When I was growing up we always had cats. At least two. For a few years we had up to 12 (no, we weren’t animal hoarders. Our cat had kittens and the little suckers were too cute to give away). We had cats that slept in our cribs, something that horrified our grandmother who was positive cats sucked the breath out of babies while they slept. She also believed that if you leaned over a baby while it was sleeping the baby would develop a stammer. Well, my oldest brother did have a stammer for a couple years but none of the cats tried to suffocate me. While I was awake they were too busy running from my two year old grabby hands: “LET ME LOVE YOU!”
So we were always cat people. We had one dog, a German Shepherd name Boomer. My father often got bored with things and when that happened he’d get rid of whatever it was he was bored with. Dogs, humans, automobiles. We continued to be cat people. I didn’t dislike dogs. I never had the chance to be around them.
Until last year.
My brother’s girlfriend bought two mini Australian shepherds from a breeder in Oregon. There was one puppy left, a boy my brother bought and named Max (but I prefer to call him by his real name: Maxhole, stealer of socks). Our mom bonded with Max immediately. I’m not sure if he knows it yet but the dog isn’t my brother’s any more. Max is mom’s baby. She spent the next few months training him. We decided to take him to puppy training classes at a local pet store. I sat there, smug because Max was obviously the smartest dog there, especially after seeing Mittens in the corner trying to make sweet sweet love to a metal folding chair.
It became clear that I was not Max’s alpha. He sees me as a sibling, a rival for mom’s attention and affection. At any chance he got he would growl and bite me. A few months ago he started to lunge at me when I tried to give Mom a hug or hand her the TV remote.
That shit don’t fly.
As payback I decided to start messing with his head. Because why? Because I have the mentality of an 1 year old boy, that’s why. I’d yell at Max “House! Max! House!” and he’d come tearing through the room and jump into his crate, growling at me as if to say “Bitch, you’d better step off or I will cut you.” I even did it when his crate wasn’t in the living room. He’d run in and whip his head around. “Where’s my fucking house? I know the short chubby girl is up to no good.”
Max and I have reached a truce. I can’t remember what life was like before we got him. Some days I look at him and get this tight panicky feeling in my chest because one day he’ll die. For right now he’s the little fucker who steals socks, pre-rinses the dishes in the dishwasher and does drive by shittings in the dining room.
This morning I sat on the couch with Mom and Max, both of us petting him. He’d growled at me a few minutes before, having woken up from a deep doggy sleep to see me passing by his house. In his brain I’m sure he thought I was going to pour gasoline on his house and then throw a lit match on it.
“You know,” Mom said while she stroked his head, “I think you really traumatized him.”
“Yeah. But he deserved it.”