Chapter 24 – Daniel Finds Sadness Again

Daniel woke up with a bitter, dry taste in his mouth. The afternoon whiskey was obviously too much. 

“Damn it, how the f*ck did I fall asleep? I can’t possibly go out stinking like this! I’ll have to do another workout session. That will do it! All this rancid odor will evaporate by the time I’m done.” 

Daniel got up from the armchair that stood next to the treadmill and quickly grabbed a bottle of water. He didn’t have time to waste: he wanted to get rid of the acetaldehyde smell that was coming from his mouth and his pores before his Friday night out. 

He knew that terrible smell all too well. It was the smell of his father. Daniel despised it but he couldn’t forget it. Even now, he wasn’t sure if the smell was coming out of his body or if his mind was playing games with him, bringing back the awful memories. 

He didn’t care. He set the machine on level ‘merciless’ and started panting and gasping, angrily staring through the window. That was Daniel’s way of solving problems. Violently, forcefully. He was the least kind to himself and he hardly knew it.  

But tonight, things were not going according to Daniel’s plan. He noticed a big pair of calm brown eyes looking directly at him through the window. The eyes looked sad, almost pitiful. 

Those were the eyes of a basset hound, the only dog that managed to look sad even at his happiest. It was Isaac, who just got back from his evening walk with Pixie after her training. The sensation of warmth he picked up before from the spitz’s company subdued as he sharpened his focus. It was time for work. He will dissect his fondness of Pixie later, once this inhabitation experiment is over.

Daniel had no idea what was happening and why this strange dog with flapping ears was staring at him. The persistent look slowed him down and he wasn’t running on the treadmill incline at his maximum. 

“What do you want? Go away, I can’t run if you stand there!” Daniel yelled at Isaac as he was slowing down almost to a halt. 

The troubled young man has seen that dog previously. He didn’t hate him as much as his other friend, the dirty corgi, but he was annoying enough. 

Isaac just stood there silently, like he was carved in stone. He looked like a statue, but on the inside, he was on fire. He had all his strengths gathered in one incisive, laser-sharp focus: he didn’t want to make a mistake with Daniel. 

It was important to inhabit him before he entered the “Demure”. The night club had a no-dog policy. Even if it were otherwise, he wouldn’t risk mingling with all those drunk, stoned people. It was too loud and too dark. It wasn’t the place for teaching people how to love, as far as the dog’s way was in question. 

For some weird reason, people thought that night clubs are fun places. For another, even less comprehensible reason, they thought nightclubs were the place to find love.

Isaac had to plant the seed at that very moment.

Daniel got irritated, but at first, he decided to ignore the dog. He was too lazy and too busy to go and find something to throw at him. He kept working his miles and contemplating his night plans.

Yet Isaac was determined. 

Daniel had no idea how determined the basset was. Isaac had the biggest heart and the biggest guts combined in one body. With Marshall’s wisdom, he was an invincible inhabitation executor. And he had an all-star support team on whom he relied often. By adding Pixie to the mix, he was even more convinced that tonight’s going to be a victory. His initial hesitation faded in view of the growing confidence. 

Daniel was getting nervous. He couldn’t work out and he couldn’t throw something at the dog, too. Whenever he thought of going to the kitchen to grab an empty box, he felt a sudden painful twitch in his hands and legs. It was as if an invisible force stopped him from becoming violent and kicking the dog out of his sight. 

The dog’s eyes… his sad eyes were mesmerizing. They reminded him of something, of someone: the heartfelt gaze his mom directed towards him when he would come back from school and his dad was out: 

“Hey, sweet boy! You are done with school? Come on over and tell me how it all went today! Did you get an A in history? Ah, you did, didn’t you? Well done, Daniel! But remember mommy loves you, no matter what, don’t you ever forget that!”

How could he forget? She was the only person expressing affection in his family. 

Isaac’s sad eyes reminded him of his mom’s loving eyes on her deathbed. 

He remembered everything and his anger broke into an uncontrollable sadness. He started weeping,  threw his wrecked body into the armchair, and covered his eyes with his palms.

Isaac was sad but he was also pleased. The seed of love was planted. He knew that sadness is a part of life and that love is sometimes sad. He stood patiently below Daniel’s window until the tears cleaned his eyes and his body relieved from the overwhelming feelings of guilt and sadness. The awful acetaldehyde smell was also gone. He didn’t need the workout anymore. 

Daniel sighed surprisingly and wondered what the heck happened. He hadn’t cried in years. He didn’t connect the strange event to the basset.

That was exactly what Isaac’ intended. Daniel’s inhabitation began and he was ready to go out.  

Featured Image Credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Chapter 23 – Charlene Pulls Off a 'Lauren Bacall' for the Big Night

“Will you come to pick me up later? Oh, all right then, I wouldn’t want to abolish your citizen’s rights and freedoms, you are entitled to your drinking liberties! I forgot it’s Friday and that you’ll want to get wasted. Okay, okay, not wasted, you’ll want to get wild”, joked Charlene, teasing Jo, her best friend, called Joan by the people who knew her less but simply Jo by her closest friends. Jo, on the other hand, called Charlene simply Char. Charlene loved that abbreviation.

