The Curse of the Short-Legged Dog and the Long-Legged Owner

He was not Percival’s–that’s what Andrew had cruelly decided to change his name to–first choice. Nor was Percival the first choice for Andrew. But the two were apparently destined to become one, in spite of their proportional discrepancies that would become their mutual bane over time. Andrew had wanted the well-suited to his body type greyhound. Well, the boxer greyhound mix, rather. This was, after all, still a shelter, even if it was one of the most esteemed in all of Paris. He would still be expected to shell out good money for whichever “piece” he decided on. Or, more to the point, the only viable one left at the moment: Percival, a scruffy dachshund with dark brown hair. Though he could have waited it out a little bit longer for more “inventory,” Andrew was urgent about acquiring a new companion as he had felt too greatly the persevering pangs of loss, his Saluki (named, somewhat infuriatingly, Suki) of eleven years having recently died. And in the most visceral way, too, as Andrew was forced to watch her convulse into oblivion while holding her in his arms on the way to the pet hospital. Needless to say, even if he had made it there before she expired, there was nothing they could have done. She was old, like him. And it was simply over. Her “time.” A turn of phrase that had always unsettled Andrew, as he felt one’s so-called “time” should be dubbed the peak of his life, not, in contrast, his death. But so it was that humanity continued to place such import upon “an end.” He supposed he could understand why–the idea of having to endure this “life” gambit forever would be enough to make one self-inflict death by any means necessary.

Even though Andrew was aged, he still, much to Percival’s displeasure, could move along at quite a steady clip. Enough so that it made Percival want to defiantly stop in the middle of the crosswalk as it turned red so that some car, any car (or better yet, a bus) might put Andrew, therefore Percival, out of his goddamn misery. He had not signed on for this. And while he had never known what was, for most dogs, the distinct pleasure of what it meant to be walked (his previous owner, after all, was too negligent for such things, hence Percival finding himself in a shelter), he found himself yearning for his days of abandonment, when he could simply lie in an arbitrary sun patch and doze the physical contactless day away. It was because of said lack of contact that Percival, then named the more lowbrow in its commonness “Bandit,” became increasingly feline in his behavior and mannerisms. On the rare occasions when his alcoholic owner, Slade, a thirty-two year old recently promoted to Senior VP of Consumer Affairs at a French imprint of one of the Big Five publishers, would show up in the late hours of the night to vaguely throw some form of sustenance from the fridge for Bandit on the floor, he remained evasive, never approaching his master eagerly in the vain hope of getting a pet. Instead he waited patiently for Slade to pass out so that he could quickly eat enough to stay alive and back away, never, at any point, being “tantalized” by the readily available pile of vomit that was frequently next to a prostrate Slade on the floor. Slade, who had only really decided to get a dog because he felt it would 1) complete his transformation into full-fledged bourgeois and 2) maybe attract a waif or two for him to fuck now and again during vague moments of cohesion. It quickly became evident that Bandit was too much of a burden for someone with Slade’s lifestyle needs. Accordingly, he never outfitted sweet little B with an ID of any kind–collar with tags, chip implementation, what have you. It was almost as though, subconsciously, Slade was hoping to eventually lose Bandit as a result of his negligence. 

***

It was never Bandit’s intent to end up at the shelter–he was usually more careful about being spotted than that, sticking to back roads and only sneaking into parks at night for respite. It was during one of these respites that he slept too long, getting picked up by an exasperatingly coddling woman in the early hours of the morning; taking it upon herself to “rescue him,” she saw fit to transport him to the shelter in her apparent position as a “lover of animals.” She insisted to the front desk attendant that though she would love to adopt him as her own, she already had a “furry friend”–that’s actually how she referred to it–at home, and there was no room for another (save for maybe what had to be her ungroomed muff). The disinterested attendant nodded and half-heartedly assured her that someone was bound to take a shine to the unnamed (to them) stray, not to fret, etc. Reluctantly, the woman took one last wistful gaze at Bandit and left the shelter, feeling endlessly pleased with herself for being such a “good person.” So “good” that she was the direct cause of Bandit soon being ushered into a confining cage with hardly any leg room. Not that his short stems required much, but still, if it was confining for him, he hated to imagine how it must be for those cursed with longer appendages. It was, unluckily for Bandit, however, that the canines with long legs seemed to be the most coveted, leaving him to rot uncomfortably in his godforsaken cage. So while Andrew wasn’t his first choice, he was his only choice; a sole source of salvation.

That sentiment of being “saved” was swiftly negated that first day together, when Andrew eerily put the same collar and leash on him that had belonged to Suki. He would have to find a replacement in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, he would simply add a few notches to the collar to tighten it (much too tightly, Bandit had to express as he yelped in pain from the choking).

And against his will, each day, Percival (né Bandit) would accompany his new master on these asinine walks that served as a free spectacle to every passerby watching the ergonomic struggle between the two. So maybe it was a curse, in some sense, to be loved, Percival reckoned as he had the sensation that his limbs might explode but still propelled himself forward for the sake of his owner’s crass need for a longer life. For being loved meant being responsible for someone else’s emotions. Beholden to them. Even when your legs and their legs just couldn’t keep at each other’s pace, simply didn’t match.

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