Monday, November 17, 2008

Tale of the Chihuahua

There are two unyielding facts of our existence. One, I am a dog person. Two, chihuahuas are not real dogs.

Unlike matters of God and religion, no faith is required in this area. You only have to open your eyes and be minimally observant. And unlike matters of modern superscience, no particle accelerators or ice-core samples are needed. The data points are simply there, right outside your door, and generally, you step in them.

Need a case in point? Not long ago, my wife and I took our Golden Retriever out for her regular after-dinner walk, and about two blocks past our door, I realized that her butt looked wrong. The shape was wrong. The color was wrong. The fur was wrong. It was just looked wrong, somehow.

A moment later, my wife noticed it, too. And a moment after that, we realized that a chihuahua was standing underneath our dog's behind.

It had crept up on us like some kind of stealth rat. We had no idea where it had come from or how long it had been there. And each time we chased it off, it just tottered back on its little chicken-wing-boned legs with those giant ears stabilizing its ugly, bug-eyed head.

This chihuahua thought it was the stud of all studs. And the fact that it could stand beneath our dog and still have headroom somehow made our Golden even more attractive to it. The chihuahua always managed to stay just out of our reach, too, and it always came back for more. It was not going to be denied. It was going to live forever under our dog's shapely butt, or die trying.

Finally, one of our neighbors came out to see what was going on. "Oh, that thing," he said. "I hate that thing. He belongs to some woman around the corner. Second house, I think. He's always getting out and trying to mess with my dogs. She can't control him. I hate that thing. Good luck."

And with that, he disappeared back inside his house. Obviously, he had dealt with this monster before, and had had enough.

We tried to get hold of the quivering rat-creature, but with no luck. And then it started to get angry. It wanted our Golden, and it was willing to come through me to get her. It was little Davey, and I was Goliath, and clearly, this dog believed the power of myth was on its side. (Of course, our Golden just stood there with a dumbfounded look that clearly said, "What the hell?")

We only had one choice: Use our dog's comely posterior to lead the little Casanova around the corner and back home. And it worked, too. Sort of. If you count the Taco Bell reject growling and snapping at me and my wife each time we stepped past some imaginary line of ownership he'd laid down around our Golden.

We knocked at the first house. It wasn't their dog, but they sent us next door.

We knocked at the second house. It was the woman with the nasty chihuahua. Unfortunately, her nasty chihuahua wasn't the same nasty chihuahua that wanted to slingshot a Milk-Bone into my brain. Her nasty chihuahua just bounced around by her ankles, yipping and yapping and trying to claw its way out the screen door to help—or kill—its stupidly heroic brother.

The tiny bugger beneath our Golden had tags on its collar, at least. Not that we could get at the collar to read them. It took us almost five solid minutes to lure him out, and then to lure him close, and then to get hold of him, which of course set off the final, epic confrontation that all good third acts have. Bared, snarling, snapping teeth. Flailing legs with nails that hadn't been clipped in I don't know how long. Thrashing body like a facehugger from Alien, and eyes that looked like they were going to pop! and spray everyone on that sidewalk with goo. Everything I absolutely cannot stand about these dogs, all there in my hands and not even two feet from my face.

We got him under the porch light and spent the next few minutes trying to get hold of the tags. The first one was a rabies vaccination. (Thank You, God!) The second was a name and a phone number. (Thank You Thank You Thank You, God!)

I handed off the dog and punched in the number on my cell phone. I didn't recognize the area code, though, and I felt a sinking feeling as it rang. Then an annoyed, manly voice answered, "Hello?"

"Hi," I told him. "We found a dog wearing a tag with this number on it?"

"You found a dog?"

"Yes. A dog. Do you own a chihuahua?"

"A chihuahua?"

"Yes. A chihuahua. Are you missing a chihuahua?"

"You have our chihuahua?"

"Yes. We have your chihuahua. Can you walk over here and get it?"

"Walk over? I'm in San Francisco."

I just caught myself before shouting, "Oh, no, no, no, no way am I watching this monster until you can drive down to Los Angeles from San Francisco!" Which was good, because things actually started to look up after that. His wife was visiting her parents, who lived a few doors down from our apartment. She'd brought the dog with her from San Francisco. I told the man we would take the dog over right away.

The chihuahua, of course, had other ideas. Bared, snarling, snapping teeth—again. Flailing legs with nails that hadn't been clipped in I don't know how long—again. Thrashing body like the facehugger from Alien—again. And then, halfway to our promised land, it started dribbling pee down my arm.

"You know," I told my wife, "if our dog was lost, I'd want some nice couple to find her and bring her back home, too. But this little shit is really ticking me off."

My wife just laughed.

And why not? Her arm was dry.

We got to the house, finally, and we handed off the chihuahua. The nice people thanked us profusely. They even invited us in, but my pee-dribbled arm and I declined. They closed the door, and I walked back to the curb, where my wife had been waiting with our Golden. And I saw something that to this day still warms my heart to no end.

Our Golden had crapped a big, stinky pile onto their lawn, and she was looking up at me with that wagging tail and those endless brown eyes, eager for my stamp of approval on her little act of revenge.

"Good girl," I told her. "Good girl."