Chapter 27

   All of Thelma’s dogs are friendly, sometimes too friendly. She can let anybody in the house, and they are going to rush you with excitement. They are going to jump on you and hug you. Baby, who is their full-grown Leonberger, accidentally punched Telly’s girlfriend and her in the face trying to hug them. Telly got a cut on her nose. Her friend got a bad bruise.

   When her cousin from Jersey Shore was in town for Thanksgiving, and everybody was all over Alma’s house for dinner, he asked about coming to Steve and Telly’s house for a visit.

   “You’re allergic to dog hair,” she said.

   “That’s OK,” he said.

   “How do you want to meet the dogs?” she asked. “One by one, or do you want the bum’s rush?”

   “I’ll do the bum’s rush,” he said

   He got the bum’s rush.

   All five of their dogs were in the kitchen when they stepped into the house. None of them are small dogs. They could hear a different voice at the door, so they got wound up. Somebody new!

   The second she let them out of the kitchen they were all over him, all over the couch, pillows everywhere, and all over him again. It was like balloons had dropped and the party started. They panted and barked up a racket.

   “You asked for it,” she said.

   “I love it,” he said.

   Telly had to work at the hair salon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Her cousin messed with the dogs all day.

   “They got down on the floor with me,” he said. “Except the Husky.”

   Nanook is their Husky. He’s the alpha dog. He’s the leader of the pack. He’s not going to snuggle. Their two big babies, Grayson and Veruka, come into the kitchen and start to kiss each other. Nanook will sit and disapprove. He did the same thing when Boy Boy and Pebbles used to kiss, making low sounds, scowling, being the Godfather.

   It’s all talk, though.

   Most dogs are their own dogs, their own people. They’ve got personality. Veruka and Baby are the two Leonbergers. Baby is the bigger, older dog, but Veruka is a troublemaker next to Baby. Baby is the sweetest thing ever in this world.

   Telly always has to correct Veruka. She never has to correct Baby. Veruka is teaching Baby some bad tricks, though, which she doesn’t like.

   Veruka ate Telly’s wallet and everything in it, medical card, bank card, their checks, and her tip money. They had to search the backyard, the stone area, where she takes her captives. Whenever they give her anything she goes there and starts chewing. They found some dollars, a twenty, and the checks. She found her wallet, but it was all over for it. She just threw it out. But, before she did, she showed it to Veruka.

   “Who did this? Did you do it?”

   She gave Telly her obstinate look. “Yeah, I did that.” If his master’s voice tells Grayson he’s a punk, he’ll run downstairs and put himself in his cage. If she shows Baby something, anything, he’s done wrong, he throws himself on the floor and is crying. You can almost see him blushing and turning red.

   Veruka just does not care.

   Nanook doesn’t like to associate with the other dogs or vie for attention. When Telly comes home from work, she has to let him out on the porch, which means, in dog talk, you come out the back door by yourself nobody else and keep it closed so the other dogs can’t come out. You give me some one-on-one.

   That’s what she has to do. The second she does, he’s happy and comes right back into the house. That’s his personality.

   “Pebbles is my whore. She loves to be on the couch, lay on you, snuggle, and just be fat Pebbles. She doesn’t care what you do to her as long as she can lay in your lap, nibble on your fingers, and be fat. She loves her food. When we are ready to give the dogs their treats, she shakes her ass and chatters her teeth.”

   Grayson, their Lab, is special needs. He was in the hospital for months, has a bad hip, and big fat feet. He’s the sweetest dog, but tough enough. Even though he’s only a third the size of Baby, he can take Baby down. He is a strong dog.

   He likes to do the window trick, which is jump on their bed, wait for Telly to open the upstairs window, and stick his body out as far as he can to look around the street. One day Nanook got away from her and ran around on the roof. Grayson did the same thing but slid down the roof when he saw a squirrel go by on the telephone pole.

  “Dogs get their personalities just like we do, from God, when they’re created in the womb. There’s no such thing as bad dog, although some people train their dogs to be mean.”

   Even though they’re all grown up, it’s Puppy Wrestlemania 24/7 with their dogs. One day they were all on the back porch, all screaming., barking.  King of the Back Porch. She thought they were going to come in through the windows. They wouldn’t stop, flying from one end of the porch to the other.

   She opened the back door.

   “The party is over kids. No more screaming.” They all came in when she told them the party was over, except for Nanook. He had to get in one last howl. When she opened the door for him, he ran away. When she shut the door, he ran up to it. When she took one step out of the door, like she was going to go get him, he lay down on the ground.

   Nanook doesn’t know Telly is the boss. He thinks Steve is the boss. Maybe he’s right. One evening after work her dogs started wrestling in the kitchen, all of them, all five of them. It was Puppy Wrestlemania. She yelled at them. Steve wasn’t home. Not one of them stopped.

   Steve is like a dog trainer. He’s got that calmness. Whatever he says they listen to. Telly, they could care less. Steve whistles and they do what he is whistling for them to do.

   She and Steve were fighting one night, going at it, when he suddenly said, “My opinion just doesn’t matter.”

   “Alright, I respect that statement.” He looked at her. “Honey how do you like my hair, long or short?” she asked him.

   “I don’t know, whatever you do with it.”

   “Do you like my hair dark or light?”

   “I like it when you mix it up.”

   “Curly or straight?”

   “Surprise me.”

  “That is why I have no time for your non-opinions.”

   Suddenly, he whistled at her.

   “Are you kidding? Did you just dog whistle me?”

   “Yeah,” he said, grinning like a wolf.

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