Instead of driving to the “Demure” that night, they agreed to get a taxi. It made perfect sense to Charlene who was usually the responsible one of the two. But Jo insisting on the taxi was something else: ”I must have had a good influence on her”, a thought passed through Charlene’s head, happy that she won’t have to think about Jo’s safety on her way home or Jo picking up another drunken bozo and letting him drive her home. 

Prim and proper, such reckless behavior was inexcusable for Charlene. But she loved her friend to bits. Jo was a good person, and an even better friend, for that matter. 

“Maybe I should loosen up a little and stop being such a controlling freak”, Charlene thought, as she recalled her mom’s lecturing about good behavior and how much she struggled with trespassing the strict boundaries her mom set when she was a kid. 

Her mom wasn’t physically abusive, but she caused a lot of damage with her cold, pretentious manner while raising Char as a small girl. The little one didn’t know anything better than to always be a good girl. Otherwise, her mother would withdraw and isolate her. 

Ignoring her daughter whenever she didn’t perfectly fit in the frame she had set imagined for her, she often locked  her daughter in her room with the warning:

”Now stay there to think about what you have done. You can’t get out until you apologize!”

The silent treatment was her mom’s usual way as Charlene was growing up, making it the usual escape method from anything that resembled unpleasant feelings. 

As young as four, Charlene often found herself sitting alone in silence in her room, crying, confused and wondering what she did wrong this time. 

Her mom never talked about what happened. She never hugged her or comforted her. Charlene was left alone to make sense of the emotional world around. On her way to becoming an adult, her biggest childhood lesson was that she must work hard to earn someone’s love and respect. She was never good enough, always hard-working and conscientious. 

Her friend Jo was almost the total opposite. And yet they worked well together, especially when going out. 

Charlene loved her Friday nights together with Jo and was looking forward to this one, too. The only murky thought was meeting with Daniel and having to tolerate his abhorrent attitude: he was extremely good looking but too aggressive for Charlene’s taste. 

Despite her lack of appreciation for her colleague’s distasteful ways, she paid special attention to how she looked that evening. 

Charlene did her hair and makeup herself, so she had some more time after work on Fridays to rest and take the best care of her looks. That was not a problem anyway: she was gorgeous, as Jo used to remind her often. 

This evening, she felt like wearing something comfortable. She picked up her wide-legged beige pants, added her favorite champagne-colored silk collarless shirt and the tiny rose-gold-plated necklace that revived the whole ensemble. 

Char wore that shirt often. But this time, she decided to spice things up by curling up her hair into neat loose waves, the Lauren Bacall style. The minuscule amount of glitter on her cheeks and her decolletage complemented the look perfectly. She took a glance in the mirror. For some wonderful reason, she liked the way she looked tonight. It might be too much for the “Demure” but she didn’t care: the rosy glow would look great under the club lights. 

The phone blinked: Jo messaged her to let her know she is on her way. Charlene picked up her purse and her favorite trench coat and locked the door behind her twice. 

She left her apartment with an unusual gut sensation in her gut. It felt like an omen that an important night is in the making.

Featured Image Credit: skeeze from Pixabay

Chapter 22 – Phil, the Autistic Boy, and Shark Bond

After Pixie and Isaac vanished from Shark’s sight, he sat for a moment to think about his day and the information he picked up around the “Demure”. 

It looked like they were not going to be the only dogs in the club’s vicinity that night. Duke and his pack were frequent Friday visitors; this Friday was not an exception. 

He noticed Duke and his pack of eight wandering around the Chinese food place earlier that day. It was unusual for such a large pack to form in his neighborhood, but there it was. Duke’s pack was wilder than the average urban dogs and unfriendly to other packs. They didn’t like Isaac and Shark as much, especially since Duke got rejected from Marshall’s mentorship. 

The old pug decided not to take him under his guidance as Duke was reluctant to listen. He was stubborn, but not stubborn in the way Isaac and Shark were, just bullheaded, fighting against everyone else’s will for nothing. He lacked discipline and humility – two critical attributes that were required to get on Marshall’s team. 

Since the rejection, Duke carried resentment towards Marshall, Isaac, and Shark. The basset wasn’t as convinced that Duke is not their friend but Shark was suspicious. 

Maybe it was because of his lost faith in others due to his sad destiny with Matias, who knows? Or maybe he was just overly cautious. Regardless of what was the reason for the mistrust, he was in an alert mode as far as Duke and his pack were around. 

In all that mess, Shark loved the Chinese food place because of one very important reason: Phillip. 

Just as Isaac befriended Daisy, the ice cream girl, Shark had an unusual sympathy for Phillip. Phillip, or Phil, as Shark loved to call him, came to visit his father at least once a week. James, his dad, was a vet whose office was just a few shops away from the Chinese place. Sometimes, when his dad was called for emergencies, Phil stayed over the weekend, keeping him company with the sick animals. It was the most fun Shark, the abandoned corgi, ever had with a human after Matias left him. 

