Don’t get me wrong. I love humans. I just don’t understand them.
Exhibit A: The family in front of me.
Life’s not easy for a pound dog. We crazy canines are lean, mean, adopt-me machines. We have to wag our tails until our rear ends fall off, whimper until we’re hoarse, and cock our heads until our necks snap clean off. Maybe I ain’t nothing but a pound dog, but I sure do know that’s what the humans just drink right up.
But wait! There’s more!
That’s right, folks; it only works if you’re a puppy! Goodness me, when did I ever think those little tricks could work for a grizzled old German Shepherd dog like me?
So, while the rest of the population of Happy Endings Adoption Center is busy making a primate out of itself, I’m lying on the opposite side of the Doggy Crate, pretending to be asleep.
Really, I’m watching the family.
There’s the mother. She’s a round-faced plump little woman with rosy cheeks and curly brown hair; in doggie-lingo, a first-class chef plus a serious scrap-feeder. If you so much as glance her way, she’ll give you a heaping plate of steak, plus gravy. Some puppy’s lucky star is shining bright tonight.
Then there’s the father. He’s a tall, sturdy specimen with a little belly starting to show. He has strong features, red hair—red hair?—and green eyes. If he doesn’t coach football or at least baseball, call me Steve.
Look, twin girls! It looks like they inherited their father’s flaming locks. Hm, where would a pair of thirteen-year-old purse-dragging girls go first? Of course, the Kitty Tub! How surprising!
Wait. There’s a boy. Little, maybe third-grade, with short brown hair and a Little Springs Shepherds baseball cap. You just gotta love ‘em Little Springs Shepherds. They’re the local junior baseball team whose logo is, naturally, the coolest dog breed around, the German Shepherds. Any human who worships German Shepherds deserves an A-plus in my book.
Hm. If this family drove all the out to Red Valley for a pet, they must be serious.
He’s looking at the Doggy Crate. All the other dogs are pressed up against the edge, little puppy faces poking out. It’s the pick-me expression. Ears up slightly, big eyes, a little unsure, shy smile, muzzle on paws, glancing up. It may be a newsflash to you humans, but we dogs don’t always look like that. We’re sneakier than cats when we have to be. We’re smarter, too. Ask a cat to fetch something and he won’t know what you’re saying. Ask a dog to fetch something and, wham, we fetch it. No strings attached. We don’t even form labor unions.
So, here we have Little Springs Shepherds boy. He picks up one of the puppies and inspects its feet. What is he doing? A look of frustration speeds across his face faster than a dog chasing two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. The store manager, a grumpy old man with a face like a pickled lemon, stalks over. “What do you think you’re doing?” he snarls.
Little Springs Shepherds boy drops the puppy, causing the poor thing to let loose a ‘present.’ “My daddy can tell a boy doggie or a girl doggie from its paws,” he says doggedly. “I was just . . . practicing. Yeah. I was just practicing.”
“Well, get a dog or get out,” sneers Grumps. He shuffles back to his post. “Green-eyed hooligans.”
Meanwhile, back at the crate, Potential Owner is busy at what he’s best at: being stupid. Little Woman comes over with a concerned look plastered over her face, worried her child prodigy is about to start a tantrum.
“Have you decided on a puppy, Charlie?” she asks.
Charlie. If my pachyderm mind can remember, it means “free man.” Great. I suppose I’ll be the slave then.
Alas, before this slave driver can leash me to a cotton gin, the twin girls turn into banshees. “Not fair! Not fair!” they squeal. Did I mention high-pitched squeaking can shatter a dog’s eardrums? “Mom! Why does he get to pick?” shrieks the first banshee. “Mom!”
“Quiet, girls,” says Eats-Without-Thinking. “I’m sure your mother has a plan. Lottie?”
Mom answers swiftly, “Yes, yes, Charlie, why don’t you pick the animal; Annie, Babe, you can pick the name.”
The banshees instantly transform into twin girls. “Sure, Mother,” says the first one endearingly. The second girl smiles.
“But . . .” starts Boy, then thinks better of it. Good thing, too. Otherwise he’ll have a kitten named Fluffy. Boy shifts gears. “Can I pick any one of the doggies?” he asks, scuffing his sneakers on the floor. “Any one?”
