There are dogs, and then there are dogs! We always seem to get the latter kind, the ones with the big personalities, the ones all the neighbors know by name. I’m talking about a small (only in stature) Jack Russell terrier named Pearl. A more fitting handle might have been Osama, but we didn’t know she was a terrorist when we named her. We were deep in puppy love and it took a while to realize that our Pearl was made up of irritants, just like the real thing.
Walking her was an exercise in humility. “Hi, Pearl!” Hey there, Pearl!” “Yo, Pearl!” rang out on all sides. I was seldom greeted or even acknowledged. Pearl would accept these tributes regally unless there was another dog involved. Then she’d lunge viciously, snarling and snapping. The message was clear: “I am queen. Bow down, commoner, or I will end you.”
A friend confessed she always goes for dumb dogs, “just so I have a fighting chance.” There’s something to that. A dog doesn’t have to plan meals or cut grass or remember to fill up the car. All a dog has to do is plot how to outwit you. Pearl figured that out in record time.
For instance, there was the bell we hung on the door so she could signal when she wanted to go out. At first, she hated the whole idea. We’d lift her paw and swat at the bell. She would turn her face away, refusing to even look at it. But then one day, she realized the power of the bell. Her eyes sparkled as she understood that she could make us stop whatever we were involved in and do her bidding. She could interrupt conversations in person or on the phone. She could tear our eyes away from our screens. She could suspend forks midway to mouths. From that day forward, we would jerk like marionettes when we heard the ting-ting-ting of the bell. Who was training whom?
If she’d been human, Pearl definitely would have been an intelligence agent. There were no secrets in the house. When the basket of take-out menus came down from the top of the refrigerator, it meant food would magically appear when the doorbell rang. Pearl would go to the door and wait for it. The best kind of magical food was Chinese because Mingmei brought it. Mingmei might have been new to the English language, but she spoke American marketing perfectly.
“Herro, herro,” she’d carol, standing on the doorstep with her bags of delicious-smelling cuisine. Bending down, she’d hold out a yummy morsel. “And here is Miss Purr. Hi, Purry, who’s a good girl? Who’s my little friend?”
Pearl would take the treat delicately, then sprawl on her back offering up her belly for rubbing, grinning maniacally. This love-fest would go on until I could manage to pay Mingmei, retrieve Pearl from la-la land and get our rapidly-cooling dinner on the table.
One day a strange young man appeared holding the familiar white bags. Pearl was not amused. She hung behind me, sniffing the air furiously. Yes, it was the same food, but it wasn’t Mingmei. Not cool. Not cool at all!
“Delivery from Golden Dragon,” the young man said.
“Thanks. What do I owe you?” I reached for my wallet.
He told me, then added, “Oh, one more thing: I say herro to Purr.”
“You know her?”
“I know of her,” he said with an enigmatic smile. “Here, Purr, I got something for you from Mingmei.”
He held out an eggroll. Pearl came forward, sniffed, grabbed the eggroll rudely and devoured it in one gulp. She looked up at the stranger. After a moment of deliberation she flopped over on her back. He dutifully scratched her belly – what else could he do?
“Does everyone at the Golden Dragon know Pearl?” I asked nervously.
“Oh, yes. You are good customer. We all know with Purr, you give eggroll.”
The canine galloping gourmet looked up at me smiling. I could read her mind: “Today eggroll – tomorrow the world.”