Shark didn’t like hanging around grownups too much – they were loud, always in a hurry, and traitors, just like Matias. It couldn’t escape him that even the dog owners who brought their home dogs to the vet for interventions were like that. 

“How do these dogs manage to stay calm and be so happy?” Shark often wondered seeing his canine friends driving around in cars, being carried in fancy bamboo baskets, and getting spa treatments every two months. 

But Phil, the boy? Phil was something different. He spent most of his time alone and he rarely spoke a word. He was unusually silent for a small boy, but that’s exactly why Shark grew fond of him. 

Shark knew that Phil was special but he didn’t know why not that he needed any explanation. Phil was autistic and, just as much as Shark, he didn’t like spending too much time around people. He preferred to be left alone, minding his own business. 

After having finished his Friday afternoon quest for leftovers around the Chinese place, Shark hopped over to the vet’s office to see if the boy was there. It was Friday, so it was entirely possible that he was. 

He looked through the glass, and much to his delight, noticed Phillip sitting close to the window. He had something in his hands, a weird quadruple bird with eyes in the center, and one other thing with buttons that Phil was currently obsessively investigating. Shark had no idea what that was. 

“Hmm, what sort of bird is this? I haven’t seen anything like it – it has four wings. Are those wings? What’s that sound it is making? Well, it’s not that terrible, it’s quieter than the hair dryer, that’s for sure.” Shark’s thoughts accelerated as he was trying to get to the grip with Phil’s new drone and remote control. 

Suddenly, Phil lifted his eyes and noticed Shark seating by the window. The boy wasn’t scared. He calmly took his drone and his remote and got out. He stared at Shark for ten seconds or so as he was talking to him without words. 

Shark wasn’t afraid of the boy. His mouth was open and his tongue out, he was smiling. The boy walked to the tiny nearby park, which, luckily, was well lit, because it was already getting pretty dark. 

His drone lit up, too. Shark watched what happened with an open mouth. He was curious. Phil pushed a button, the quadruple bird lifted up and started flying, circling around their heads. 

Both the boy and the corgi looked at the drone above for a few minutes until a worried voice yelled from across the street:

“Phil! Phil, what are you doing out there? I told you not to go out on your own, especially after dark!” James, his dad ran over the street in what seemed like only two seconds. 

”Gosh, I have one surgery taking longer than anticipated and you are already doing your own thing!”, continued the vet, calming his voice and gently hugging the boy, touching him cautiously around his shoulders, as the self-awareness struck him, warning him that he might stress the calm boy without any true need. 

“Come on, let’s get inside for now. I need to complete some paperwork: the handover with shift number two is due in five minutes. You know that I am the duty vet this weekend. We have plenty of time to play with the drone tomorrow. And we will have daylight, too. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks fine.” 

Shark ran away further and hid behind the nearby building once he noticed the grownup approaching.

Looking at the clear night sky, James abandoned the green park, throwing one long look at Shark at the end. James’ sad look was clearly saying that he had seen too many stray dogs for whom he could do nothing. 

As he was getting inside to provide care for the dog that would soon wake up on the surgery table, James sighed heavily and closed the door behind him, glad that he brought Phil to safety.       

Featured Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

white spitz dog: A Basset Named Isaac: Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – Pixie is Ready

“Are you ready for the last five principles, Pixie?”

“Don’t ask something you already know the answer to, Marshall”! woofed Pixie in her exclamatory way, used whenever someone tried to challenge her dedication to a cause she believed in.

“Woah, take it easy, girl, I know you are serious!”, laughed Marshall panting through his open muzzle. 

“Well, let’s not waste any more time then girl, cause we are more than a little pressed for it!. Here are the five principles – don’t forget that they come last on the list, but there is no preset order of importance for any of them. 

“Principle number eight is: you have to be able to be alone before you love someone else. Not only you have to be alone but you have to feel good about it. Only then you will be able to relate from a space of generosity and not from a sense of lack. Feeling a lack or a void will never be compensated by another person. Sure, a loved one can stir the pot and refresh your energy in unfamiliar ways, but only if you are open to it. 

“To be open, you have to feel whole and willing to share without expectation,  I presume?” asked Pixie.

“Indeed, Pixie, I see you are making connections between the principles already. That’s good, we can speed up our lesson and go straight to principle number nine, which is: love takes practice. It is a process of trial and error where one shows a willingness to learn from their mistakes and take life as it rolls out. You cannot graduate in love or grasp it as a feeling or as an idea. Saying that you love someone and not doing anything to show that you love them is not love. It is a self-absorbed feeling, a projection.”

“A projection? What do you mean?” Pixie’s curiosity was suddenly awakened.

 “Let me use an example. Do you know how you thought Isaac was your enemy? That he hated you? Do you still think that?”

“Well, nope, not really, but what does that have to do with projection?”

“It has. You made conclusions about someone else on the basis of your imagination, beliefs, almost delusions. The story you have crafted in your mind about the basset didn’t give the full picture. It didn’t resemble reality or what Isaac is all about. It was mostly in your head, wasn’t it?”

“True, but I’m not sure I know him that much even now either.” Pixie’s eyes blinked in wonder as she was waiting for her system to digest the new facts.

