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  • Ursula Werner

Alpha, Who's Alpha?

Look, I’m just trying to get along. It wasn’t my idea to destroy the nest Mama and I were in, pack everything up in boxes, and come to this place with all these other animals already here. The Vizsla, the dachshund, the rabbit. (Oh, you think I don’t know about the rabbit? I know about the rabbit. They hide it in a room upstairs, but I can smell it through the bottom crack of the closed door. And at night, I can hear it shuffling around. It thinks it’s safe. But one of these days, someone will leave the door open, and then BAM! Byebye rabbit.)

On a bad day, it’s a lot to deal with. When I say “it,” I mostly mean Walter. He and I are always jockeying for position. Like who gets to lie down where, that’s a big issue. Walter thinks he’s in charge, but if I get into Mama’s Mama’s lap first, I can keep him away with my feistiness. GrrrrRUFRUFRUFRUFRUF! Bounce up and down wildly on my front paws and shake my head at him. That keeps him away. He’s basically a scaredy-cat, Walter is.

But Mama’s Mama is a pushover. She’ll be petting me and kissing me and we’ll be all happy, just the two of us, sitting together loving on each other, while dumb Walter has to watch. But then Walter will start whining. And it is insufferable.

Hey, I can whine with the best of them, especially when Mama decides it’s time to stop playing ball, and she puts the ball up on a shelf. Why does Mama get to decide when it’s time to stop playing ball? Who said she was Alpha? I mean, yes, Mama used to be Alpha, way back when, in the old nest, in the land where it was warm all the time and we got to go to beaches and chase the ball in the sand. Back in that world, there were rules: no food from the table, stay quiet under the desk in the classroom, don’t pee inside. But here, there are no rules. Here, in Mama’s Mama’s house (don’t ask me how I figured that out, I don’t really know), Mama gives me little bits of food from her plate, nobody stays quiet, and I’ve been peeing on the piano leg for weeks now. Which makes me wonder who’s the boss. Because there appears to be a power vacuum.

But let me finish telling you about Walter’s whining, because he really is such a baby. He’ll sit there on the floor, looking moony-eyed, letting his ears droop as low as possible, trying to be all bassett-houndy and cute. You think I don’t know what you’re doing, buster?

“Stop that,” I’ll growl at him. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”

“Aww, poor Walter,” Mama’s Mama says.

Oh. My. God. Woman, don’t you see that he’s playing you?

Of course, now Walter has gotten the reaction he wants, so he pours it on. He really starts to whine. And trust me when I tell you, this is not something you want to hear. Walter's whine is beyond awful. Because his whine is not actually a whine, it’s more of an eviscerating squeal. An apex-pitched eardrum-splitting screech. I say this as someone who is pretty respectful of other dogs’ whining, because I get it, it’s a tool in the toolbox, and you gotta use what you gotta use to get what you want. But where the rest of us dogs have whines that are like, say, those tiny pin hammers that you use to fix a kitchen cabinet, Walter’s whine is the monster sledgehammer that you bring out to knock the drywall down.

Mama’s Mama needs to put the kibosh on Walter’s whining, cuz she can’t tolerate it any more than the rest of us. So she takes the easy way out. She caves – she invites Walter up on her lap too. Believe me when I tell you that there is not enough room on Mama’s Mama’s lap for two dogs. Plus, Walter is way too big to be a lap dog anyway, not that he understands that. Mama’s Mama telling Walter that he can come up on her lap is just wrong in so many ways.

Mostly, it messes with my supremacy. Look, it’s quite obvious that I am the smartest dog in this pack. I’m the only one who knows that the point of the game of ball is to chase the ball and bring it back to Mama, or Mama’s Mama, so she can throw it again. The point is not – I’m talking to you, Walter – to take the ball over to the pond and drop it in the water, where neither you nor I can get at it.

Also, I appear to be the only one who really understands how dangerous skateboards are. I mean, a skateboard went right by the house the other day, making about as much noise as an off-track freight train, and could Indiana be bothered to wake from her nap on the bench? No, she could not. Skateboard could have rolled right up the front steps and broken down the door and then where would we be? Yeah, that’s right. We don’t know.

So I’ve been asserting myself ever since I got here. Somebody’s got to take control. But it’s an uphill battle, because we get these mixed signals from Mama and Mama’s Mama, and because . . . well, I hate to say it, but Walter is bigger and stronger than I am. Damn those schnoodle genes.

I’m not giving up hope though. This sickness Mama’s Mama got, this might be my chance to push Walter out. Who knows how long she’ll be up there? Could be weeks, months. Walter’s gonna get bored. He’s so ADD, I can’t believe he’s lasted this long. One day, he’ll come back downstairs to see what’s happening, maybe get Shoe Man to play tug-of-war with a sock. Stupid game. He’ll leave that nice cozy spot next to her pillow all warmed up. And I’ll be right there to take it.

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