Esme and I have been enjoying the Westminster Dog Show, and were thrilled that a Teddy-sized hound finally took Best in Show, though, as Esme points out, none proved they could fetch.
Much less train their humans to.
For years, despite scores of dogs attempting to teach me, I couldn’t master the throw-and-return maneuver. With Ted, for instance, he’d just bring the ball back to engage in a game of tug-of-war or, even better, Chase-the-Retriever-with-the-
Esme, though, trained me in a day. Maybe less. She even taught me how to play from the jacuzzi: Throw it toward the south fence, and she’ll teeter it on the tub ledge. Really. Here she is, trying to teach my aunt Lessie to fetch. (Says Esme, Keep goin, champ! You’re almost there!)
Now she’s got me working with another fetchable: a foot-long stuffed squirrel that eerily resembles roadkill. Except this treasure squeaks, from squeezable head to its whoopee-cushion tail.
For the purposes of this story, we’ll call the toy Chew-Barka — for story purposes only. I mean, what 51-year-old adult man would name his dog’s stupid stuffed animal? That’s crazy. You’re crazy. So drop it, ok? Jerk.
Anyway, Esme loves Chewy. Carries it everywhere. When friends visit, she invariably brings them her slobbered precious.
She even uses it to nag me. All dogs have an inherent sense of time, particularly when it’s marked with food. And it was hard to miss my dogs’ hunger pangs; Teddy would begin to pace in front of the TV everyday at 5 p.m.
Now, I get a squeak tone when it’s dinner time.
But I can never get angry, so deft is her touch with it. Linus would be impressed with Esme’s fondness for a security blanket.
One chilly night, as we were turning in (Esme always brings Chewy to bed), she burrowed close to borrow my body heat. I put some spare blanket over her — it’s gotten so that I can’t fall asleep without her — and put a hand on Esme’s belly to warm her.
Then I felt her fur, which was matted and moist, the way Teddy’s coat would turn after an epileptic seizure.
Panicked, I sat bolt upright, reached for the light switch. And realized I was petting Chewy.
For a moment, I may have angered. I can’t remember, because it fades whenever Ezzie gives me that look: Hey dummy, you’re petting a stuffed animal. But don’t worry. We’ll play in the morning. Yes we will. Yes we will! Who’s a good human?? Who’s a good boy??