“You don’t, but your idea about him is less burdened by your own projections and it will even be less so as you connect with him more.”

“If I connect with him more”, Pixie was quick to jump in with a correction.

“Alright, if!” Marshall’s pug eyes widened in a cryptic joyous smile as if he knew something about both of them they had no clue about yet. 

“Apart from being too much in your thoughts and stories you tell about the other person, love takes open eyes, listening skills, and an attitude of curiosity. Observe, rather than judge when you love someone. Love them for they are and do something to show your love. Action, Pixie, action!”

“I know what you mean, action always speaks louder than words. I think that Charlene girl is pretty gullible as far as action is concerned. She gives people too much benefit of the doubt, always believing the best about them., doesn’t she?”

“Hmm, you are partially right. Between choosing to approach people with trust or feat, trust is definitely a much better option. However, blind trust is also full of projections. Rather than seeing the wholeness of a person, which often involves many nasty bits, gullible people protect themselves by projecting beneficial qualities to someone who doesn’t have them. I’d say Charlene does that.”

“How do you know all this Marshall about Daniel and Charlene?”

“We have been following them for a while. Shark was handling Pixie, while Isaac was with Daniel.” 

“I get it, love takes time, practice, and action. What’s principle number ten, then?”

“Principle number ten is: Direct your love towards the world as a whole. Do not objectivize. You cannot maturely love another while hating the rest of the world. That level of exclusivity is unhealthy, it is fake. Don’t get me wrong – you will love intimately only one person. But if you create a bubble around you two only and find fault with the rest of the world, that bubble will burst before it develops its complete color spectrum. Love the sky, love the trees and the mountain, the bird and the rivers, the Earth’s crust, humanity, the universe. Let your heart spread as far as possible, as you get to the grip with the fact that you are only a tiny speck of dust in space and in time. One does become humble in face of eternity. I should know better, I’m a hundred years old!”   

“You’re not old, Marshall”, Isaac stopped being invisible and interfered with the training that was taking the shape of a friendly conversation. He loved listening to Pixie and Marshall in silence.

“That’s right, he’s not old, he is a dirty old bag!” Shark didn’t spare his old mentor from his sardonic jokes, running out of nowhere. “How much more do you need to do, dogs? I am done with my reconnaissance task. Things are boiling down there. Half of the club is already packed. We still have a couple of hours before peak time but don’t become complacent. After all, it’s Friday. Weird, unexpected things happen on Fridays”! concluded Shark puffing while his breath was calming down from the running. That corgi was tireless.  

“We are almost done, boy! We have just two more principles to cover. But since you are already here, why don’t you stay with Isaac and Pixie to repeat some stuff. Going over the same ground before such an important undertaking can’t hurt, can it?”commanded Marshall.

Shark had no right to object, especially after the joke he made. He sat next to Pixie and Isaac, while Marshall went on:

“You need a sense of humility that separates a loving mature person from an omnipotent, egocentric, and narcissistic child. That’s the eleventh principle. And you have to be capable of taking risks and facing pain and disappointment. That’s principle number twelve.” Marshall concluded the list of twelve principles, as the three younger dogs stood pensively in their heads, carried away by the wise words, and contemplating about how best to apply them in that evening’s challenge, for what they didn’t know is that this challenge will take longer, much longer than one night to be rounded in a fashion everyone is pleased about. 

“Isaac, care to walk together to clear our minds before we get into action? I have something to show you”, Pixie looked at Isaac with a hopeful look, surprising him as he was getting ready to go away together with Shark to relax and make last-minute arrangements.

Isaac was focused on Pixie’s sparkling brown eyes more and more, as he blurted out half-abashedly as he realized he was staring:

”Sure, let’s go. I must admit, I’m curious.”

Together, they ventured in the opposite direction of “The Demure”, in what seemed like a calmer, friendlier area to the crowded street that was filling up with cars and people, ready to leave the worries from the past work week on the dance floor, and for the less fortunate, to drown them in alcohol.

A Basset named Isaac - Chapter 20, alcoholic

Chapter 20 – The Night Daniel’s Tears Ran Dry

The night was crawling in. Friday was no joke. It was getting busy. 

Half asleep, Daniel opened his eyes. Heavy with whiskey leftovers, his slumbering consciousness was abruptly woken up by the loud laughter of the first partygoers. 

“Son of a bitch, you can’t just keep it quiet, can you!”, he swore angrily with his half-open eyes as he was stumbling to find his way to the bathroom and take the second shower for that evening. 

The noise outside was the least of his problems. The hangover was not the issue, either. As he opened his eyes, the nightmare came back into his mind.

He couldn’t get rid of it. He just couldn’t and he hated it. Used to usually having his way in life during the day, at night, he suffered.

Dreams were a payback time. 

The nightmare was recurring since he was twelve. The details were often painted in different colors, but the core of the story was nevertheless the same. 

How couldn’t it be – it was a replay of a real event that took place in his family at another time, when his mother Rachel was alive and he had a chance to feel loved, as much as she could love. 

