Praise Dog

IIlustration by Mitch Handsone

Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson had thick brown fur growing around both of his eyes, covering fully both lids, until Monday night. At around 8:30 p.m., I noticed that some of Jackson’s left-eye fur was missing, and that the semicircle of skin where the fur used to be was slightly pink and puffy. Didn’t look serious — he’d probably just confused his Visine with his Nair — but I figured it was best to get a second opinion.

When we entered the vet’s waiting room the following afternoon, an old white lady with thick, bright makeup and a big, scary smile was having what I believed at the time to be a conversation with the receptionist. Beside her, lying on the floor, was a small pink dog.

“We don’t like the French now.”

“No, we don’t, do we?”

“Baby Boy thinks the French are awful people.”

“They didn’t used to be.”

“But now they are. Ooo!” The talking white lady had turned her attention to the grumpy brown ingredients of my portable plastic pet-prison, which I’d placed on the reception counter. “Ooo!” she repeated. “What kind of doggie is that?”

“A cat.”

“Ooo! Baby Boy and I love cats, don’t we, Baby Boy?” Baby Boy did not yap or wag or move in any way. Motionless there on the nice cool floor, with a paw on either side of his face, the wide-eyed pink dog looked nothing but permanently worried. “What’s your kitty-cat’s name?” white lady went on, with great interest and volume, half singing, half . . . squealing?

“Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson. His friends call him Jackson.”

“Ooo! Isn’t that a wonderful name, Baby Boy? What kind of kitty-cat is he?”

“He’s a mutt. Half Burmese, half calico.”

“Ooo! Baby Boy loves calico cats! Baby Boy and I used to have some calico friends in our building, didn’t we, Baby Boy? That’s right! Baby Boy loved the kitty-cats, even after they died! I bought the kitty-cats a Bill Clinton doll, and they loved it!! They tore that awful, sinful man to pieces. Praise God! Did you know that Baby Boy’s father, God rest his soul, grew up with two calico cats, and . . . ”

It went on and on, with no end in sight. Ms. Whitelady was now officially Ms. Crazy-Ass White Lady. Gushing uncontrollably about her Church and her God and her Baby Boy, who looked as suicidal as any pink dog I’d ever seen.

 

The first time I heard a crazy religious lady relentlessly reminding a little pink dog that she/he/it was the bestest most wonderfulest little baby cutie-pie mwah mwah mwah yes you are oh yes you are my wuvable witto snookums while the adjacent snookums appeared downright suicidal, I was 7 years old. It was a Sunday afternoon. A heavily scented, crazy white lady and her pink dog appeared at our front door, claiming to represent someone named Jesus. Mrs. Lady asked my dog and me to give her some money to give to Jesus, because His Father had apparently raised His rent.

“Daaad!” I called. “Someone at the door for you!”

“And what is your little doggie-woggie’s name?” Mrs. Lady asked, while I blocked the door and waited for Pa to come scare her off with a buckshot blast of sarcastic agnosticism.

“Boots,” said I. “But we didn’t name him.”

“Bootsie!” she squealed. “Praise God! That’s my Bootsie-Poo’s name, too!!”

“Woof!” said pink little Bootsie-Poo.

“Rassin-frassin-grassinrrrrrr,” said Boots, trying to get through my left leg to more properly greet the guests.

“May I help you?” said Pa from over my shoulder.

“Praise God!” said the crazy lady again, and I grabbed Boots by his collar and left the woman and my dad to duke it out.

In my room, I asked Boots, “Is the religious lady religious because she’s crazy, or is the crazy lady crazy because she’s religious?”

“Yes,” Boots replied.

 

Crazy-Ass Whitelady was kind enough not to follow us into the examination room, but with no closed doors and only a short hallway between us, her voice remained our constant companion, loud and clear. A sane man entered, weighed Jackson, stuck a thermometer up his ass, removed it and left. Then there was nothing to do but listen.

Whitelady was waiting for a van that was already 30 minutes late to take her and Baby Boy back to Van Nuys. “The armpit of Los Angeles!!” she said, twice, in a row, with a glee/volume quotient requiring, I promise you, at least two exclamation points to render fairly. “But we love it, because that’s where God wants us to live!”

Out in the waiting room, people and other animals came and went. Whitelady worked on each and every one.

“The cutest baby!”

“A lovely family!”

And when no fresh meat was available, she reverted to the Church/God/dog attack on the receptionist, which she seemed to have spent a lot of time rehearsing.

 

Sharing Jackson’s examination room was what had now become a crazy-ass white man. Crazier than Whitelady, even. And not because he was talking to his cat, but because he was apologizing for Crazy-Ass Whitelady’s impositions.

“I’m sorry you’re having to listen to this,” man told cat. “As if your day wasn’t already stressful enough.”

Crazy-Ass Whiteman went on to explain to Jackson that Whitelady wasn’t a bad lady, just a bit hebephrenic and addicted to religion. “She just likes to wear clowny makeup and yak like a 4-year-old. Or maybe she doesn’t like to, but that’s what she does. Like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, except not as mean.”

Somewhere between Bette Davis and Baby Jane, Crazy-Ass Whitelady, down the hall, burst into song for all to hear.

I see You in Your Father’s skies!
I see You in the ocean blue!
And in a child’s eyes!
In every leaf on every tree!
I see Your glory!

Jackson sighed and shook his head. It wasn’t that bad, really. Last time we were here, they’d cut off his balls.

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