Stormy, our five-year-old Shih Tzu, pads into my office and sits next to me where I’m working at my desk.
“Hey, Storms, what’s up?”
He doesn’t respond, just looks up at me with his big brown eyes the size of shooter marbles. I notice he’s sporting a tie.
“What’s with the tie, dude? Haven’t seen you in one of those before.” I remember that Valentine’s Day is nearing. “Lookin’ for love, maybe?”
“I’m neutered,” he growls.
“Right,” I say, and change the subject. Quickly. “So why the GQ look?”
“Just wanted you to know I’m not a mutt, that I can be just as erudite and macho and handsome as any other canine.”
“Never said you couldn’t be.”
Stormy stands, puts his front paws on my lap, and tries to give me an evil-eye squint. Hard to do with peepers the diameter of quarters. “I understand you put a dog in your new novel, Cascadia.”
“But not a Shih Tzu, right?”
“I needed a big dog, a working breed.”
“Don’t dismiss me just because I’m little. I’m strong. Give me a chance. I mean, look, if Tom Cruise can play Jack Reacher. . .”
I sigh. “Here’s the deal, Storms, in my novel, the dog–a Bernese Mountain Dog, by the way–has to tote some stuff weighing a couple of hundred pounds.” I stare hard at Stormy. “How much do you weigh?”
He removes his paws from my lap and sits back down. “More than those hairless little Mexican shits,” he mumbles.
I cock my head at him. “What?” I attempt to sound stern.
“You heard me.” He adds under his breath, “They’re probably here illegally, too.”
“Hey, hey, don’t go all Donald Trump on me. You mean Chihuahuas?”
“It’s a perfectly fine breed. Don’t be so damned prejudiced.”
“I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect to you. It’s just that I couldn’t have a Shih Tzu lugging around more than ten times his body weight. And here’s another thing. Zurry–that’s the dog’s name–also gets caught in a tsunami.”
“A tsunami. I’m oversimplifying things, but it’s a massive surge of ocean water that inundates coastal locations. You don’t even like to get your face washed.”
“You just wanna find excuses to keep me out of your novel.” He stretches out, rests his head on his front paws, and shoots me a disconsolate stare.
“That’s not it at all. I’m sorry you don’t get it. It’s nothing personal. No reflection on you. But a large dog was the best literary fit in the setting and circumstances of my story.”
“Come on, Storms. I think you’ll enjoy the novel when you read it.”
“Dogs can’t read, or hadn’t you noticed? But here, I’ll tell you what I think.” He stands, pivots, passes gas, and trots from the room.
My first one-star review of Cascadia.
“Hey, Storms,” I call after him, “maybe you can find a lady friend who’s been spayed.”