I remember well the first time I ever said “No” to Fritz. He was eight weeks old and weighed 2.5 pounds. I naturally thought that made me his master. And so, being a kind master, I had laid him on the couch on his little plaid blanket with about 6 toys and 12 treats, while I went to make lunch. Coming back, I saw he had scooted over to the other side of the couch, in a spot of warm sunlight. Of course, I thought it adorable that he could actually move, but that was where I intended to sit, so I slipped my fingers under his little belly and…. he growled at me. Whoa! I gave the nape of his neck a little waggle, just to let him know in the mildest terms who’s couch it was, and watched with mounting disbelief as his tiny lip pulled back over his tiny canines and a tiny snarl issued from high in his tiny throat.
Having read that one must never back down before such a display, I grabbed him by the back of the neck, looked him in the eye, and bellowed “NO!” He did some puppy calculating and decided not to push it. Satisfied, Igot up to get my book and glasses, and before I had crossed the room he had shot back onto my spot. We eyeballed each other. Of course, this wouldn’t do. I grabbed his little muzzle and set him on the floor. He was only about 4 inches tall, so I assumed I was safe. I sat down to eat my lunch. He lay down to contemplate my education.
Fritz has a more nuanced explanation for his unseemly behavior. He says no one had ever disciplined him before except his mother. He didn’t obey me because I neither looked nor smelled like his mother. Though grateful for small favors, I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t, 13 years later, buy it now. This is about Wiener-ness. I still eat my lunch on the couch, and all the dogs know it is a dog-free zone during that lunch hour. They keep a respectable distance, albeit with little hopeful forays I beat back with a stern glance. Except for Fritz. He sits upright on his haunches, as only certain uber-Weiners can do, directly in front of me but back far enough that I can’t help but see him over the rim of my book. Sometimes he gives out a plaintive little “Urrrk!”. Sometimes he sways a little, as if it is all too much and he may faint from hunger. He does not follow my hand picking up my sandwich and going to my mouth, like the other dogs. No, he stares deeply and soulfully into my eyes. Even though he’s blind. If he had a little striped cane he could not look more pathetic. Sometimes he falls out of his role, literally, and parks himself at my feet and yawns. The canine yawn, we have all been told, often signifies indecision, uncertainty. Not so. Fritz licks his chops and contemplates the discussion we will soon be having about my sandwich crusts. That discussion will not include the “N” word.