August 03, 2015 11:50:37 PM





The sun rose and everything fell from Alex’s mind. Alex woke before his owner did and shuffled to the kitchen. “Got to watch my cholesterol,” he said as he poured himself a bowl of Doggieos. Alex was a considerate pug. He made his breakfast and did his yoga before his owner Matt got up. He shared a condo with the 32-year-old bike shop owner in Westwick, a small town outside of Portland, Oregon. The town was sandwiched in between a tight-knit biking community and an up-and-coming animal stunt scene. While Matt ran his bike shop in the center of town during the day, Alex was free to browse the market. There were many jobs seeking new animal talent. As a seven-year-old, Alex felt like he was in his prime and was in the best place in Oregon to be showcasing his skills.

After breakfast Matt took Alex to a free tea convention Upstate. The bus ride there included scenery of bike shops and thrift stores that appeared abandoned. The bus ride back from Upstate left him smelling like spoiled eggs, thanks to the diaper that was thrown at him by an unattended toddler at the convention.

After a quick bath and a sneak of Matt’s opened beer in the fridge, Alex had enough courage to call up his adopted brother Jeremy for advice. Jeremy, a German Sheppard, had recently completed the local NA program. The toil of working as a detection dog had taken his sobriety and cost him his four pups.
“Jeremy are you there?” Alex asked.
“My good ol’ boy. How you hangin’ in Westwick? Still sniffin’ balls?” His brother laughed.
“Not anymore. I’ve got a serious question for you,” Alex said.
“If this is about me finding a new job, I’ve tried. Nobody wants to hire a junkie.”
“No, this is about me finding a job. It’s been months since I’ve had a proper audition. I’m starting to feel hopeless,” Alex replied. “How did you stay so positive throughout the past year? I know we’ve never really talked about your recovery seriously.”
“Babes man,” he sighed. “I knew that the babes were waiting for me on the other side of sobriety.”
“Okay, I don’t have babes waiting for me so is there anything else that kept you I don’t know, stable?”
“No, not really. Just babes. Hey, Alex don’t sweat it. You’ve got a degree and a mountain of debt. Nowadays that shows you’re really trying. I have chronically bad breath and worms.”
“Remind me not to call you for another six months,” Alex yawned.
“Noted,” Jeremy said as the line went flat.

Terrie, who was a Shih Tzu and Alex’s on-and-off-again manager, had set up an interview of a lifetime for Alex the next morning. She described the place as “a job that doesn’t just come around.” The interview was with the top stunt animal agency in Upstate Westwick. On paper, Alex was perfect. He did everything his father asked of him. Fresh out of the prestigious Vassar, he completed his M.F.A. at Carnegie Mellon. Once he graduated he found it hard to make it past callbacks. He opted for community college theater and the local scene around Pittsburgh before he met Matt.
“It’s your eyes,” Terrie once suggested. “They’re too big. You come across mean. Small eyed dogs are getting roles.” For years Alex internalized Terrie’s criticism. He wore over sized hats, flashy wigs, and even face masks to disguise his round bright brown eyes during auditions. That night as he fell asleep Alex decided tomorrow that the only face he was going to wear was his own.

The next day Alex skipped his Doggies and yoga and went straight into the monologue Terrie prepared for him. Alex recited his lines proudly in the kitchen: “I can save you Charlie!” He repeated this promise in various stances. One paw pointed, tail down. One eye wandering, tail up. Two eyes closed, belly up. To Matt Alex’s practicing sounded more like a cry for attention.“Quiet down Alex. For God’s sake I don’t want to get you neutered but if you’re going to whine do it outside,” he yelled. Alex slicked back his short fur, sprayed a hint of Matt’s cologne on his chest, and wrapped his head shots to his underbelly. He lit a cigarette and hurried out the doggie door and made his way to the Tall Building downtown where most auditions take place.

He made his way past looming strays and more professional dogs with pressed ties towards the Tall Building. “Today, I am a stunt dog. Tomorrow, I could be in one of those dog savior movies – okay probably not, but I can dream dogdammit. A dog’s got to have dreams,” Alex told himself before he put out his cigarette on a littered newspaper. “This is it,” he whispered as he stared at the building’s entrance. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.