I sit in a cozy living room chair, smooshed comfortably into the back cushion, book in hand, and a glass of iced tea at my side. Draped across the back of the chair just behind my neck lies Dixie, my five-pounds-of-pure-adorableness Chihuahua, happily gnawing away on her beloved chew when suddenly I hear a plunk. The chew has fallen to the floor. I look at Dixie.
“I suppose you want me to pick that up for you?” I say.
Her eyes meet mine. Yes, please.
I lean over the arm of the chair where I can only reach (of course) the soggy, saliva-covered end of the disgusting thing, pick it up and place it back in front of her. She turns away, disinterested now.
“I thought you wanted it.”
“You asked me to pick it up.”
No, I didn’t. You made that up.
And she’s right. I have conversations with my dog where I supply both sides of the dialogue. I do this out loud. Even when there are people around. I silently thank Ronald Reagan for gutting California’s mental health system thus assuring my freedom to continue to do so unabated by those who would have me locked away.
The voice I use for Dixie is small, like she is, and a few octaves above my own with a slight whisper quality to it. I tell myself I am so connected to her that I know exactly what she is thinking at any given moment. I tell myself that even if that’s not entirely true, I am, after all, a writer and am allowed a certain amount of creative leeway. I tell myself there are many reasons why I’m single, and this is the least of it.
Dixie, for her part, is happy to play along because as long as she is the focus of my undivided attention, she doesn’t much give a crap what I say.
I don’t attempt this with my cat, Mason. I have had cats for my entire life and, while they can be loving companions, I assure you they have only three messages for us: “Feed me.” “Pet me.” “Go away.” Sometimes “pet me” and “go away” are aligned precariously close and, if one is not quick to discern the mood shift, a blood-letting can occur. Yours, not theirs. Timing is everything.
I gaze down at Dixie who is now curled up in her basket on the floor beside me. She senses me looking at her, raises that sweet face and looks up at me with those big brown eyes.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too, Dixie.”