The day I brought him home I put him down on the carpet and he just sat there. My girlfriend said, “That’s not a dog, that’s a plant. Why don’t you water him?” Then he crawled into a corner and went to sleep.
“It’s only for three weeks,” I said, “I told them we’d give him not only food, water, and shelter, but a little love as well.”
“Very little,” she said.
This was no ordinary old dachshund; he was very human and suffered many of the grotesque realities of aging that we humans suffer (blindness, stubbornness, loose bladder, etc.) One of his eyes was a cloudy blue in entirety (no distinguishable iris) and it bulged out as if someone were perpetually squeezing him really hard somewhere. The other eye was normal in color, but it was sunken in and his hide kind of drooped over it, resulting in excessive quantities of eye booger accumulation.
Patitas’ owners were as old as he, and they somehow tricked me, giving me the impression that they had no one to watch him. It turned out to be not true of course; they had five grown children, each married and with kids. Nevertheless, I was duped, and so I (we) watched the dog. His name was Patitas, which I think was Spanish for pain and suffering.
They gave me two hundred bucks to watch him twenty days. After thirty, not one phone call.
As the days slowly passed, and I watched Patitas walk around with a perpetual drop of urine hanging from his disproportionately large penis protruding like the spout on a wineskin, I wondered if I’d ever see the light of day, or if I was doomed to this sucker’s prison forever.
You know, “Pahti” had acquired wisdom with age. In the elevator he always urinated all over the place so that I had no choice but to pick him up and cradle him like a little baby. When I did that, and there were young ladies on the elevator, he would act cute, wagging his tail, and looking as innocent as the day he was born. Then they would start, “Awe, he’s so cute!”
“He’s very, very old,” I would say.
“Poor thing, what’s your name.”
“Did I tell you he’s blind and he pisses himself?”
Silence on the elevator. The tail stopped wagging. When we reached the bottom floor, I would go as fast as I could to the outside doors before Patitas decided to pay me back.
Day forty-five, still no phone call from the owners. I decided to take Patitas out before I showered—a lesson learned on Day 2. In the elevator, as I watched urine seep through the tip of his fantastic spout, a flea wandered through his forest of hair until it came upon the great wide open of his belly and jumped for joy.
At that very moment I smelled it. Of course, we were not alone on the elevator; there were three other people, all standing silently. I looked around at the others and I said, “my dog farted.” Awkward for them, but at least I wasn’t embarrassed.
Suddenly, the flea reappeared and landed on my left index finger. If I tried to scratch it with my right hand, I would turn Patitas’ lower half towards me and the seeping urine would come right at me. So I let the flea jump again—where to, I do not know, probably my head.
The elevator door finally opened. My cousin—I will not mention his name for his sake—was standing there. I forgot that he was coming over. He saw me, smiled and said, “I have news.”
My cousin worked with Patitas’ master’s son, so it was likely that I was about to hear Patitas related news, especially with that damn, I’m-laughing-in-your-face-at-the-stupid-predicament-that-you-put-yourself-in grin. I exited the elevator, and put Patitas on the floor. I looked at my cousin and said, “What?”
“It’s about Patitas’ owner,” he said.
“Are you trying to make this more suspenseful than the month and a half it has already been?”
Just as I said “been,” I saw the people sitting across the lobby looking in the general direction of my feet. I looked down at Patitas. He seemed to be trying to sit, but I soon realized he was contorting his body into that doggy question mark especially designed for that canine toilet that was never invented. My cousin laughed. I picked up the question mark, and ran to the door.
Of course, Patitas, being the wise and resourceful creature that he was, realized that being airborne he was suddenly as free of the burdens of caring where his droppings landed as the birds that he remembered seeing back during his younger days.
So, I got one on my right thigh, one deployed to the floor (as the front desk security guard’s eyes followed it down), and the last one fell just inside the door.
When I finally made it outside, I put him down on the grass, and he just stood there.
“They’re not coming back.”
“Who’s not coming back,” I asked.
“Patitas’ owners. They’re having problems getting back into to the country.”
“So what do I do, put him in a padded envelope?”
“I don’t know. I guess he’s yours.”
In a fraction of a second, I contemplated suicide, doggy murder, assisted doggy suicide (“he was old, he was blind, he pointed to the balcony”), and my girlfriend leaving me unless one of these things happened. I asked my cousin, “Do you want him?”
Again the grin. “No, cousin; he’s all yours.”
Did I mention this story is a tragedy?
He was fifteen when I was stuck with him. He lived another five years. It wasn’t as bad as you might think though. In spite of everything the truth was that this dog loved me. I don’t understand it, but every time I came home, as soon as I let him out of that dark bathroom, he would hop all over the place, like a puppy fresh out of bathwater, and when I picked him up to take him downstairs, he would wag his tail as he pissed on my shirt.