Life used to be pretty good for me. I was living with this guy Marty. I lived with him, worked with him, partied with him. We were pals. I worked with him at Laguardia, I was a detector dog and he was my handler. I sniffed out (or detected) bombs, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, all sorts of contraband. If it smells funny, bark and point, that was the general rule. Better to detain some poor bastard with smelly socks than to have an airplane explode, or (god forbid) have some guy smoke pot.
We worked 12 hour shifts, they were generally long and unbearable unless I sniffed cocaine or heroin. Cocaine gave me the energy I needed to get through the shift, heroin made me so high I didn’t really care or know where I was. But most of the time, I didn’t detect anything. There just wasn’t anything to detect.
Marty would feed me french fries during lunch. We had to hide in a back room to eat. It looks unprofessional for a detector dog to eat in public, the public loses faith. It was the main rule Marty and I had to follow, that I wasn’t allowed to eat while I was on duty. People dropped hot dogs, chips, all sorts of food all the time, and as a dog, I always wanted to eat it. Always. But I knew Marty and I would get in trouble if I did, so I never did. And we got to eat in the break room often enough, and there was always plenty of dog food for me, and like I said, Marty usually gave me his french fries, and sometimes even a hamburger or a hot dog.
Once we got off work, Marty would get a weird expression, like he was debating with himself. He wanted to get drunk, but he thought for some reason that he shouldn’t, that it was messing up his life. He didn’t have any friends or a girlfriend, so I didn’t know what choice he had. I tried to help him, when we passed delis or beer distributors I would always touch his thigh with my paw and let out a little bark, then point my nose at the deli or beer distributor. It made it easier for Marty, if it was him who wanted beer (it was), he’d feel guilty about it, but if it was me (it was), well, he was just being nice to me. And he did love me like I loved him. I loved him as only a dog could (in his case, I was the only one. Nobody else, human or animal, loved him).
So he would buy a case of beer and we’d watch TV together. He tried to accommodate me, he used to watch dog centric movies like 101 Dalmations, Air Bud, etc. But dog centric movies are generally lousy. I like Benji, but that’s about it. Thankfully, we ran out of dog centric movies, but he figured that as a dog, I wouldn’t mind watching the same, lousy, dog centric movies over and over again. I let him know that I couldn’t take it anymore, I barked and stood in front of the TV. Marty was a pretty smart guy, he paged through the menu and asked me what I wanted to watch. I didn’t really care, but I knew that Marty loved pornography (strangely enough, I like human pornography, too), so once he got to any of the pornography options I would bark, wag my tail, and point at the screen. It made Marty happy (watching pornography especially made him happy, at least until he came. After that, he was sad).
That’s how close Marty and I were. He would watch pornography in front of me, he would jerk off in front of me. There was nothing bestial about it, he was just comfortable around me. And I felt just as comfortable around him (though to be honest, as a dog, I feel comfortable around just about everyone). I would lick my asshole and fart into my mouth in front of him all the time, it made him laugh.
While we were watching TV, we would drink beer together. I had my own special beer bowl. I was touched that Marty had gotten a beer bowl for me (he drank or ate out of or on whatever was laying around). He talked to me all the time, usually typical human to dog stuff, but once he got drunk, he would really talk to me.
“Sneakers (that’s my name and I hate it. In Marty’s defense, he didn’t give it to me, some idiot did), you’re my only pal. No one loves me. Not even my family. I hate my job and I hate my life. It isn’t really even my job. It’s really your job. I’m just there to watch you, to report what you detect.”
He would usually reach down and scratch my head while he was saying these things.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’d probably kill myself.”
He was right about that.
One night, Marty was particularly depressed, and we got hammered. I drank so much I threw up, which is rare for a dog. How many times in your life, having seen so many dogs do so many disgusting things, have you ever seen one puke? Maybe once? Twice? Well I threw up all over the place, and we had to be at work in an hour. I threw up so much it came out of my nose. So of course when I got to work all I could smell was my own vomit lodged in my nose. I felt and looked terrible, my fur wasn’t shiny and peppy the way it usually is, and Marty looked even worse, but he was used to covering his hangovers. He drank a lot of coffee and kept sucking on these blue Halls Mentholyptus mints. He probably wreaked of alcohol, but like I said, all I could smell was my own vomit.
His manager came up to us and pointed at me.
“Sneakers looks like a mess today. Is he sick?”
Marty laughed and looked off to the side.
“He’s just a bit hungover.”
The manager laughed for a second, then gave me a long look, then gave Marty a long look. He sniffed at the air around us.
“Wait a second. You’re not kidding. You know you’re not supposed to give Sneakers alcohol? Hell, a child would know. Marty, this is a matter of national security. We can’t have a hammered dog walking around, it looks terrible. And what if he misses something? We told you this in training. No alcohol for the detector dogs.”
Marty looked like he was about to cry and the manger shook his head, the lousy bastard.
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go.”
Marty didn’t even put up a fight. I tried to follow him out and the manager grabbed my harness.
“Come on, Sneakers. Good boy.”
I started to howl. Marty turned back and crouched down in front of me.
“It’s okay, Sneakers. I’m sorry pal. Don’t you worry about me.”
I howled some more. The manager tried to pat me and I turned and growled at him.
“Whoa! Easy, buddy.”
I hated being called buddy. There was another dog named Buddy, which is, in my opinion, an even worse name than Sneakers.
This is when I, and the manager, made life changing mistakes. He tried to bully me, to take authority over me. Marty had never done that. Marty and I were pals. The manager stood up straight and pointed at me.
I hate being pointed at. I was so hungover and emotional I jumped up and bit his finger off. He let out a gasp, but I think he went into shock. He cradled his hand and fainted.
Marty was stunned. He called for help on his walkie talkie, then crouched down in front of me. He took my harness off.
“Sneakers, we have to get out of here. They’ll put you down for that. I want to take you home, but they’ll find you there. It’s the first place they’ll look. I’m sorry, pal.”
He gave me a hug, then waved at me to follow him.
We left the airport and Marty drove me to someplace new. He stopped to pick up a case of beer on the way. He started crying.
“This is it, pal.”
He turned onto a dirt road that led into the forest. Once we were a mile or so in, he killed the engine and we hopped out. He grabbed the beer and an old McDonald’s cup and led me to a nice clearing on a ledge overlooking the city. I had never imagined such a place could exist. Woods in (or close) to the city. Amazing. I started wagging my tail. Dogs are resilient. Marty uncapped a beer and took a long pull, then poured some into the cup for me. I lapped it up and felt my hangover begin to dissolve. Marty watched me and rubbed at his nose. It looked like he was going to cry again.
“This is what we’re going to do, Sneakers. I’m going to come back here and bring you a little house. It’ll be hard for you. I know you’ll be lonely. But don’t be afraid. I’ll always come back. Every day.”
Marty was crying, but laughed.
“My schedule is pretty free nowadays. Before long, I’ll probably be living out here with you.”
I let out a happy howl and Marty howled with me. And he did come back. Every day. And eventually, he was living out there with me.