This week is a special week because we are living in 2 houses. Mom and I still go to our stuck house, but we’ve been sleeping at this guy Thomas’s house while his family is traveling. The first time I went to Thomas’s house, Mom opened the door and Thomas was there waiting for us. “Hi, Thomas!” I said. “What’s uuuuhhh…” But then Mom opened the door further and I squealed and pushed Thomas out of the way.
Thomas has a CAT! I can’t believe he never mentioned this before!!!
I bumped Thomas to the side and ran right up to the cat to put my nose on her nose, then I froze my front half and squeezed all my excitement into my back half so it waggled my tail like a flag in a hurricane. Grey Cat and I stood nose-to-nose for a glorious few seconds. “Hi, I’m Oscar and I luuuurrrrrvvveee cats!” I whimpered to her. “Do you like to play tag??”
“Who the heck are you, Intruder Beast?!” Grey Cat asked suspiciously. And then she ran away and jumped on the counter where I couldn’t tag her.
Now whenever I come home to Thomas’s house, I run around the whole house whimpering, “Grey Cat?!?! Grey Cat?!?!?! Where’d you go? Do you want to play tag? I’ll be ‘it’ first!”
Thomas is my friend, I guess, but we don’t have much in common. He’s not a good runner like me. He has a real long body, but short little legs so he walks like a caterpillar and Mom and I have to walk slow so that he can keep up. He’s never been camping, didn’t go to puppy school, and is unemployed, so we don’t have much to talk about. Mostly I just pretend he’s not there, and I’m not sure he’s noticed me yet either. But he sure has noticed my food, and he has no table manners. If I leave my bowl alone for one second, he faceplants right into it and doesn’t even stop to breathe until it’s all gone.
When we go for a walk, Mom asks Thomas over and over to go potty, but he almost never does. He doesn’t even turn around when she says his name, he just looks at her like a dope, or keeps walking, depending on which way he’s pointing.
“Mom,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “He’s just going to wait till you’re asleep and then go potty in the house on that weird rug thing anyway. Don’t waste your breath. Kickable dogs don’t understand English.”
“Oscar! Don’t use racial slurs!” Mom said, like she was shocked and angry. “Just because someone has different traditions, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve all of your respect.”
“Well what am I supposed to call him?”
“A shih tzu” she said.
“Mom, I can’t say that word in polite company!”
“Or maybe he’s a lhasa apso…” Then she went on, “You just sat through harassment and discrimination training last week at work. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
“But Mom!” I said, “that was about humans. No one cares if a human is light grey, or dark grey, or medium grey, or has grey spots. No one cares if they live with a boy human or a girl human or no other humans at all, it’s got nothing to do with how they do their work. But dogs are different; each breed has certain traits. You would never see a lapso dog bringing brandy to someone trapped in an avalanche, and you would never see a St. Bernard hanging out in a lady’s purse.
“Lapso dogs are savages. Thomas goes to the bathroom in the house. Gross! And have you seen how he treats Grey Cat? He totally ignores her like she’s not there rather than chasing her like a real man-dog until she hides somewhere. It’s barbaric. And what kind of man-dog doesn’t scare anybody when he barks at them? Not that he barks at anyone in the first place — the lazy wimp. All he does is lay around all day and accept handouts. He’s about as useful as the British royalty.”
“Well he makes his family very happy, and that’s an important job too,” Mom said. “And you might not believe me, but a lot of people like having a dog that is quiet and doesn’t scare people. He’s a really lovable guy, you know. Maybe you should try to get to know him better and you’ll find more things to like about him.”
The next time we were on our very, very short walk and I had to stop and wait for Thomas to catch up, I turned back to look at him as he waddled toward us. I expected him to have some dopey, blank look on his face, but he was grinning with his little tongue hanging out. I’d never noticed how much he smiled. And he was panting like he was working really hard, not being lazy. “Hey, guys! Isn’t this fun?” he puffed. “I love my neighborhood. Do you like my neighborhood? Wait, come here, let me show you the best stinky bush.” I didn’t want to see his dumb bush, but I had to wait so long while he sniffed it that curiosity got the better of me and I sniffed it too. And I had to admit… it was pretty stinky.
When we got back to the house, Thomas waddled right to his bowl before Mom could even take his leash off. “Have you ever tried Natural Balance?” he asked. “It’s my favorite, and my mom has the best Natural Balance recipe in town. Here, you eat the Natural Balance and I’ll eat a traditional food from your house.” Mom put my bowl down and he planted his face in it up to his shoulders. “This is okay, I guess,” he said. “It’s kind of like Natural Balance but the shape is different. I like how you put cheese on it the other day. I never thought of that. Mmmm, what are the clumpy things?”
Since his face was blocking my bowl and I was kind of hungry, I sniffed his kibble. It smelled gross. Cautiously, I put one in my mouth and chewed on it. It wasn’t so bad, actually. I ate a couple more, but decided that it would be better with cheese on top and stopped to see if Mom would drop some in the bowl like she sometimes does when I get sick of my kibble.
When we had finished each other’s dinners, Thomas went to his nearest bed (he has beds all over the house) and lay down. I went to play Hide and Go Seek with Grey Cat, but when I still couldn’t find her, I came back into the room where Thomas was now snoring. I looked at him curiously.
There were lots of non-Oscar things about him, so at first I thought they were bad. The reason he didn’t run wasn’t because he was lazy, it was just because his body was different. And he probably didn’t chase Grey Cat because it’s not fun to always lose at tag and hide and go seek. For reasons that I just couldn’t understand, he seemed really happy being Thomas even though he had no life. Because he didn’t have a job to do, or anyone ordering him around, he had nothing to be stressed out about. And since he had a family with a mom and a dad and a nanny and a couple of people puppies who all came and went, he didn’t have to worry about his whole family tying him up outside a Starbucks and maybe never coming out. It seemed like a pretty relaxing way to live. No wonder he was so chill.
I was beginning to understand what mom meant when she said that all the differences in people was what she liked so much about The City. I like hanging out with family and my other herding dog friends because we all like to do the same stuff. But a lot of Mom’s friends are different breeds from her. They teach her about their lives, and sometimes Mom learns a new way to think about something, or a better way to do something. Sometimes Mom just learns she’s being a jerk (not being a jerk is real important to humans). Obviously there was nothing that I could learn from Thomas, but maybe if I did lots of things with him that make him happy and we became like real friends, he would want to be more like me and there was hope that he could become a “real dog” after all. Mom thinks I’m missing the point, but I reminded her to be more tolerant and stop imposing human culture on a dog. Oscar the Pooch