"Just a Dog and His Ball" McKenzie Fisher
His head cocked to the side as he stared at me. He just didn’t get it. I tried so hard to make him understand, but he still failed. Five minutes of silence felt long enough. This approach wouldn’t work; I needed to switch it up. It only took a couple of minutes for him to learn to jump, stand, and shake, so why couldn’t he learn to speak?
I called him over to his kennel. He recoiled when it came into view. I imagine he thought of all the times we confined him to that miserable cage, all the nights he slept with nothing to keep him company but the cold steel, all the days we locked him in there when we left, where he sat and waited for us to return and set him free. The place he stayed while Sophie roamed around the house, doing whatever her heart desired. He always barked when we put him in there.
He hated the first few times. I tried to put him in the kennel while he wriggled and snapped at me, pleading with me not to put him in. Please, anywhere but the kennel. He let out an abrupt bark of frustration, and I immediately let go. I let him eat the goldfish I held in my clawed and scratched hand, evidence of our past lessons. He wagged his tail and sat, awaiting my instructions. Time for round two. I wrestled him into the kennel again, and he let out another bark of protest. I gave him another goldfish. We repeated our exercise a few more times before I put a word to the action.
I put him in the kennel. He barked.
“Speak,” I said, handing him yet another goldfish.
The time came to see if he retained what I taught him.
“Okay Zeus, sit.”
He happily obliged. His brown eyes stared back into mine, eager to learn more; he stuck out his paw, thinking I wanted him to shake.
Nothing but another head tilt.
It didn’t stick. Back to the kennel we went. He became a fluid mass of fur and claws, squirming and wriggling in my grasp as I tried to stuff him back in. His eyes darted around, searching for a way to escape. His anger mounted, then he let out a long, deep growl as I tried to contain him. Then he barked.
“Good boy,” I said. He took the goldfish I held in my hand.
“Okay Zeus, sit.”
He let out an angry puff of air. I could barely hear it.
“Speak,” I repeated.
He inhaled and unleashed the rage he held back throughout our time at the kennel. It started as a low rumble, then crescendoed into a string of sing-song yelps, concluding with a single, sharp, triumphant yap. I filled my hand with goldfish and allowed him to eat as many as he wanted.
“Good boy, Zeus.”