Rachel was not the perfect mother. She was very ill and could hardly take care of her basic needs during her last days. Daniel didn’t have siblings and with both parents alive, he felt alone, so terribly alone. 

Joseph, his father was rarely at home. His friendship with alcohol was in its prime at the moment. Jobless for who knows what time, Joseph was growing violent as hell. His tolerance levels were on the edge. Most of the time, he yelled than speaking like a normal person. His rage was exasperated by his wife’s powerlessness and the paralyzing fear that he would lose it all if she goes away. 

That enraged behavior was occasionally interrupted by his wife’s coughs that reverberated eerily. Her coughs were omens that this family boiling kettle can’t go forever like this. 

Daniel had to do most of the housework himself. Under the burden of so many duties, at school and home, the tears that suffocated him as a small child dried off in the corners of his eyes. 

When his mom let her last breath out and Joseph slapped him across the face with the hand he carried his ring on, Daniel went into survival mode. On the critical night, his shell finally toughened after he cried for one last time. Although he was still a child, he turned into a proper adult . 

He didn’t even notice that blood was running out from the open slit on the cheek. He kept his palm on his face, wondering what just happened, as his mom’s lifeless body laid down spread down on the bed with her chest silent, free from coughs, and her face going grey.

Rachel was dead.

Joseph couldn’t find a better way to deal with the tragedy. He did what he knew best. He poured his anger onto Daniel, shouting in despair as the lights on the neighboring houses started lighting up. It was a poor, but quiet neighborhood and people usually lived in concordance. So much noise was atypical. People were noticing that something weird was happening. 

When Daniel’s sadness finally overtook him, he started weeping. Joseph was raging and his hands had lost all control. It wasn’t the first time that he had hit his son, but it was the worst. Enthralled by his anger and incapable of facing the reality of the situation, Joseph grunted in hopelessness and slammed the door behind them. 

Daniel knew what followed. He would be back in the early morning in his alcoholic entrapment and go straight to bed to sleep for a couple of hours.

Usually, Daniel used these worry-free hours to talk to his mom and get ready for school. But now, he just didn’t know what to do. He stood in the dark silence until the door opened and his neighbor’s face showed up. He was not alone. Two police officers were accompanying him.

The slap across the face and his mom’s death were a constant theme of his nightmares, especially when he had to meet his dad the next day. This evening was no exception.  

A Basset Named Isaac - Chapter 18 boy and girl with puppy n couch

Chapter 18 – Love through the Eyes of Innocence

Pixie felt shame for some of the decisions she made while being the leader of the outers. She knew too well that she was stubborn as hell sometimes and that although it served her handsomely in conflict, it created a lot of trouble when patience was required.

Patience was coming in leaps and bounds from Marshall’s demeanor. Pixie was more honored to be taking part in tonight’s critical endeavor, especially when she observed the sage love with which the lucid pug filled her cup. 

Choosing her to be Isaac’s partner in spreading love to Daniel and Charlene grew in importance in parallel with the respect she felt for Isaac. It was a gentle reverence, a feeling she often felt for tiny humans who knew much more about love than their grown-up custodians. 

“Small people are so innocent”, a thought rushed through her head, surprising herself by saying the words out loud.

“Ah, children, you mean?”, Isaac’s basset ears were still dangling as he ran up next to her to check on the training. 

“Is that what they call them?”

“Yup.”

“Good to know. Tiny humans or children are my favorite kind of people”, Pixie didn’t mind Isaac overhearing the conversation she had with Marshall.

“Children are fluffy bubbles of love that somehow get harder and turn into soap bars as they mature into adults”, compared Marshall.

“Listen to me now, I’ve turned into Shark, pulling jokes at every turn! Where is that dog, Isaac, is he into some mischief again?”

“Nope, don’t worry. Shark is paying a reconnaissance visit to ‘The Demure. He is at his position to sniff around and watch for any weird stuff. I’ve asked him to help us before we are ready for the full frontal. You know how busy it gets on Friday nights. I’ve noticed a few of the other packs in the area. All those food places that stay open late at night lure them in. It can get pretty crowded, sometimes even feisty. Bloodshed is not exactly a rare occurrence. I wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance, that’s why I’m taking all these precaution measures.”

“Well done, my boy! I’m proud of you. You’ve learned to delegate, which means trust. And Shark should better be engaged with something useful instead of picking up fights and secretly feeling sorry for himself and his old life. That’s healthy for him.”

“But let me get back to all that innocence we all love in small people because that’s how we arrive at principle number seven”, continued Marshall.

“Love must possess innocence or it quickly fades away. You have to be able to look at your loved ones with a fresh pair of eyes each moment. Let the fires burn slowly. Treat them like the small miracle they are, just like children wonder in awe at every new experience. Don’t take them for granted. In that sense, dogs and children are very alike. They are more present in life and appreciate each moment as it comes. Have you noticed that? How do children laugh most of the time and grown-ups worry all the time?”

“But so do dogs when they start to spend more time around people”, said Pixie. I’ve seen pups trying to replicate their owner’s behavior, growing anxieties, and having a worried face.”

