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ALOYSIUS P. ARBUCKLE

by Fred Miller

edited Sej Harman

Artwork, “Charcoal Puffy Dog” by Alexa Gaffaney


The first moments of the day are the best: peaceful, serene, and cozy. I blink in the early morning light and listen to the birds, music to my ears. Then I cock one eye open and make a security sweep of the place. The management is still in the sack. Figures.

A couple of hours ago the symphonic scene around here was a bit different. The management team here snores, both of them. She sounds like a kitten with a raspy purr, bless her heart, but his blast sounds like a sonic boom echoing up the Grand Canyon. I mean. And you may wonder how someone with my sensitive ears could tolerate this bizarre noise. Simple. I cover my ears with my paws.

Yeah, I’m a dog, Aloysius P. Arbuckle, at your service. The P? Stands for Peabody, her maiden name, and it’s spelled m-o-n-e-y. Good soul that she is, the girl never wears it on her shoulders the way some around here do. Sorry, I drifted a bit; this is supposed to be about me. I’m a mature dog with just a hint of gray wisdom around my muzzle. Distinguished, I’d say. Charming, too. And by chance, that’s part of my formal name: Clever Cockers Charming Aloysius. The American Kennel Club chose that for me when I was just a wee pup. Hard for me to believe those folks could have gotten it so right, but I guess the AKC really knows names.

After a few minutes I hear a stir. Whew, it’s about time. My body’s closing in on a state of acute urgency. John, the male, rolls over and buries his head under a pillow—not a good sign. Hmm, this calls for a cavalry charge. A quick jump and my paws land firmly on his back. Ouch. A sharp pain shoots across me mid-ship as I leap. Must be my arthritis.

“‘s okay, boy. Go on out and do your stuff,” he says, “I’ll be along shortly.”

Cute. I’ll just trot downstairs, slide the patio door open, let myself out, and sip some coffee. And maybe light a cigarette and read the morning paper while I wait for you to roll out of bed. Ha!

I think I’ll try the ole pitty-pat paw routine across his shoulder blades. Nothing. Hmm, maybe an urgent whine. And, by the way, if you’re not into dog-speak, this roughly translates into the following: “Hey, Buster, do you wanna take me out now or take a big risk?” Still nothing. Okay, a more drastic move is called for—my double whammy. In less than a nanosecond I lick both ears. And I must tell you, not many dogs have perfected this move, but I’m proud to say I mastered it ages ago. Ah, that did it. And before you can say Champion Charming Aloysius, we’re out and about. I’m making my rounds with my insides screaming “oh, thank you.” I prance around on the sparkling dew and take a deep sniff of the morning air. Now I’m famished.

John’s sitting at the patio table reading the business news and waiting for his morning fare. And in case you’re wondering, I don’t fetch. Ole John boy strolls out to the driveway to pick up his own paper while I do my necessaries. Oh, they tried to teach me to retrieve, believe me. Only took three chewed up newspapers to convince them of their error. And if there’s one thing my friends and I agree on, it’s the huge challenge of training these humans. I mean. Diplomatically speaking, they’re a bit slow.

Ah, here comes Marsha with the sweet buns and coffee. She’ll provide me with a bowl of what I politely call dog gravel, while the management nibbles on better offerings. Gee, thanks folks. I scarf mine down while holding my breath and then ease over to her side to provide a bit of first class table love. My eyes widen with affection, and I listen to her make a big show over the ills of pets’ overeating, and how bad human food is for our kind, but it’s all a big act she puts on to fool ole John boy. I cock my head to one side and politely nod like, Sweetie, you are so-o-o- right; but as soon as Mr. Big Shot leaves for work, I get the goodies: cheese, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and sweet bun snacks. Hallelujah. And I must hand it to the gal; her male counterpart is clueless.

