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

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.  

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

Chapter 19 – “Stop Calling Me, Mom!”

Isaac remained present for the rest of Pixie’s training. He felt that the main event minutia is left in good hands. Shark had control of the situation at “The Demure” while Pixie was deeply involved in Marshall’s wisdom. Things were evolving according to the plan.

* * *

Charlene had a hard day at work. Her last project was two weeks late and the discord on her team wasn’t helpful. 

Sometimes she felt she had to mother her teammates to complete tasks as required. She was used to doing that. 

But last month was hell. She had to cooperate with the project consultancy section on the sixth floor. They weren’t exactly soft players. Nothing was good enough for them, especially for Daniel who was pushing an agenda coming from the top. He was relentless.

“He is a total bully, I know, but he has to do that. It’s his job. And my team could push a little harder, that’s the truth”, she excused his poor behavior finding justifications just as her phone rang. 

It was her mom. Again. For the fourth time today.

“What’s now, mom? I told you I’m in the middle of an important project. You have to stop calling me”, Charlene replied with impatience in her voice.

“Hello, darling. Don’t be so quick to dismiss your poor mother. You know I miss you terribly. Did you read about the maniac in your area? I just heard about it on the news. He attacked three girls and stole two purses. He wanders around in his underwear shorts, that creep. You have to wear a spray, Charlene. Did you manage to ask about the tickets I needed? Ah, yes, I just got an SMS from my mobile provider. They are offering me a new contract for $35 more. I’m not due in three months, why are they calling me now? What should I do?”

“Mom. Mom, hold on, stop talking so much and so fast! I’m exhausted today. Yes, I got you and Betty two tickets, but you’ll have to pay the VIP price. The basic package is no longer available. I don’t know anything about a maniac, that’s not big news anyway, area and my whole city are full of maniacs and thieves, I know how to take care of myself, I’m not a little girl anymore. Please don’t dump your boredom on me, I have enough on my plate already. I can’t think about this stuff right now!”

“Oh, really? You don’t have a minute about your mother? You know, I have the best intentions at heart when I tell you important news like this. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, what am I going to do without you”?

“Cut it out, mom, I’m overwhelmed with work. I’ll have to hang up now. I’ll call you back when I can, don’t call me again today!” 

Charlene pressed the red hanger button with a lump in her throat as her mother continued to talk about how her daughter disrespects her. 

“Oh, mom, will you ever learn? It’s not all about you,” she thought. Tears crept in her eyes as the weight of the work pressure and her attention-seeking mother pulled her down. 

But it was the end of the week and the Friday night out in “The Demure” was coming. She was so looking forward to it. Getting ready and pampered, and dancing her brains away on the podium was relaxing. The rhythmically whirling dance made her forget all about her troubles.

All… except for one. Daniel. He was coming to the club, too. She hated that. She hated that work was following her in her free time. She wanted to be able to breathe with full lungs and not thinking about how some arrogant consultant full of himself was ruining her project and her weekend.

“Maybe he is right,” a thought passed through her mind again as she struggled between anger and self-doubt when thinking about his feedback report. The split in her team cost her her nerves and a desperate amount of fatigue in the last couple of weeks. 

“That egocentric attitude reminds me so much of someone”, she thought, totally unaware that someone was calling her phone again, after just being asked to stop.

Charlene rejected the call. 

A few minutes later, an SMS notification blinked on the screen: 

“Please try again for the basic tickets, darling, you know how Betty has so many expenses after her husband died.”

Charlene sighed, convinced that her work troubles will eventually end. But, her mom? She wasn’t so sure.

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.”

Chapter 16 A Basset Name Issac husky dog

Chapter 16 – Pixie Flourishes as Her Heart Grows Bigger

Pixie was one third into her training but was already feeling the fur on her back raising with a pleasant pull. The blood in her body tingled with the sweetest tiny tremors and her eyes started sparkling with a newly-found vigor. It was something she has never felt before. 

Those wise healing words pierced through the core of her being and touched at the softest tissue inside. Even for a dog for whom love comes naturally, Pixie was astounded by Marshall’s acumen. His therapeutic words made her stop in her tracks. She was full of love but young and inexperienced. And she never had a guide, a mentor, or someone pointing the right way forward without all those painful learning from her own mistakes.

