I hate who my dog hates. Not just the mailman, though he’s a good example, but we differ on who to love. I’ve seen the way he looks at other men, women too, with large-eyed, cross-species admiration. If I had to be a man, says the look, I’d be a man like you. It never squares with who I am. For all their famous loyalty, the dogs I know hedge their bets. I have to wonder where Baxter would go if I left the front door open. He loves my ex-wife, I see that, perhaps for the same reasons I do—I hope not all of them!—but he also seems quite taken with her new boyfriend, and lawyer. Then again, he’s fond of trash bags. He gets up creaky from his rug at the sound of a car in the driveway and then, as if they were shouldering sides of beef, bounds hungrily to the door when they arrive. His tail thumps the umbrella stand; he wants them in his house. They’ve come to collect some signatures. I’ve been avoiding the mail, and now the statute of limitations on their willingness to unmolest me has expired. Ink must be spilled. We’re sitting together at a not-oak table on the most uncomfortable chairs I can find. With one hand she riffles papers that will unrelate us until death does us unpart. With the other hand her nails lay claim to Baxter’s favorite scratchy spots. How well I know those spots, those nails. The boyfriend witnesses everything and countersigns and seals. So now he’s her notary, too?! I feel a tiny strangled growl each time his little seal squeaks. And though he knows better, he speaks. And when he says the words “custody of the pet” I lunge without warning.

Copyright © January 19, 2007 David Hodges