Yi Shun Lai


Beach: We used to go once a week, at least. Comprising sand and water, it is the place at which you first truly marveled. Your furry little brain shorted the first time, didn’t it? But then you forgot that your brain had shorted, and you went in search of this four-legged friend, or that one, and you dashed around like a—well, like a crazed hound. When we got home, you were exhausted.

We always knew where you slept by the piles of sand that you left here and there. By this same token we always knew you never clambered onto the sofa when we left the house.

This is also where you forgot that you were once terrified of water. You swam after endless balls here. And you made me retrieve them when you were tired and had Had Enough.

Eventually I made up other words for this. I am still unable to use it in normal conversation within your earshot, because you go nuts when you hear it. Just so you know, I now know how to say this word in five languages because of you. And I also know that it comprises H2O and Silica.

Balloon: I am not sure what happens to you when you see one of these. You are not a barker, and yet, whenever you see one of these, you yap like the white poufy thing that tried to hump your leg the other day on the sidewalk. (Do you remember? We were on our way to the park. You stood nobly and tolerated it, occasionally glancing at me, as if to say, “Please do something about this.”) You yap before I have even blown the thing up.

Is it the smell of latex? What makes you turn circles so? What makes you want to bump it, over and over into the air, with your wet nose, until the thing is slimy and covered in patches of snot?

Oh, I see. It is not bumping at all. It is snapping. You are trying to catch the thing, to shake it, to deflate it. I see. What a curious departure, from your normal, sweet, snoozing self.

Brush: You do come when I tell you it is time for us to use this on you, but I suspect this has something to do with the fact that it is kept in the same place as your other things.

When you were a puppy, we did this once a week. It was like quality time together, because we were often running around like crazy and you slept a lot. You didn’t mind it back then, but you seem to mind it now, although you also mind us when we tell you it’s for your own good, just like being stuck with a rabies shot or having kennel cough vaccine shot up your nose.

You have a lot of hair. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about this, and we can’t do much about the fact that all of our clothing has extra warmth woven into it from your fuzz. But we can at least try to maintain the spread of the fuzz, can’t we? Hmmm?

BPMF (Bi-Pedal Mommy Figure): This is what your friend Colin calls me. He said the fact that your Facebook page refers to me as “mommy” makes him think of “Rosemary’s Baby,” so he asked for an alternative.

Now, everyone calls me this when they are talking to you. The fact that they are talking to you, and not me, is a little satisfying and also a little weird.

I tried to tell Colin it is all The Other One’s fault. Remember Chicago? You know how, every once in a while, we’d go to the place of People Who Would Feed You Scraps From the Table? They called themselves “Grandma and Grandpa,” remember? I think this is where The Other One gets it, from his parents.

Yes, I know. I am much happier with BPMF, too.

Beth: You know Beth. She brought her husband Michael to meet you, and they brought you all sorts of things you are not supposed to eat. Turkey, puffed corn snacks coated with fake cheese powder…She gave you that awesome squeaky ice cream cone-shaped toy, too, remember?

Beth is one of the people we do NOT have in common on Facebook. Of the 160 friends you have, only 113 of them are friends with me. Why is this?

You clearly have a life independent from me.

That day with Beth was fantastic, wasn’t it? I mean aside from the turkey. Beth said you are the perfect canine icon for Large Multi-National Brand with Recognizable Logo. We were so proud of you!

113 of 160. If I were really your parent, I’d be worried.

Baby: You hate babies. Early on, when you were a puppy, you were so good with them! You would walk over and check on them and nose them, if only to see what they were. And then one day, one screaming, waddling baby fell on you. And ever since then, you cringe and hide behind my legs whenever you see a bi-pedal sort shorter than four feet tall.

It is terrible. And embarrassing. What would happen if we had a bi-pedal product of our own?

Blanket: If you must hump this, please stop doing it when we are having dinner parties. I suppose I should be happy that you don’t hump anything but the blanket.

Boy: Preceded by “good,” “bad,” or “Is that a…”? You hear this a lot. Mostly, you hear the “good boy” phrase, don’t you? Especially when you’ve waited quietly, when you go left or right on command; when you do any of the hundreds of things you do daily that make you a good boy.

(The time I left the pomegranate out, though? In front of the TV, remember? And we left the bedroom door open just a crack, and then next morning, there were but pithy pomegranate remains all over the living room rug, where you had worked to systematically remove any pomegranate seeds left over? That was not a good boy moment.)

Do you remember Peggy? One of your very first bi-pedal friends? She says you are a good boy, maybe the best boy she’s ever seen, and that you are a testament to the fact that we would make fantastic parents.

But our friend Sara reminded me that we are not of the same makeup, you and me, and that although the Other One might be an excellent daddy, we can’t measure whether or not we’d be good parents by what a Good Boy you are.

Bees: I was so far away when you discovered these. Kathy and Jeff told us that you’d found a whole nest of them. And they weren’t just bees, either, were they? They were angry hornets, and they stung you over and over again.

Kathy said you had at least twenty stings, all over. I can picture you, shaking and terrified, head tucked into Kathy’s armpit, or maybe Jeff’s, as they picked the furious creatures out of your fur. It was terrible to think that you were all alone at the moment, but you had your friends, and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Yi Shun Lai is a writer and editor. She lives in White Plains, New York, with The Other One and her dog Sprocket. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Women's Health, The Los Angeles Times, and other venues. She is an MFA candidate at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, on Whidbey Island, Washington.
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