Man's Best Friend?
On My Friendship with Maxine the Beagle
I have often heard that dogs are considered “man’s best friend,” so I got one. She’s a beagle-mix named Maxine. But I have often struggled with this whole “friendship” thing.
First of all, it’s been hard being friends with someone who shits outside, in the middle of my lawn. I’ve been friends with a variety of folks from all different walks of life, but this is the first time I’ve ever had a friend who just out of the blue popped a squat and squeezed out a turd right in front of me.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, while she was dropping a deuce in the grass, she kept trying to make eye contact with me. I don’t want to see anybody moving their bowels, and I definitely do not want to lock eyes with them while they’re in the middle of that process.
“How can you look me in the eye while doing that?” I asked her. “Have you no sense of decency, ma’am?”
She said not a word, as she arched her back, grinned from ear to ear, and stuck her tongue halfway out of her mouth. She finally finished her business, but she didn’t wipe herself, wash her hands, or try to clean up the nasty mess she had just made. Instead, she ran over to me and tried to sit her stinky butt down on my lap.
I think she might be mentally — what’s the politically correct term for this? — retarded? She struggles with the English language, despite having been born in the United States. Whenever I ask her a question, she just howls like a baby. And that’s the second problem with this “friendship:” we have a hard time communicating with each other.
I have tried to be a good friend and work with her on her conversation skills. Gorillas can learn sign language, so I thought maybe it would inspire her if we watched a documentary about Koko the Gorilla together. Unfortunately, her attention span is even worse than her ability to communicate.
I tried giving her a children’s book for beginning readers, something extremely basic, with a bunch of pictures and very few words. Not only is she totally illiterate, but she is apparently unable to tell the difference between food-sources and books made from thick cardboard.
There are a few cats who also live with us, and although they do not communicate much better than the dog does, they do at least seem to understand that cardboard is not good to eat.
The cats are also much more discreet about using the bathroom. Whereas Maxine the Beagle likes to poop outside, in broad daylight, in the middle of the yard, without any regards for who might be looking, the cats do not like to be seen while they are doing their business.
One time I was walking by one of the bathrooms and actually saw the oldest cat, Coco, using the litter box. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The cats are so secretive about it, that it’s almost impossible to catch them in the act. It was like catching sight of a leprechaun or a four-leaf clover or something. When Coco realized I was watching, she glanced over her shoulder with an embarrassed expression, as if to say, “Really? Can you give me some privacy please? I don’t watch you while you use the bathroom, do I?”
Unlike the cats, Maxine the Beagle has absolutely no shame when it comes to the time, place, and manner of her bathroom activity. And that leads me to the third reason I am struggling with this whole friendship thing: her lack of bladder control.
We got Maxine from the Humane Society, which means someone else tried to be best friends with her before me, but it didn’t work out. Looking back, I probably should have asked about that. Why would someone decide they needed to abandon this super-friendly beagle? Once we got home, I figured it out pretty quickly.
Whereas most dogs display emotion by wagging their tails or barking, Maxine likes to express her feelings by urinating. A lot. If she’s excited, she pisses. If she’s nervous, she pisses. Happy? She pisses. Sad? She howls a country-western song and then pisses. Consequently, she spends much of her time outside, where she can express herself freely.
Maxine’s relationships with the cats involves a lot of drama. Of our three cats, one actually does like Maxine; another tries to avoid her at all costs; but the grumpiest of the cats, Coco, absolutely despises her. Of course, Coco also dislikes pretty much everyone except me. (I’ll have to write about Coco separately, because she’s a real piece of work.) I think it might have something to do with the fact that one day Maxine decided to wolf down Coco’s food, while Coco was in the middle of eating. I don’t know if you know much about cats, but messing with cats’ food while they’re eating is a good way to get on their bad side. Ever since then, whenever Maxine wanders too close to her, Coco goes into playground-bully mode, even though Maxine is at least twice her size; so usually Maxine gives Coco a very wide berth.
Despite the fact that she routinely gets punked out by Coco the Cat, Maxine will turn into a brave superdog whenever we go on walks around the neighborhood. She courageously offers to protect me from potential threats like delivery trucks, other dogs, and even an occasional scary-looking child riding by on a tricycle. Of course, most of the time the kids intuitively understand that Maxine is all bark and no bite, so they ignore her barking and come over to pet her, and whenever they do, she goes all soft and returns their kind gesture by licking them affectionately.
On one occasion, we returned home from a walk after Maxine had just attempted to challenge a very large van to a duel, which she seemed very confident that she would win; and she was so amped up and feeling so brave, that she decided to show Coco the Cat who was boss by taking a shit in Coco’s litterbox. That was the first and also the very last time Maxine ever tried that. Large multi-ton vehicles traveling at several miles per hour may be one thing, but a pissed-off 10-pound wildcat? That’s a whole different level of scary!
Maxine and I may not be best friends, but as time has gone by, I guess she’s kind of grown on me. She seems to appreciate my cooking, no matter what I cook or how loudly my kids complain about it. She is always delighted to see me; I guess in her mind I’m the greatest hunter the world has ever seen, and she’s just awed by my prowess. She loves nothing more than hanging out together. No matter what we’re doing or where we go, she’s just as happy as can be to come along for the ride. So even though it has been a struggle, I think I’m learning to appreciate our friendship.
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