This might be the appropriate time for a short sidebar. A sidebar? It’s a term John is very familiar with as are all attorneys. Roughly, it means the judge has called the opposing attorneys up to the bench so he can whack both of them on the head with his gavel and whisper a reminder of who’s in charge and how the proceedings are to go forward. Okay, here are my needs: a sumptuous breakfast at sunrise followed by a nap and a light brunch, and a five-star dinner at sundown. And I might add late-night TV snacks if the management is around. And I require fresh water in my bowl daily. Now note this: nothing is more humiliating to a dog than a water bowl that looks as if someone has spilled a box of cornflakes in it. I mean. And, oh yes, no runny-nosed kids yanking on my ears. I’m a champion Cocker, I need my space. Got it?

Time for another reconnaissance around the perimeter and maybe check on Rufus and Delores, Delores first, of course. I peek through the fence. No Delores. She’s probably watching the early edition of the TV morning news with that settled lady she lives with. A quick dash to the other side of the yard and I see my friend Rufus.

“Yo, Rufus.” A toy bulldog scoots across the grass and for a few seconds we nose each other. It’s just our way.

“Rufus, what’s shakin’ man?”

“I’m cool, Allie. You?”

“Copacetic, bro, just copacetic.”

We exchange a few nothings, get bored, and trot off to check out the birds, squirrels, and any other intruders in our respective fiefdoms. Notice I didn’t mention cats. Those mangy interlopers are bunched into the “other intruder” categories. And that’s the best I’ll allow them. And speaking of such, none have dared to come onto this hallowed ground since I was hired to handle security around here. I’ll admit that a few have come close now that I don’t move as fast as I once did, but bared pearly whites and a growl usually communicate the necessary risks they’re considering.

Say, you haven’t heard any of my cat jokes, have you? I’ve got a bunch of ’em. Heard the one about the cuddly cat everyone in the neighborhood loves? Me neither. Ha! Good one, huh?

Ah, I see the female management start to clear the breakfast table. Better scoot over for my late morning brunch followed by a little shut-eye. Now, naps bring up an interesting dilemma: where to stretch out. I prefer the sofa, but for reasons unknown, that place is reserved for the management except, of course, when they’re off premises for a while.

The scrambled eggs and bacon are just scrumptious. After cleaning my plate, I look up at her with my dreamy eyes and beam. You’re the best, Sweetums. She smiles and pats my head. Works every time.

This morning I take my snooze on a designer pillow reserved for yours truly. Just need to circle around, scratch out a spot, and “ouch,” there’s that nagging pain again. Not getting any younger, I guess.

About an hour later I sense her approach in a sweatshirt and pedal pushers, not a good sign. She slides the patio door open, grins and tries to sweet talk me into going outside. She continues her little sing-song urgings while I pretend to be asleep. You’re not foolin’ me, girl. I’m on to your tricks.

While she whistles a tune on her way to the shed for the dreaded dog tub, I sneak out and duck under the house. I’ve spotted a shady corner under there where she’ll never find me. Oops, here she comes.

“Allie, oh Allie, come on out boy, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

In a pig’s eye, you do. Think I don’t recognize that syrupy tone? I’m not here, Honey. Try the kid’s park down the street.

I can hear the tub filling with water from the hose. Have you any idea how cold that water feels on a dog’s private parts? Didn’t think so. She continues to whistle while she gathers towels, brushes, and that vile dog soap.

“Come on out, Allie. This is going to be fun. You know you love to take a bath.”

Yeah, I love to eat nails, too, Sweet Britches. Just hold your breath till I get the urge to come out.

“Allie, come out of there,” she says. “This isn’t funny and I’ve got a busy schedule today. Get your fanny out here.”

Ooh, that was loud, sounds serious.

Uh, oh, she’s coming in. I close my eyes, my mind conjuring up an invisible dog. Rats, didn’t work, she sees me. I make a mad dash around her left flank. Oof, caught by the back leg. Not as fast as I once was. Glad Delores can’t see me now. I look like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.

Here I am in the drink while she soaps me with that perfumed Doggie Heaven scent. Disgusting. I try to show my worst look: droopy eyes, mouth open with a dead tongue look. I want her to see my bewilderment. It’s as visible as a corner Starbucks, but she never looks my way. If humans could read canine nonverbals, I’d be on report and assigned to KP for a year. I mean.

