“So how’s what’s-his-name?” Even through the phone, my brother sounded distracted.
“What’s-his-name? You mean my significant other?” I asked.
“No, no. Not Crabby. The little one—you know, uh… Oh, the Mexican hairless!”
I get a kick out of my brother’s self-exasperation. It’s so cute to watch Mr. Cool lash himself to the mast with his own tongue.
For some reason this time I was more amused than usual. Some of the iced tea ended up on my shirt, and some ended up across the room. “Did you just say ‘Mexican hairless?’” I couldn’t suppress a chuckle.
Dog raised his head from the couch, his ears standing at attention and displeasure in his eyes.
“You know who I mean,” Brother informed me. “That little dog thing you have. Never mind. I don’t care anyway. Gotta go. Bye.”
“‘Mexican hairless?’” Dog cocked his head and raised one eyebrow. “What kind of thing is that to say?”
“It’s an antiquated term for Chihuahua,” I told him.
“It’s rude.” He scowled. “Clearly it’s incorrect, and it’s ethnically insensitive.”
“Of course it’s incorrect.” Halfway through the blithe comment, my mind caught up with my mouth. “Wait a sec… Did you just say ‘ethnically insensitive?’”
“I did. That sort of language is what leads to profiling.”
“Aw c’mon.” I groaned, rolling my eyes. “Let’s not start this. Surely you’re not going to tell me profiling is a problem for you. The only thing you’ve ever been ‘profiled’ as is small and cute.”
He sat up. “And yappy and nervous and ill-tempered and helpless and foo-foo—”
“I am well aware of the power of words.” I’m afraid my tone might have been a bit clipped. This wasn’t the first time we’d had the discussion. “But the only way they can hurt you is if you let them. Their power is all in your head.”
Dog snorted. “And I suppose ‘Mexican hairless’ doesn’t carry any baggage.”
“I said it was antiquated. That means hardly anyone ever uses it.”
Dog was not to be swayed. “Next thing you know, he’ll be insisting I get a green card, mow his lawn, and have myself neutered.” He stood and shook himself from end to end to resettle his fur, jangling his tags in the process. “I’m not even from Mexico. I was born in Conroe.”
“You speak Spanish.”
“You’re not helping your argument.”
“We perform a vital function in this country.” Dog plopped his bottom back on the couch, glaring at me down his nose. “We do the jobs other dogs don’t want to do.”
“I realize it must be a terrible strain on you to be peppy, portable, and precious at all times, but I assure you, The Man appreciates your sacrifice. Besides, it’s not like your civil rights are in jeopardy.” I scratched him under the chin. Usually, he likes that.
Evidently, this was not going to be a usual day. Dog sat back, taking his chin with him. “Hmph. Let my people go.”
“This people is going into the other room if you’re going to be such a sourpuss.”
He barreled right ahead as though I hadn’t spoken. “We’ve been stereotyped for generations, and it’s about time that sort of behavior stopped—before things get ugly.”
I was only vaguely disquieted by the suggestion, but I had to ask. “Ugly?”
He curled one side of his upper lip so just the tip of one fang showed. The sudden image of a pack of tiny canine guerrillas clad in bandoliers and serapes flashed before my mind’s eye.
I sighed. “Okay, then, what would ‘your people’ prefer to be called?”
“Chihuahua-Americans.” He slipped in a sneeze at the end.
“I’m not sure I can get the punctuation right,” I told him. I’ve never been a particularly adept sneezer. “But I’ll spread the word. And what do I get in return?”
He laid his ears flat against his neck and gazed up at me with big, sad Chihuahua-American eyes. “I shouldn’t have to make deals in order to loose the unjust shackles of society’s oppression.”
“And I shouldn’t have to feed you homemade treats precisely at 7 p.m. daily, either.”
“You do that because you love me.” He climbed into my lap and licked my wrist.
“Yes, and you should make the deal because you love me, too.” I scratched him behind one diminutive ear. “How ’bout no more scooting under the bed to avoid capture? I’m not as young as I used to be, you know.”
“Even when it’s time for a bath?” He turned his head so I could scratch behind the other ear.
“Especially when it’s time for a bath.”
Dog stood on his hind legs, placed two tiny forepaws on my chest and gazed directly into my eyes for a good, long while. I think he forgot we weren’t playing “Alpha Dog,” because when I spoke it surprised him. “Well?”
“Oh, all right,” he said, a bit miffed. “I’ll do my best to respond positively to the voice of doom. Satisfied?”
“One small concession from Chihuahua-American kind; one giant boon to bad knees.” I grinned and extended one hand. “Shake on it?”
“How ‘bout we seal the deal with a snack instead?” He committed himself to a languorous stretch and then hopped down from the couch and trotted toward the kitchen. His nails made little clicking sounds on the floor as he went. “I’m in the mood for some yogurt.”