“We do. But not to the degree humans do. Why do you think they like having us around them? We teach them to be grateful, present and loving without the expectations of tomorrow’s day or something in return. We remind them to get out of their head and go back to their heart. That’s what we are trying to accomplish with Daniel and Charlene, too.”

A Basset Named Isaac - Chapter 17 two lab puppies

Chapter 17 – Love is Not Magic, It’s a Decision

“We must speed things up, Pixie! If you do this well, and I’m sure you will, we will spend hours together, sharing stories and contemplating life wisdom”. Marshall’s face opened in a wide grin as he started picturing his new disciple’s adventures in the future. He loved being there for someone, as he knew too well what it’s like to have to take care of your own business very young, all by yourself.

“The sixth principle of love is about dedication. Dedication is a simple thing, but many people fail short in meeting it. They think love is some esoteric force that comes out of nowhere and swipes them off of their feet. 

“Does this have something to do with the saying saying ‘swept off one’s feet’, Marshall?” asked Pixie.

“Good point. It has. People often say that someone swept them away off their feet when they fell madly in love. They attribute too many magical qualities to the other person, believing it’s all about the other. But this is a trick our mind plays on us, Pixie. Falling in love and staying in love is a lesson of self-discovery. Unfortunately, people easily know how to fall in love, but rarely know how to stay in the maelstrom. The art is in the stay because that’s when one’s shadow starts creeping in.”

“Shadow? What kind of shadow? The one that shows up in the sun?” Pixie was getting more and more curious.

“Ha-ha! Not exactly, although exposure to the sun is a good metaphor for what happens when two people fall in love. There must be light for a shadow to come up. If we live in constant darkness, we will see no shadows at all. This is about the shadow inside.”

“I guess that Daniel and Pixie have a lot of shadows in their worlds, then!”

“Probably. We all do. You see, the worst part about shadows is that we don’t know we have them until the light is on. And that’s what two people are to each other. Lighthouses. Pocket lamps. We only get to truly know our shadows if someone directs a ray of light directly at us, and that’s what takes place in relationships.”

“Are Daniel and Charlene each other’s lighthouses?”

“They may be. People have complementary shadows. They are perfect for pairing because what one lacks the other is providing, albeit unconsciously. Often, such awareness leads to hurting ourselves and others. We think we love them, but we don’t. We don’t know how. No one has taught us how to love because we have only seen hurtful things. That’s why we need to help Daniel and Charlene learn this.”

“But how come dogs help them? I don’t get it! People seem to be living the best life, why do they hurt each other so much?”

“Ah, it seems they do. And some do, that’s for sure. But many don’t. Nonetheless, the difference between falling in love and staying in love is learning to dance with the shadows. Shadows have a nasty habit of surprising you when you least expect. Dedication in love means staying with the shadows and working through them until they become radiant pieces of your soul again,” added Marshall.

“Love is not magic, though it can feel so nice, people believe they are enchanted. Love is a decision.”

Marshall’s words reverberated in Pixie’s head as she was growing into a completely new dog.

A Basset Named Isaac Chapter 15 - pug dog close up

Chapter 15 – Third and Fourth Principle of Love

“But both of them are very different, Marshall. One is the black moon and the other is the golden sun. One is a wrecking ball, the other one is a dandelion in the wind. One is a forceful spring that makes its own riverbed wherever it goes. The other one is meandering like a huge, calm waterway that has found its peace in the valley. It’s so gentle, it’s invisible.

“They seem like the total opposite. How could the twelve principles work on them both? “I’m not sure how that would work out. If I inhabit Pixie, and Isaac inhabits Charlene, wouldn’t the same principles just separate them further apart?”

“That’s a great question, Pixie. I see where you are coming from. But love is not about maths. It doesn’t work with statistical precision. Or,  rather, it isn’t simple math – it is a complex function – university level math. It is not a simple addition or extraction with pluses and minuses. It’s not linear. It doesn’t go one way only on a straight line.”

“It’s circular, concentrical, multidimensional, irrational. Just like irrational numbers. Pure chaos, sometimes. Gosh, I blabber too much about maths and our minutes are numbered…” 

“So, principle number three is pretty simple, short, and sweet: in love, there is no calculation. If you are calculating and representing people and their actions through numbers or put them on an end of a spectrum, you are not loving, you’re manipulating. Love is horizontal. No one is better or worse. Everyone is a human being deserving of respect and reverence. See what I mean?”

“Fine, but we do have some hierarchy as dogs. And it can sometimes get pretty violent. It’s not that everyone is equal.”

“Ah, yes… It can get violent. Bloody feral, you are right.”  

The corners of Marshall’s eyes swelled with unresolved memories as he remembered the number of canines he loved and that loved him back through the years. The wet sparkle made his big sad pug eyes even bigger and his wrinkly, downward-facing, frowny muzzle even heavier as he remembered the dogs that left him. 

Some of them were like family. “My own family,” he thought. “And now, there is no one left. I am the oldest. From time to time, it can feel terribly alone.” Such heavy thoughts were frequent visitors lately as he was becoming more and more aware of the shortness of a dog’s life, so much shorter than what humans get on average.    