“I wonder if Daniel and Charlene had such a person in their lives… I wonder if someone taught them how to love themselves, appreciate the moment, and love another without expectations and calculations. Heck, I am just trying to make sense of it all myself and I am a dog! As Marshall says, we know better. If dogs can be so far back in the lessons in love, how far back are humans?” 

Pixie was having this self-talk as she began to understand that there is so much in life she doesn’t know anything about. And that she was lucky to have met Isaac and got on Marshall’s team. Her heart started filling with warmth, kindness, and compassion unfamiliar to the times spent leading her pack. 

She started gaining a new appreciation of life. People seemed less scary. Her fear was diminishing as she started to understand then better. The only problem was, will they be able to reciprocate? Will they learn tough love lessons in so little time? Can Isaac and her inhabit Daniel and Charlene in a single night and consider the job done? Her doubts went up as she asked the old wise pug:

“Can we get this finished in just one night, Marshall? It seems very unlikely. I have a feeling the damage done to these two has taken many years. It can’t be solved with quick-fix solutions, can it? It just looks impossible!,” Pixie shared her concerns loudly.

“Indeed, Pixie. You are partially right. Yet, I’ve seen instant transformations with people we have inhabited in the past.”

“There was this drug addict who went into a withdrawal crisis and beat his own mother so hard that she ended up in intensive care. I think his name was Jay or at least that what people used to call him. It was short of something – Jordan, or James, maybe. He almost died that same night because he took a large dose afterwards and went fully unconscious. 911 arrived at the last minute and put him in intensive care, just a few rooms across from his mom.”

“Fortunately enough, Jay had a colleague with a freshly adopted husky – Simon, who spent some time on our team.”

“Did his colleague call 911?”, Pixie’s curiosity was growing. 

“Yes. Simon decided to make Mark his forever mate (that was the name of the colleague and adoption guy) and found himself on the hospital bed together with him when they went to visit Jay. Jay was already on the brink of desperation, his life losing all sense or meaning due to the low he managed to get to – how could he do that, he thought? How did he ever come to that point to hurt people that love him the most so badly? 

“Amidst the worst of his torment, Simon hopped on his bed and licked his face. Then he howled with that famous ancient husky howl that sounds like it had traveled through time and space and will go on to reverberate in eternity.” 

“The sound of that howl made Jay break into tears. He wept for two nights without a pause. It was terrible. He had intravenous support but the withdrawal symptoms started to kick in hard. His pain went from the usual hardness he knew to unbearable physical and emotional pain he had never faced before.”

“Guilt and awakened conscience took their toil and he felt worthless. He called himself a piece of shit so many times those two nights.”

“Did he get better eventually?”, Pixie was growing fond of Jay already, her natural canine compassion revealing itself.  

“Be patient, Pixie! Mark noticed Simon’s impact on Jay’s well-being and decided to break hospital rules. He sneaked into the room during the night and left Simon through the night to stand by Jay’s side” smiled the pug.  

“What about security, Marshall? Didn’t they kick the dog out or press charges against the irresponsible owner? Or did Simon have some therapy dog license?”

“Nope. Simon wasn’t a therapy dog. But Mark was clever. He did this when security wasn’t watching. They didn’t give dogs visitor badges, so no one knew that the dog sleeps by Jay’s side each night calming him as he was suffering. Simon was very quiet when he wanted to help people. He didn’t make a sound, just calmly slept next to Jay’s feet and licked his arm when Jay would start panicking. Mark came back in the mornings and took the dog out. So, all went smoothly. 

“It only took 48 hours and a husky full of love for Jay to change his ways. This was a rare case, Pixie, but it happens. Generally speaking, you are right – it takes longer for love to penetrate and complete a deep healing cycle for people to be able to wholeheartedly love themselves and others. Some never do”, sadly mentioned Marshall.

“This is the perfect moment to talk about principle number five: love takes time. Simple, but very powerful words for people who are used to instant gratification, including Charlene, who loses herself into another, and Daniel with his almost predatory attitude, who thinks the world exists to serve him,” concluded Marshall. 

“Goodness me, we will never get this done if I continue with the storytelling. Let’s not digress and come back to the task at hand. Deep healing is not what we are doing tonight. We are just doing the initiation. The rest of principle number five will take a little longer,” said Marshall.