It’s over. I’m wet and smelly. A bit later I’m fluffed dry. She starts toward the house with the wet towels, and behind her back I roll in the dirt in desperation. Now I hear Rufus smirking in the corner of the fence. Not funny, Rufus, you sawed-off little…I don’t really say it, just thinking. Rufus is a sensitive fellow. I wouldn’t hurt the boy for anything. Come a little closer to the fence, pal. Get a sniff of the new me…and watch me take a nip out of your nose. Rufus is too smart. We stare at each other and laugh.

That ruckus wore me out. For a while I bask in the late afternoon sun. Here she comes again. Should I open an eye? Patting me, are you? Trying to make up? What, a liver treat? Now, that’s the ticket. Wait a minute, is this another of trick of yours?

Nope, we’re in the car now, my ears flopping in the wind. Maybe we’re headed for Sonic. Yeah, that’s it, Sonic. Turn, turn, turn, Baby. Hmm, not Sonic.

Maybe she’s taking us to that new BBQ place. John will never know, Precious, I’ll never tell. Uh oh, this route is looking suspicious. What, the vet? I guess I better practice my desperation look. Oh, no, they’re taking me to the Cocker rendering plant.

What’s a vet, you may ask? Well, as best as Rufus and I can determine, he does canine screen tests for the movies. Must be, so many lights around the room. Rufus says the guy’s a Botox doc, too, always poking us with needles.

They’re in consultation now, whispering. Hey, I’m star material. Go for the big film bucks, Muffin. Make ’em reach high. Here they come. Better pretend I don’t know what’s going on.

Hey, he’s probing my belly. Ouch, watch it, Buster, that hurts. The idiot picks me up just as a sharp pain jabs me in the gut. Then he places me on a metal table by a machine that hums and flashes. Ah ha, he’s taking pictures; it’s a photo shoot, a screen test. I’m ready, man, let’s put this handsome mug up there on the silver screen. Y-a-a-h-o-o-. Ouch, stop poking my innards.

He leaves me, and the two of them move to the corner for further consultations. Go for it, Honey, sign the contract. What? She’s sniffling? Tears? My word, she must be in the film, too. I can see it now: I’m a doughboy chosen for the Western Front and this is our tearful good-bye scene.

Two aides in white coats come in and gently lift me and carry me out to the car. Well, it’s about time my talents were recognized around here.

Ten minutes later we roll in to the BBQ drive-in for curb service. Woo-hoo! Tasty grub, I’ll say. Let’s turn this into a daily routine, Babe, you and me. But first you, um, need to trade in this clunker for a limo, my image, you know. Wow, I can see it on the marquee now: Fearless Aloysius Faces Down the Kraut Shepherd Horde.

 

A week has passed since the screen test and life couldn’t be better. That pesky ache continues to bother me, but the management couldn’t possibly pay more attention to me. I’m stretched out here on the sofa—now get this—because ole John Arbuckle, Esq., lifted me up here before he went off to the firm this morning. Imagine. In the past if he caught me up here, he’d whack me on the bohunkus with a rolled up newspaper. And Marsha’s been slipping me treats with no dog tricks required. All I can say is that must be one fine film deal she’s signed for us. And it’s about time. Just take a gander at this handsome Spaniel mug. It’s enough to make a bevy of Westminster debs swoon, I tell you. But then, maybe it’s just divine providence. Those are the words Delores used when we first met. Sigh.

Here she comes. Is the party over? Really, Marsha, I can get down myself. Time for a breather, you say? She opens the patio door and I move out for a security check. Wonder what’s up with Rufus and Delores?

Ah, there she is, my dreamboat. Greetings, Delores. Smellin’ mighty fine today, My Sweet. Her eyes flutter and my legs almost buckle. Delores is a fine Shih Tzu lady. She’s got papers to prove it, too, but the female management over there won’t put Delores on the road for Champion points. Thank goodness for that, I’d miss her. We nuzzle for a few minutes. She hears a whistle behind her and turns tail. I saw that, Delores. Two can play that game. I don’t care what kind of treats she has for you.

