- In public, whenever someone else’s dog barks at him, he can’t resist the temptation. He says things that might make the dog feel silly or hurt its feelings if dogs could understand the concept of insult.
“Your existence is meaningless! You are of no consequence to the universe!”
“Learn to use a toilet!”
“I could buy and sell you!”
He has gone on with this for up to 12 minutes before. He keeps on until she or the dog loses its patience. It’s the worst side effect of the brain transplant, probably a holdover from his days as a dog. There are others, but they have never resulted in public embarrassment.
- She got the idea to swap her old dog’s brain into her old boyfriend’s body from an old stupid movie called The Atomic Brain, where a similar deal resulted in terror or hilarity depending how one might look at it. It was not the kind of thing she would normally think to do, even while under the influence of old stupid movies. It was just the way things came together. Her old dog had inoperable bone cancer and she was having trouble coming up with a convincing reason to break up with her old boyfriend. And bonded as she was with the dog, she had always suspected that it had aspirations.
- When they walk down the street, her new boyfriend likes to hold hands. He likes to hold her purse. He likes to hold things. Doing so gives him a visible sense of contentment. This is evident in their sex life as well as their general life. When he thinks she is not looking he will sometimes simply pick up objects, nod, and put them back down.
- When her old boyfriend became her new dog, he did not understand at first. Lacking the capacity for speech, he could only stare at her and hope for an explanation. The dog had always had an expressive face. No one can look as betrayed as a Labrador, when it wants to. They portray this added facet of vulnerability that hits you right there. She had to explain that there was nothing really wrong with him, but there was nothing really right with him either. She thought he seemed–not dead inside, nothing like that, but sore of bare. Wintery. Winter inside. She had to admit that sounded stupid. Her new dog buried its muzzle between her knees.
- Her new boyfriend is a landscape architect. He does a lot of work with solar panels. He likes solar panels. He likes to read about them in magazines and look at pictures of them, to appreciate what other people in his field are up to.
- She knew she had to explain things better to her new dog. He’d taken to sitting outside with his back to the apartment for hours. He would come in only to eat, so she latched onto that.
“Doesn’t that taste good?”
He scarfed and wagged his tail. She fed him the best dog food, organic and nutritious and everything.
“Remember when you heard the other sales reps cracking on you for eating McDonalds every
day? Nobody’s going to do that now.”
She slipped him a pretzel from the pantry. He wagged furiously.
- Her new boyfriend is very concerned about the declining standards of the American film industry, pointing to the way that even those filmmakers considered masters by contemporary measures are abandoning themselves in favor of shallow, profit-driven projects. He often buys them tickets to showings of old films by Chaplin, Bergman, Mizoguchi, artists he wishes he could have been around for. He does not object when she wants to see mainstream movies, however.
- Whenever she tried to be affectionate with her new dog he would become defiant, lay in the corner and give her his how could you put me in a cancer dog face from between his paws. She told him:
“Look, this is going to suck for both of us until you can admit that you like being a dog.”
She knows he enjoys it. The light grooming standards, the dependency, the distinct lack of requirement to pull his weight. This, in addition to the fact that he never seemed to take any obvious pleasure in being human. He pursued food, sex and TV like an amoeba blindly groping for tasty particles. Malaise, she thought, was the word. He never took interest in any higher pursuits than what he had in his life already. As she was used to telling the head of her department while dodging predatory swoops, there was nothing wrong per se, but there was room for improvement. That was her goal in this procedure. As a dog he would watch TV with an animal’s fascination, trying to decode these strange signals that had once made so much sense, far from the bored acceptance he’d demonstrated as a human. The only thing about his former life that he had just cause to miss was linguistic expression, and even then she though he benefited from the opportunity to shut up. Still, he pig-headedly refused to forgive her.
- She urged her new boyfriend to cohabit with her, at first, out of concern that he would not know how to take care of himself on his own. In this her results have far exceeded expectations. He has proved both adept at and eager to learn a variety of chores, and now is able to do his equal share of the housework. She can’t help but admire the subtle joy with which he approaches each day. The sense of knowing that what he has, he has earned.
- Her new dog died more or less as expected. He lost the ability to walk toward the end and had to be carried, on his bed, between the kitchen and the yard to eat and defecate. His hip swelled to enormous size, so that he could only lie on one side. None of this appeared to embarrass, or even inconvenience him in any significant way. She had him put to sleep when the tumor broke through his skin. She gave him his last meal before going to the vet, and he did manage to push out a few stiff wags. She supposed that she did feel a little guilty. If only he could have had more time as a dog, she is sure they would have parted on better terms. This was her procedure’s flaw. There was, as always, room for improvement.
- All things considered, she is ready to call this one a win. She is making plans to swap the head of her department’s brain into some kind of carrion bird, preferably one with smaller talons that will be less inclined to attack her. Her expectations are high.