“Don’t stop your stories, Marshall! I love them!”, exclaimed Pixie. “Each contains precious gems of wisdom. I learn a lot from them. But I agree, let’s continue with the principles. What’s next?” 

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.

Chapter 11, A Basset named Isaac, basset hound portrait

Chapter 11 – Two Human Knuckleheads in a Desperate Need of Dog Help

“I know it sounds complicated. We have never inhabited more than one human so far. Is it troublesome? Sure. Can we make a mess? Perhaps. But should we do it? We must do it, without a doubt!”, Isaac assured Pixie as her Spitz eyes grew with suspicion even more 

“You are telling me that you need me to inhabit this human female Charlene, whatever that means, and that you will inhabit that bozo Daniel, and that all their problems would melt away? For both of them? That sounds pretty incredible if you ask me. I’ve heard of dogs who have overturned people’s destiny once they came into their lives, but this? This is something beyond I’ve ever imagined it’s possible”, Pixie shook her head in disbelief. 

“Especially with these two knuckleheads. That Charlene girl seems like a softie. What is it that she makes, you say? Gold rings. I don’t know what’s the use of them – they are not food! They look like a cat’s toy, all shiny and tiny! If she were a dog, she wouldn’t survive on the street for more than a few days. And as human, those savages from Duke’s gang would scare the hell out of her. They hang around the ”Demure” often. Weekends are their specialty because of that Chinese place nearby. The cook throws away a week-long of leftovers on Friday afternoons”, she continued. 

“Sometimes I get there before them with my dogs and we manage to pick up most of it. That’s why Duke keeps his fair share of anger directed towards me. I think he hasn’t forgiven me for a full house win last November. We were faster and outsmarted them for the whole month. They ended up hungry all the time and had to go far, further than they’re used to”, concluded Pixie in her adult manner, with just a tad bit of childish victorious grimace that shows up on a toddler’s face when they steal someone else’s toy.

“You should give more credit to people, Pixie”, said Isaac. “For what I can say, you and Shark have a lot in common in how much you distrust people. Maybe that’s why you hate each other. Each reminds the other one of a part of themselves they’d rather hide. Come on guys, we are stray dogs. We shouldn’t be afraid of our shadows!”, Isaac’s wise words rang a bell of truth in Pixie’s head as she reluctantly waited for him to finish.  

“There is something about this dog that strikes me as unusual,” Pixie quietly contemplated. “Isaac is not the usual type I’m used to hanging out with. He has some fineness, gentleness, even nobility about him. He is almost like those wined-and-dined dogs that have found their forever homes”, curiously thought Pixie as a surprising notion initiated into her head. 

“Jesus, it’s not that I like him, do I?” she asked herself as she evaluated the likelihood of his plan ending up in success. 

“Nope, impossible! I’ve just gone all mild and tender because of the boring last couple of months. Well, maybe this is exactly the challenge I needed to spice things up”, all of a sudden, she got excited.

“Alright, Isaac. You got me interested, I must admit,” said Pixie. “And not only in your plan, but you’ll never hear that from me!”, she added silently as Isaac’s face lighted up hearing her agreeing to cooperate in the most difficult of challenges.

“Really? Well, that’s great. I never thought you would agree in such a short conversation. But I guess I underestimated how smart you are. Your willingness to cooperate is probably why you are the leader of the pack in your area.”, complimented Isaac, which, much to his shock, wasn’t just a courteous way of getting points and enticing her cooperation.

For a moment there, he honestly thought that Pixie was special. 

However, he didn’t have the time to give too much meaning to the feelings that have arisen unexpectedly. They had work to do and messing with feelings could only further complicate things. 

“Listen, now! We have to visit Marshall. He will train you. You’ll see, inhabitation is not so difficult. You’ll just need to fine-tune your sixth sense and learn how to communicate with humans confidently. We are much better in that than they are anyway. They’re clueless!” finished Isaac as he and Pixie directed towards Marshal’s headquarters, turning their back on Shark, who left them alone for a moment, ravaging a trash bin nearby.

“Hey, there lovebirds, wait for me!” teased them Shark, not assuming how much truth his joking words contained. “Did you forget about me?”, he yelled, as he hopped over, following them with a huge T-bone in his teeth and an equally massive sense of satisfaction. This was the type of bone he often received as a treat on Matias’s farm.

His food quest for today was over.