I forgot to tell you earlier, but this is a red letter day for Marsha and John. Some gal is coming by to interview them for a potential adoption and I’m not talking about another dog. They want a human pup. Did they ask me? Was I consulted? Ha. I was told to stay in the backyard and keep quiet. I’ve a good mind to write the AKC and ask them to review my status around here. Surely I have rights in this matter.

The adoption lady comes and goes and yours truly plays his expected role. Well, I admit, I barked a little through the fence when I saw her arrive, but no one paid any attention to me. Such is life. Guess the management is in for a wait. Anyway, I have house privileges again. Amen. Maybe this nonsense will blow over.

Days turn into weeks and no word comes from the adoption agency. Perhaps my team didn’t make the cut. I suppose I should be happy, but I do love these human folk and I hate to see poor Marsha look so sad. She’s really down, poor thing.

Yet on a brighter note, I must tell you my new status around here has not waned. I’m lifted and carried here and there. Isn’t necessary, but I’m not one to complain. Just wish we had some excitement, something to help her spirits.

Even dog treats have little appeal now. No appetite at all. And there’s another small problem I hesitate to mention. I’ve had to scout out a few of my secret pee spots I had as a pup. Sometimes I’m caught off guard. Very embarrassing. I mean.

“Rufus, what’s a good canine word?”

“Woof.”

“Can’t sneak up on you, can I, bro?”

“What’s that, Rufus? Yeah, they left about two hours ago. Forgot and left me in the yard, too.”

“What? I don’t know where they’ve gone, but the way she was dusting and vacuuming last night, I’m guessing they’re having a party here tonight. Must be out shopping for refreshments and party favors.”

“How’s that? A bit louder, Rufus. Oh, you’re right, here they come, and Marsha’s got a blanket in her arms. And she’s smiling. Rats, they made the cut. Well, Rufus, that explains why old John boy painted that spare room and she filled it with new furniture. I better go, Rufus, they probably need my help now.”

Two hours later somebody recalls I’m locked out on the patio. And hungry. My dinner’s an hour late. Oooh, the edge of my bowl smells like talc. How revolting.

A couple of days later I’m out giving Rufus the lowdown. “The dog can’t sit here. The dog can’t lie there. Don’t let the dog lick her.” Really.

Don’t worry, honey. Nobody’ s gonna lick anything that smells like that. You say my imitation of Marsha was spot on? Well, I have had some practice, pal. It’s a big adjustment, Rufus, but I’ve not seen them this happy since they brought me home. What’s that? Of course my eyelids are droopy. Nobody’s getting any sleep over there but the princess—that’s what John calls the baby.

 

About a month passes and I wonder what on earth is wrong. Now a member of the team has to lift me up and carry me. I admit it was fun stuff at first, but this is more than humbling. And when I’m moved, it comes with new aches. Not so good. You understand, I’m not a complainer. Despite the diaper smell everywhere and the restricted areas, I’m well cared for here.

But Marsha, bless her heart, she looks glassy-eyed every time she gazes in my direction. Probably still practicing for our big movie scene.

“Allie, time to go, boy.” She picks me up and carries me to the car. My word, ole John boy’s along for the ride, too. This must be my big movie take. He just wants to see us in action. I see some old gray-haired lady’s staying with the baby.

Sure enough, we pull into the vet’s parking lot and, would you know, ole John Arbuckle is getting teary eyed, too. John, sorry, pal, there’s no room for you in this scene. ‘s just me and Marsha, a love scene, you dope. What, more Botox? Doc, I don’t need it, really. I’ve got the face of a mega star.

Why’s everyone staring at me and blinking? Say, it’s getting a little blurry around here…it’s the whole family. And Rufus…and Delores. Is that you, Momma? What? A surprise party, wow I love surprise…so sleepy, Momma did you know…did you…Momma?

Published inFictionChapel Hill