“But dogs never hurt each other out of spite or pure evil, like humans often do, Pixie. For food and shelter, maybe. Sometimes, when they are young and stupid, out of fear. But never, never just to cause pain… And what’s even more important, they never hurt themselves on purpose.” 

“We have an incredibly healthy sense of self-preservation. Which brings us to principle number four: your love must always include yourself, too, otherwise, it’s not love.

You see, I’m not sure either one of our targets for tonight knows how to do that properly. On the surface, it looks like Daniel is completely in love with himself. All that bloated self-esteem and high opinions about himself would make you think he truly loves himself. But all that overworking, overexercising, overdrinking, hooking-up, is that really a sign of self-love?”

“Think about it, Pixie! What would happen if you forget how to sleep, eat well, form long-lasting bonds with other dogs, and nourish your soul by doing what becomes us naturally? And that is to love like we are the love masters of the universe!” 

Pixie listened thoughtfully and started thinking about Charlene: “I guess Marshall is right. All that softness and passivity can’t be good for her. Does she put herself into the love equation? Why is she letting people walk all over her, especially that arrogant, bull-headed, deeply unhappy colleague of hers, Daniel?”           

Chapter 14-A Basset Named Isaac couple with dog walking

Chapter 14 – The Twelve Principles of Love

“Inhabitation is pretty simple. All you need to do is be your dog-self. Trust and good contact with the person mean everything. By practicing these simple principles while you and Isaac gain Charlene’s and Daniel’s trust, you will simultaneously inhabit them. Slowly and carefully, you will help them raise their warmth, break the shell around their hearts, and learn how to ask for what they want. They will get to know how to love themselves”, explained Marshall, contemplating how dogs have warmer bodies than humans, and with a purpose. 

If you ask any dog, the simplest words kept pouring from his mouth, comprehensible to puppies even, and yet so little people knew them and understood them well or at all. 

“Yeah, I think I know what you mean, Marshall”, Pixie was gradually digesting her first lesson. “I believe these principles have something to do with a saying I’ve overheard people use often: ‘we don’t deserve dogs’ – they say. Am I right?”, she directed her black eyes towards Marshall, irises twinkling from the deep dark wells that emerged from beneath the red fur that covered them. 

Half-curious and half confused, Pixie remembered that she’d never had a pampering session. Her territory was full of rich households whose domestic dogs got regular grooming. Thinking about this, Pixie grew more self-conscious as the fact that Isaac stood nearby and watched her all dirty and smelly dawned on her and wrapped her in shame. Luckily, he was too concerned with that evening’s task to concentrate on her self-perceived faults or notice her discomfort.

“It sure does, Pixie. But people who say that they don’t deserve us are actually on a good path. The others are the tough nuts to break. But let’s not digress into minor, unimportant bits. Here is what you need to keep in mind, girl!”, concluded Marshall.

The first principle is: don’t seek what others can do for you. Rather, think about what you can do for them. Only then you can truly grasp what it means to fall and remain in love with imperfect humans. Humans seem to struggle with this often. They either don’t appreciate themselves or others. It is usually the others. They think: “If only my partner were more thoughtful,  more understanding, more accommodating, more-giving, better-looking, smarter, richer, more-anything, things would have been acceptable for me – I’d be happy”. Do you see what I mean, Pixie?

“I think I do, Marshall. People have mental lists with thousands of conditions to be met and hundreds of boxes to be ticked to find a deserving partner and open to love. And they rarely have enough, from anything or anybody. It’s like they view others from below or from above. They struggle with equal partnerships. Even when they think they respect each other, they forget they are all just human and start demeaning each other. They hold strong to such qualities, we don’t even seem to notice them. For us, each minute, each hour, and each day is a new dawn. We love everyone and with new vigor, as time goes by!”, added Pixie with more zest, as she was immersing deeper into Marshall’s wisdom.  

“Precisely!”, said Marshall.

“One thing in your interpretation is especially on point and brings us to principle number two: all we have is the present moment – the past and the future are a creation of the mind and giving them too much meaning often only complicates love. The past is long gone and there is no guarantee about the future”, elaborated Marshall as Pixie’s eyes sparkled with amazement and a clever smile lit up her face. 

Immersed in the training, she didn’t have the time to see that Isaac observed her energy and cheerful stance without blinking, thinking that, at that moment of time, she was the most beautiful dog in the world. 

“But I’m not sure that will work so easy with Daniel, Mashall. I love you and respect you too much to raise a counterargument out of nowhere, you know that. Still, I think I may need to be more forceful on Daniel. I will need to invade him. I should push myself on him”, Isaac interrupted them with hesitation, as he didn’t want to be a know-it-all, but he couldn’t stop himself. He thought this was something that had to be said.

“Haha, you make me laugh, my dear boy. You cannot win a fight by force. Those victories last shortly. Have you seen a winner in a war? Sure, for a while, one side thinks it has won because it was stronger and more powerful; because it had better weapons and killed more people. Yet, as time goes by, it becomes clear that winning a war doesn’t solve anything. Anyway, we are not trying to win a war here, we are trying to help these humans learn how to love. We try to win them over, notice the difference?”, the old dog raised his eyebrows staring at both young trainees.

