What I Get


Mister Jacques likes his sleep. Tania and Sebastian stretch and shake and slip out of bed with me at 4am (I know, I know), but Jacques stays put, sensibly sprawled across our king/twin combo, somewhere on the quilted expanse between John and Peter.

Hours later, when the sun begins to warm the low, green house that shields our bedroom window from dawn’s earliest light, Jacques finally decides to greet the day. He shuffles to the kitchen, waiting beside the refrigerator for me to appear as I always, always do. “How does he know that I am here?” Jacques wonders, unfamiliar with the sense of sound, never guessing that the scratch-scratch-scratch of his paws across our scuffed wooden floors can be heard from the sidewalk. (Sebastian has the same gait. Maybe it’s a deaf thing.)

I could stay at my desk and wait for Jacques to find me, but I don’t. I can’t. Instead, I play it up in pantomime, popping through the kitchen door like a magician’s assistant appearing with a dramatic flourish at a half-assed talent show. It’s the kind of cornball sorcery that’s kept our relationship fresh after all these years.

Jacques wears a patiently bored expression while waiting for his “We survived the night!” treat—the most important treat of the day. I open the back door for him and eventually return to reading, but Jacques needs more than parlor tricks and pee breaks and regularly scheduled snacks to start his day. He needs scratches. Butt scratches. By the billions.

So, Jacques does what all dogs do: he leans against me and presents his ass, waiting for more magic. Depending on my mood, I half-heartedly rub or vigorously scratch the spot just above his tail, until I grow tired and try to go back to reading or writing or whatever I was doing before Jacques inserted himself into my day. But it’s far too late for that: I’ve already hit his switch. He’s on, and he needs more. An insatiable scratching bottom. He backs into me again, and again, and again, until I submit.

By now, Jacques has my full attention. I am as present as he is. I squat so that we can see eye to eye, my knees spread wide, almost to malasana. I meet him on his level as if to say that I see him as an equal, a partner, someone who will never abandon him, never hurt him the way his first owners did. I scratch for a few more minutes, thinking that he’ll eventually get enough, but no, not at all. His ecstasy escalates, 110 pounds of bones, muscle, and lipomas rutting against my chest, pinning me to the sofa, enraptured.

There is nothing to do but laugh and continue scratching. As I struggle to maintain balance, I ask Jacques, “And me, what do I get out of this?” He looks over his shoulder, his tongue licking the air in delight. And I think, “Yes, this is what I get.”