Mom is envisioning a tiny ball of colorful fluff that knows every trick in the book and walks itself. “Of course, dear.”
Boy grins mischievously. His little green eyes zoom over the different puppies. I quickly pretend to snore.
Here it comes.
My belly’s shaking. You can’t be a grizzled German Shepherd without eating things in your life that don’t agree with you. Unfortunately, the pet store “food” doesn’t just disagree, it calls the National Guard.
My tail lifts. Boy leans forward, mouth open to expectation. I squeeze my eyes shut.
“Ew! That dog farted!” screeches Banshee. “It farted, Mom!” Girl smiles timidly.
Mom has turned a delicate shade of green.
The boy has turned a lovely shade of buy him. Now.
Grumps is angry.
Banshee is angry.
Dad is angry.
I am . . . infuriated.
How dare they purchase me! How dare they shove a stupid collar around my neck! How dare they stuff me into a cage! How dare they throw me into the back of a car! How dare they drag me out of that . . . that jailhouse!
Maybe being bought wasn’t such a bad idea.
Apparently Boy was looking for Demon Farter Dog.
Apparently I am Demon Farter Dog.
Apparently they’re discussing my execution.
“What are we gonna name him?” says Boy. “We gotta give him a name!”
“What do you want to name him?” Mom asks sweetly.
Banshee shrieks, “You said we could name him!”
“No way! You’ll give him a stupid name.” Boy scowls.
“Maybe we should tell him our names, first,” Dad suggests.
Banshee frowns. “Dogs don’t understand English.”
I suddenly realize that the cage is unlocked.
Girl squiggles some signs in the air. Banshee translates aloud. “Yes, they do.” Banshee’s eyebrows furrow. “No, they don’t!” Girl amends herself: “No, no, they don’t.”
Boy grins. “Sure, Dad!”
Dad squats in front of the cage. “Hey there, boy. I’m Bartholomew Yale Scribe. Call me Bart. She’s Charlotte Scribe. We call her Lottie.”
Mom interjects, “Ooh, tell him about the alphabet!”
Oh goodie, the alphabet. What fun! I simply can’t wait.
Banshee rolls her eyes.
Ha, I agree with her.
“Well,” says Dad, “in my family, the first child is named A, the second one is B, the third one is C, and so forth.”
Letters? They name their kids letters?
“So, my big brother is Arnold. I’m Bartholomew. My younger sister is Catherine.”
Oh! I get it.
They name their kids letters?
“This is Anastasia Zelda. We call her Annie.” He gestures to Girl. “This is Babette Yelena. Call her Babe.” He turns to Banshee. Ha. Banshee. Babette. “Finally, Charles Xavier here is called Charlie.” He pokes my nose. I bare my fangs. “Since you’re the fourth little arrival, we’ll call you D. Any suggestions?”
Boy yells, “Doodlebug! Let’s name him Doodlebug! Then I can call him Dood.”
Oh, I see. An excuse to desecrate the English language. If he calls me Dude one time, I’ll eat his face off.
Banshee grimaces. “Doodlebug? Aren’t they ant lions or something?”
“Nah. They’re just doodlebugs,” insists Boy.
Dad cuts in, “How about Dumbo? He’s got big ears.”
And a pachyderm memory.
Mom shakes her head. “Let’s name her Dolly. Then we can wake up every morning singing, ‘Hello, Dolly’!”
Her?! Do I look like a female dog to you?
Banshee growls, “You said we could name him!” She stomps her feet.
Mom nods. “What do you want to name him?”
Banshee lays a hand on her heart and closes her eyes. Girl smiles and takes out a thick book.
Swooning, Banshee murmurs, “D’Artagnan.” She collapses dramatically into Girl’s arms. “D’Artagnan, d’Artagnan, wherefore art thou d’Artagnan?”
“I believe that’s old Shakespeare, not Dumas.” Dad chuckles at his own joke.
Boy shrieks, “No, that’s stupid! That’s a dumb name for a dumb dog, and he’s not dumb. He’s a Demon Farter Dog!”
I scrunch up my nose. “One fart,” I protest. “It was only one fart. Just one.”
Mom glances pleadingly in Dad’s direction. “Bart? Why is she barking like that?”
“Hey, boy, what’s wrong?” says Dad in a soothing voice.
