a friend who didn’t have enough room for a shepherd dropped her off about a year ago.

They do grow up fast, don’t they?

The vet told us Willa couldn’t be fixed until a couple months after estrus, which she said would last seven to 10 days.

The dogs that started stalking around our house weren’t much to look at, and Willa seemed more concerned than attracted. I was worried there’d be a rash of missing-dog notices going up around the neighborhood.

At first, the whole thing was a minor inconvenience. Then, a couple of determined mutts managed to get between the wrought-iron posts of our gate and started to tunnel under a wall into our back yard, where Willa, a pretty shy girl, wondered what they wanted with her. Aside from not wanting to bring more puppies into a world that has a puppy problem, I felt that Willa wasn’t emotionally ready for this sort of interaction, despite what her body was saying. I tried my best to be reassuring even as Willa’s world turned upside down. As far as I was concerned, her fleeting innocence hung in the balance.

Then, she turned our favorite furry bed cover into a giant tampon. That was problematic.

Soon, we noticed the effect Willa’s condition was having on Max, a battered old guy with an empty change purse whom we had taken in several years ago. Max doesn’t have any teeth, let alone live ammo, and he can barely walk. Still, he seemed forlorn that he couldn’t be of more service to Willa, who was becoming increasingly agitated — less worried and more curious about hounds hovering around on the street. The simple things that used to mean so much to Max — a solid shit, an occasional treat and a rub on the belly — seemed less satisfying to him as Willa started soliciting him in a way that made us all feel a little uncomfortable.

Still, Max tried to punch his man card by chasing away Willa’s courtiers, who didn’t have much in the way of manners, anyway. He accomplished this with surprising verve, given that his top speed is about 4 miles an hour and his bark is more like a yelp.

I got a call at work the other day from my wife.

“You wouldn’t believe what’s going on here,” she said. “Willa’s practically throwing herself at Max, and he’s moaning like he knows he should be doing something.” They say amputees can still feel their missing limbs.

She told me that Max, who eats lying down, actually dragged himself across the room on his front legs in a futile attempt to salve Willa’s flaming kootch with his tongue.

That evening, while my wife made dinner, Willa nearly jumped out the window. I ran outside and saw that same horny old mutt from before lurking around.

“Don’t tell me you want him now, do you? What kind of tramp are you turning into?”

Willa looked at me like I was nuts and tried to jump out the window again.

I chased the dog away and patrolled the grounds. I noticed the underground tunnel was now nearly complete. I filled it in with rocks and pulled my car right up to the wall. After dinner, I went out back to get some laundry from the dryer, and somehow that damn dog was there in the back yard. I was almost starting to admire him. Even so, I growled like a wolf and the dog fled.

The next morning, after a night of Willa prancing around in frustration, Max sulking in defeat, and me recoiling in horror, I took our dogs for their walk. An aristocratic Doberman, the one with a full change purse who sometimes deigns to come down from his perch to indulge Max’s lame woofing — but who heretofore had all but ignored Willa — was out on the sidewalk. Suddenly, Willa was all he was interested in. It was like he was seeing her for the first time. He followed us all the way home, venturing a few well-mannered pokes into her nether region with his nose. Willa seemed a little too receptive, and Max and I finally sent him home. He’s not a very brave Doberman.

“Honey,” I said to my wife when we got home, thinking now of the possibilities, “I think Willa’s kind of into that Doberman.”

“No,” my wife said. “She’s not into that Doberman. She’s into the idea of that Doberman.”

—Joe Donnelly

LA Weekly