“And you cannot make someone love you by force. To act as they love you – maybe. To be afraid of you – sure. But love – love is a voluntary activity. The soft glove approach is all that we can do, want to do, and need to do. You cannot control love, Isaac. You teach people how to love simply by loving them. No other way works”. 

Chapter 13: A Basset Named Isaac - Marshall, the wise pug

Chapter 13 – Training Pixie

As Daniel went on to prepare for his tonight’s journey into whiskey oblivion and the ruckus that followed afterward, the dogs were already on their way to Marshall to complete Pixie’s training. 

Pixie was walking side by side with Isaac, her curiosity mixing with a pluckiness she had never felt before, thrilling her with excitement from the inside and leaving her breathless as she was trying to keep up the pace with Isaac.

“Sorry, Pixie! We have to hurry up. We have to act fast – we only have a couple of hours before tonight’s chance to invade these two. Especially Daniel, he is critical!”, Isaac rushed her as they were running towards Marshall’s shelter.

“Marshall is afraid he Daniel has become so self-destructive that he will destroy himself before we manage to do something about it. And that Charlene girl, she is the perfect match to be victimized by that poor soul full of pain that acts tough I’m not even sure who is worse – that sadist Daniel or her acting masochistically without confronting his awful behavior.”

 

“I have a feeling that’s why Marshall wants to help them both at once, it will be a pair of lucky breaks for your team,” Pixie commented .

“You might be right, I guess. You’ll see Pixie, Marshall is amazing. He is like a father to me. I owe him everything about my survival on the streets. He taught me everything he knew about humans. He was generous enough to make me his student and share his gift. I felt so alone among the competition and the dark alleys, never imagining what life could really be when having someone as a guide. I was a lone ranger as far back as I have memories from my early life.”

“I’ve never heard about inhabitation. Had no idea it existed and how poorly people manage their lives without dogs. By looking at their houses, their shiny toys on wheels, and buckets of food they throw away each day I always thought they were happier than dogs. I never knew that they struggle with love so much. It’s such a wrestle for them. I don’t get it – love is so simple yet they make it so complicated,” Isaac couldn’t stop wondering while he increased the pace to save as much time as possible before the big night. 

The sun was setting down, and the night was soon to cast its shadows over the city, inciting all sorts of weird human behavior. 

“I’ve heard stories about people being possessed by demons, dude. They say that’s why they act so destructively,” Shark added showing up from behind, overhearing their conversation.    

“Hey Isaac, if demons make people act bad, and dogs teach them how to love, maybe dogs are angels?” Shark asked gleefully. He liked the idea of dogs having diving qualities a lot, not so much for prideful reasons but because he learned that gods lived in heaven and heaven was a cornucopia of sumptuous food, available always and in large quantities.

“Maybe that’s why we keep getting the leftovers, they fall from the sky as pieces of endless divine displays of delicacies. Ha, the gods must miss us! They send us tasty greetings all the way down. Thank you, gods, we love you, too”! Shark jokingly gazed upwards with a grateful grimace, finding his own joke hilarious.

“Come on, Shark! Hurry up! We don’t have time to play games tonight. You’ll have to get serious and gather your best attributes to help us finish the task at hand. We have a long night in front of us. It’s already sunset and we haven’t even started training Pixie. You know that initiation into inhabitation takes at least two hours even for the best-prepared dogs. Luckily, I think Pixie is a fast learner,” Isaac said with a shy smile as he took a quick gaze at her, hoping she didn’t notice that he was praising while keeping his eyes down.

This was not typical for Isaac’s brazen attitude, even when he was facing bigger and stronger dogs. But this time, it seemed the enemy was gentle and softly wrapped around his heart like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. It was a feeling he wasn’t used to, but he liked it anyway. 

“Don’t worry, Isaac! I just want to keep our spirits up as we are on our way. You know that I get dangerously serious when I need to do work,” the street corgi encouraged his best friend and team partner.

“Yeah, dog. I know. I know. ” Isaac remembered how his buddy used to lose the usual comic attitude and turn into a cloud of seriousness as they inhabited people who didn’t know how to love.

Marshall was patiently waiting for them, eager to help Pixie get into the game. 

“Welcome, Pixie! I know this looks weird but it is important that we cooperate on this case. We wouldn’t get into your territory if it weren’t for your location. Charlene’s apartment is there so we need help from one of the locals.”

“Sure, Marshall. I’d be honored to do something for you. I’ve heard many great stories about your work. Everyone on my side has a deep respect for it. We know that you’ve managed to calm down some pretty feral dogs, training them to become quite the social animals. I’d sure like to know more and apply the same to a few of the wild beasts on my team.” 

“Ha-ha”, wholeheartedly laughed Marshall. “Thanks, that’s nice to hear. You’ll see, it’s not that difficult. Humans don’t have basic love skills. You’ll just need to use your canine hunch about what love really is. You probably know that much better than any human does”, Marshall got ready to explain the training details.