Tie Goes to the Dog

From our 2009 Asinine Prose Contest

by Dustin Michael

I KNEW THERE WERE DOGS in the deal even when my wife Neesha and I first hooked up, but at the time it wasn't so important. For all I know, she told me, ''I like to keep lots dogs around'' in the same breath as ''My mother's certifiably crazy'' and ''I may still technically have a boyfriend, kind of.'' Compared to the howling din of lust and rum that night, those words were like the faraway barks of a wild coyote out the window of my ramshackle Missouri apartment -- soft, almost sweet.

Little did I know then that Neesha would stay, a trick she never managed to teach to Bogey, the curmudgeony American Eskimo, and Bizzy, the brain-damaged German shepherd. Now they're my dogs, too. If it's true that dog owners resemble their dogs, I'm loathe to consider the ways we resemble these two. They're canine versions of a familiar pair of archetypes: the lumbering nincompoop and the crafty runt -- Lenny and George, Pinky and the Brain, Bush and Cheney. Bogey resembles Neesha only in that he's lousy to be around in the morning, thinks the Midwest is for shit, and can’t hold his liquor. Bizzy resembles me in that we both will eat an entire bag of Doritos when we know we're not supposed to.

Since Bogey and Bizzy came from dog shelters, Neesha employs a laissez-faire dog ownership model. It's as if she says, ''Do whatever you want. Really. Eat the place. Go nuts,'' and the dogs look back, like, ''You got it.'' She puts them out in the fenced backyard a few times a day, where they dig holes, bite each other, swallow and regurgitate their own feces, try to escape, and lunge up to bite any of our neighbors who are foolish enough to mow the perimeters of their yards.

The dogs are less pets than roommates with special needs. They hang around, get moody, and make incoherent demands, but they don't comfort, protect, or do tricks. Neesha believes that Bogey can actually detect when we’re sad, angry, or frightened, but mostly he stays wedged butt-first under the bed, staring out at us like a fluffy white eel. He snarls and snaps when I stroll by, and when I’m feeling down, he cozies up to my wife.

Speaking of my wife, she got Bizzy with her ex-boyfriend a few years ago, and even though it was before we met, I can’t help but resent it. Badly abused as a puppy, Bizzy apparently lost her short-term memory, like Memento but with a German shepherd. Either from befuddlement or frustration, she'll sometimes let out a long, low, sad sound that I try to time for dialogue.

''Bizzy,'' I say, ''I want to phone the zoo and say we found the dingo.''

''Mmmmmmm,'' Bizzy says.

''I want to sign you for a juicy role in the film Twilight: New Moon.''

''Mmmmmmm.''

Sometimes when I complain about something the dogs have done, be it devouring the toilet paper roll from the bathroom or regurgitating it mixed with their feces in the kitchen, I am told that I am just not a dog person.

Neesha's family, on the other hand, are dog people, and dog people give dogs special privilege. In disputes between humans and dogs, the tie always goes to the dog, like last Christmas, when Aunt Barb's unbalanced German shepherd did its Pac Man impression on Neesha's sister's face, or like three years ago, in the unfortunate clash of Neesha's parents' ferocious German shepherd and the UPS man.

Score: dogs two, humans zero.

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