Oh, right. I almost forgot. We dogs are smart enough to know Canish, Felinese, and English, but humans can’t even speak English correctly.
“Someday, I’m going to marry d’Artagnan,” Banshee announces passionately, her hand fluttering over her heart.
“You’re gonna marry a dog?” Boy says, disgusted.
“No!” Banshee wails. “The real d’Artagnan!”
So, to recap. We’ve got “Bart,” who names his children letters, “Lottie,” who has gender identification issues, “Annie,” who hasn’t made a sound, “Babe,” who has an imaginary husband, and “Charlie,” who rates family members based on their rear end abilities.
Oh, I’m sure none of these fine citizens needs a visit to the insane asylum. Shall I phone the doctors?
“Mom, when are we taking Doodlebug home?” questions Boy.
“You mean d’Artagnan.” Banshee is insistent.
And in this corner, weighing in at a hundred and forty decibels . . .
I retreat to a corner of the cage. Maybe if I play dead, they’ll leave me by the side of the road.
Adiós, amigos. ¡Yo voy al aire libre!
Banshee explodes in a ball of fury, leaping onto Boy and attempting to strangle him. My nerves stand on end from their screeching as I slam into the side of the cage. The door silently slides open; I squeeze through. “Boy! Wait!” I yell, crashing into Banshee. Someone else is shrieking, but I can’t hear anything over the screeching going on beneath me as a hundred pounds of teenaged flesh struggles under my bulk. I whip around and butt Boy in the stomach. He’s laughing and scratches me behind the ears just right.
Suddenly, the fun and games are over. Something closes around my throat. I let out a warning snarl as Dad forces me off Banshee. Girl dashes to her side, weeping, pulling at her clothing. Mom appears, comfortingly laying a hand on Banshee’s head.
“Charles Xavier Scribe, because of your fighting with your sister,” Mom declares angrily, “dear Babette Yelena Scribe will tell us our dog’s name.”
Banshee coughs pitifully. Huh. “His name is . . . d’Artagnan.”
My goodness! The surprise!
Boy slaps Dad’s hands away and embraces me. “Thanks, Dart,” he says jubilantly. “I knew you were a Demon Farter Dog, but I didn’t know you were also a Demon Sister Killer Dog.”
“Charlie, I don’t think that dog—”
“—his name’s Dart—”
“—and his name is d’Artagnan, Charlie—”
“—which is what I said—”
“—except you said Dart—”
“—which is a nickname—”
“—that dog can stay—”
One of these screams is going to shatter my eardrums. I swear on my favorite chew toy.
Banshee’s eyes narrow dangerously. “Don’t punish the poor animal. That’s animal cruelty,” she complains. “Animal cruelty isn’t good. Punish that dumb beast instead.”
Boy looks confused. “You just said not to punish him.”
She snorts. “I meant you.”
Somewhere in the universe, a giant scoreboard lights up. Banshee—1, Boy—0.
“Middle name! Middle name!” Banshee says suddenly. “He needs a middle name!”
Boy butts in, “And it has to be V.”
“V? No, it’s W!” cries Banshee.”
“V is the fourth-to-last letter,” Boy insists doggedly.
Banshee shakes her head. “I promise you, W is.”
“Z, Y, X, W, V,”Boy recites, “See? Fourth to last. I win!”
“V was the fifth letter you said, genius!”
They’re arguing over the alphabet.
Dad breaks up the fight. “Stop it, both of you,” he warns. “W is the fourth letter, so it’ll be W.”
Where is it? Where is—there it is! The tongue-stick-out from Banshee! No sibling rivalry is complete without the classic tongue-stick-out maneuver.
Hm. W names. Wally? No, too vertical. Wren? No, too flighty. Windfall? No, too compounded. What in the world constitutes a good W name?!
“Since Charlie picked out the pet and Babe named him, let’s let Annie give him a middle name,” Mom suggests. She turns over to Girl and puts her large hand into Girl’s small one. She sort of squiggles the hand around, making funny shapes. Girl’s thinking now. I’m watching her with interest. Something fishy’s going on, and I don’t smell a cat. Girl makes some more funny shapes in Mom’s hand. Mom nods. “D’Artagnan’s middle name is Whirligig.”
