I take Henry and Aussie for a walk, followed by a ride to the bank. This is the first time both dogs are in the car. They share the back seat, but Aussie instantly reclines back to front on the armrest that separates the driver’s seat from the passenger seat. Henry, sealed off from the front, whines a little, scampering back and forth between both half-opened back windows, standing up to snarl at squirrels, chipmunks, and other dogs while Aussie and I commune up front.
We go through the drive-through. Aussie pricks up her ears; she’s been here many times in the past, knows the high-pitched whoosh of the bank capsule traveling through the tube, bringing her a dog biscuit when it returns. This time there are two. I give one to her and the other I slip back to Henry.
Aussie, standing on the armrest, promptly loses half her cookie which falls between the seats. “Nothing I can do about it, Auss,” I tell her. I’m already driving.
Crrrunch! comes from the back seat, the small chihuahua mix slowly making his way through the biscuit. Aussie’s head turns to look back at him.
She spins back.
“Don’t even think of taking Henry’s cookie!”
I drive, and a short while later, once again: Crrrunch! Crrrunch!
Aussie’s head turns to look back.
“Aussie!” Head spins back. “Don’t even think of taking Henry’s cookie.”
“I’m a Zen dog,” she snaps, “I do it without thinking about it.” And back she goes to bully Henry and get his cookie.
The next day she and I are back in the car.
“Come on, Aussie, we’re going to Turners to give out food cards, and you have a job to do.”
“What job is that, Boss?”
“You’re the good-will ambassador. You grin and wag your tail, show everybody they’re welcome, especially the little kids.”
“I hate men and I hate kids!”
“You hate kids! Why, Aussie? I know you don’t like men, you were like this when we got you from Texas, maybe you had some bad experiences with men.”
“But what’s the problem with kids?”
“They don’t know how to pet me. They put their hands up in the air and come down on top of my head, I never see it coming. How would you like to have something come down on top of you from a total stranger? You don’t know if he wants to stroke you or hit you.”
“Lots of people don’t know how to stroke dogs in a good way. Nobody means any harm, Aussie; as a rule, they’re happy to see you. You make them feel welcome.”
“How much are you paying me?”
“Paying you for what?”
“Paying me to be your goodwill ambassador. To wag my tail for over an hour—you know what that does to my back? To distract the children, get slapped on top of the head in return, and never once show my teeth or growl. Get smacked around—”
“They’re stroking you, Aussie—”
“They have no idea how to touch a refined, sensitive dog like me. I’m abused, misused, and exploited. And I don’t get paid.”
“Give me a break, Auss.”
“You know what the real problem is, don’t you, Boss? I’m not Latino. I’m not a refugee, I’m not some immigrant rushing the border. If I was any one of those, you’d be out there kicking up a storm, yelling that I’m being taken advantage of. But no, here I am, born and bred in Texas, and I DON’T GET PAID! You’d think I was some kind of foreigner!”
“Maybe you’re not from Texas, Auss.”
“Of course I’m from Texas, Boss. You always tell people that I came from around Houston.”
“Maybe you were born south of the border, traveled hundreds of miles and splashed across the Rio Grande, Aussie.”
“Don’t dare say that about me! I’m true blue, or black and tan, or whatever!”
“Supposedly you came from north of Houston, but that could be just a story, Aussie. Maybe you got separated from the rest of your family. Maybe some do-goodie Quakers got you water in the desert, or at least a map. You pretended to be a stray but you were aiming to get on board that truck and get to New England. And you know what? You found sanctuary in our house!”
“Hey, the Man called me Aussie, remember? Like from Australia.”
“You deceived him, Aussie.”
“I’m not the illegal around here, Boss. You know who is? Henry, the chihuahua. He’s stealing everything he can get his paws on. I can’t find a single one of my toys or marrow bones, the little bugger has buried all of them.“
“Henry’s the sweetest little dog, Aussie.”
“The name is a dead giveaway all by itself. No chihuahua is called Henry. He’s a liar, a faker, and an imposter.”
“We’re a family, Aussie. He’s like your little brother.”
“No illegal is a brother of mine,” she snarls. “Drop me off at the nearest ICE station. We’re deporting Henry.”