She's an Animal

I tell her to sit still.

She looks into the middle distance, wondering why she’s been left in my care, again. Because here she is on the living room rug, pantyhose draped sadly over her head, waiting for the turn of the key in the lock that will admit my unwitting sister. I stand behind the kitchen wall, hands wrapped tightly around my mouth. The door opens. There is a second of silence—always, just one second.

Then an expletive, and then my name. As if dressing a dog in sheer leggings for a surprise moose impression isn’t the best joke ever.

And now it’s time for another little talk. Apparently, it isn’t appropriate to put an animal in a little hat and wait giggling outside the bathroom door for someone to come out. Incomprehensibly, an eight-pound dog being shoved down someone’s shirt to play Pregnancy (or, depending on one’s mood, John Hurt’s Alien Moment) isn’t funny the fiftieth time. When I can breathe again, I will brilliantly counter with my usual two-point defense: the success of YouTube proving otherwise, and the fact that the dog is, as ever, completely unharmed.

I don’t paint her. I don’t stick things to her fur or loop anything around her neck, nothing that might cause her pain or more than temporary inconvenience. I know the dog is not a plaything—I should, the number of times I’ve had to recite it—but I really don’t think she minds. You wouldn’t tell by looking at her; the disdainful eyes peeping between the velvet neck ruffle and Beethoven coif, and yet the expression is pitying, rather than pitiful. She doesn’t hate her involvement so much as the asthmatic glee I get simply by draping a pair of underwear on her head. Sighing deeply at me, a striped leghole over one eye, the look on her face is a sad moue of one who expected the tall people to act better.

This is the genius. It is not contempt, not unhappiness, merely her role in the game. Every Laurel needs a Hardy, every Abbot his Costello. It could be different: she could wag her tail gaily when I come home, snort happily when I skritch her ears and put a single paw on my leg when I’m eating a cheese stick—but this is not our way. Our shtick is one of unspoken commitment; I’ll be idly turning over a doily, sneak a glance in her direction and she’ll already be rolled over, thinking of England.

The general opinion is that she hates me. I don’t think this is true. Did the Marx Brothers hate each other? Martin and Lewis did, but who can stand Jerry Lewis without six or seven neat Glenlivets? All great partnerships have their difficulties, but not all are easily smoothed over with a cuddle and a beef treat. Yes, she does not come when I call her, but offers only a resigned sigh when I pick her up. She does not growl, and performs only halfhearted attempts to run away. She does not bite me, even when she has been given free permission to do so; I would argue that constitutes a mutual, if begrudging, respect.

It must be stated that I am not laughing at the poor dog’s expense. She is a co-star in a three-part scene: I’m the puppetmaster, she’s the sight gag, but the payoff is in the reaction. A 13-year-old shih-tzu in a spaghetti turban is hilarious, but the yelling, the finger-shaking, the “rescue” of the “abused” dog—there’s the comedy. When I yell from the sofa that I MUST HAVE EATEN TOO MUCH AT DINNER, MY GOODNESS and my sister hollers back to TAKE THAT DOG OUT OF MY SHIRT, RIGHT NOW, I just giggle and go back to my reading, the dog happily asleep in her bed. The comics are in their dressing rooms and the joke’s still funny, because the audience is still laughing. The dog’s a placebo, a placeholder; she’s not the punchline. My sister is.

And she’ll be home in ten minutes, just in time for her dog’s Flashdance audition.

[12/05/08: This piece is now featured in The Foghorn.]


Mamaclsn said…

2.Did you submit this post somewhere? You should.


4.You are bringing some joy to that poor, blind, forgetful dog's life. Maybe she likes it, and maybe Lib does too.

5.I wish I could be there to see it.
Mamaclsn said…
I almost forgot... remind me sometime to show you neon in a cabbage patch dress. And hair tie. He liked it, too.
Sarah Beedoo said…
1. I know she likes it, I mean, come on. She's a little attention whore.

2. NEON? Doesn't he have claws?

3. Cabbage Patch Dress... hmmm...
Gibulet said…
Thank you for making me and my dog famous on the Foghorn. Few things though:

1) Touch a cabbage patch dress and you die.

2) She is 10 lbs, 11 years old, not blind, and she makes ME poor.

3) She tolerates it because she and Sarah secretly love each other.

4)It is ridiculous how hysterical Beed thinks this is when she is "caught." She seriously chokes on her face.
Dann Rafferty said…
This was hilarious.
Some of these things are jokes I would have made, and you would've said I was a dork.

I hope it's okay this time, since you've asked me about perfect tenses...

The phrase is "I must have eaten", and not "I must have ate".
Sarah Beedoo said…
I know. I fixed it on the "official" piece, I just forgot to do it here. Fixed now.

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