Boy lets out a yip of excitement. “Whirligig! I wish my middle name was Whirligig.” Banshee rolls her eyes.
Mom smiles. “Shall we take him home?”
The children nod fervently.
Here we go again.
I’ve never liked cars. They’re always too fast and stinky. As well, they look about as nice as a rattlesnake. Anangry rattlesnake. I especially don’t like cars if I’m in a cage in the back. It’s not too fun, you know, to be bounced around while the car rattles about like a rattlesnake.
An angry rattlesnake.
So, while I’m being battered to bits in the back of the car, the family is laughing and chatting about their new dog.
You sick psychos you!
They deserve a new word dedicated just to them.
The first place they take me is ahorrible prison cell. The walls are a painful white, and the floor is so slick you fall over. A vicious executioner, with eyes aflame and a sneer on his face, pokes and prods me with chilling weaponry. Finally, he seems to realize I’m invincible and lets me out. As we leave, I overhear Dad mutter, “Stupid veterinarian. Charged us a couple hundred for a health checkup. It was just a health checkup. It doesn’t even make sense to charge us that much!”
Next, they take me to the Happy Sunshine Obedience Fun! center, which looks more or less like a giant thumbs down to me. The sign is painted with a smiling sun wearing sunglasses. There’s a motto: Funtime isn’t funtime without a well-trained puppy! Oh, goodie.
Oh, no, no, no. There is no way I am going to obedience school. I’m plenty obedient. See? Just give a command. Please. Any command. Any at all. No! No! Not obedience school!
Naturally, the stupid humans don’t listen.
Picture this: A big beefy human with a “happy sunshine” smile plastered all over his face. In his hand is a bag of Happy Sunshine Doggie Treats. Why doggie? Why not dog? Canine? Awesomely superior species? Okay, maybe that last one is a little over the top, but . . .
“How’s da widdle pwuppy gwoggie? How’s da widdle pwuppy? How’s yuh? How’s yuh?” the solid wall of beef intones in a terrifyingly cheerful voice. “How’s yuh? How’s yuh?” He rants off a list of rules at top-speed for the Scribes. They look confused. Dad hands over a handful of green handkerchiefs. The beef counts them, fake-grins, and puts them in his pocket.
“Weddy, gwoggie?” he coos. “Cum’ere naow, cum’ere, widdle gwoggie.” My eye on the treats, I dutifully march over and wag my tail. The beef coughs. “Naow, when I shay ‘Sit’ yuh sit daown, yesh, widdle pwuppy?”
I stare at him.
He puts his hand on my rear end. I snarl. The beef shushes me by waving a treat in front of my nose. I get cross-eyed trying to stare at it. “Gwood gwoggie. Naow. Sit.” I don’t move. He clears his throat and explains to Dad, “As you can see, he didn’t do a thing.”
Dad raises his eyebrows. “There’s a reason I’m paying you . . .”
“I know. I just wanted to show you. Now, watch what happens when I say it using—” His voices rises dramatically. “The perfect command voice!” Now his voice is firm and I-am-your-master-obey-me-slave-y. “Sit.” His giant hand forces down my rump. It hits the floor, jarring my rear end bones.
I squeal out in pain.
I didn’t just do that.
You were imaging that girly squeal.
“Gwood gwoggie! ‘Eres yuhr treat, ‘ere it is!” He throws the red-colored treat in the shape of a smiley face at me. I gobble it up. It tastes like grade-A plastic.
“Naow lettuce do it ageen! Gwoggie, sit.” His voice is suddenly harsh again. The beef’s fist smashes down on my posterior, forcing it down.
“Gwood pwuppy.” The beef gives me another treat. I ignore it. This time, I don’t stand up.
The beef’s eyes narrow. He forces me up. “Sit,” he barks. I sit down so speedily his hand doesn’t have a chance to attempt a dogslaughter. My posterior is safe. For now.
“There. He’s all trained up,” says the beef as he attempts to force a treat down my esophagus. “You guys can go now, and remember to come back next week for stay.”
I think I have a beef with the beef.
Dad is fuming when we come out. “Fifty bucks for a measly three biscuits and a hand on his butt?” he yells. “Fifty bucks?! I’m going to kill those stupid—”
“Can we take Dart home now?” says Boy, his eyes bright.
I sigh. Here we go.