Disclaimer: Not Mine. The end.
Perhaps important to note that every year, over a million animals are euthanized at shelters, for a variety of reasons. Many times, it is for behavior, health, and often a lack of space.
Comments are always welcome.
The Antithesis of the Chinchilla
By, Nicole Silverwolf
"A friend is one who knows you as you are,
Understands where you've been,
Accepts who you've become
And still gently invites you to grow
Thank you for being my friend."
- Author Unknown
"Animals are such agreeable friends--they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms."
-George Eliot (1819-1880), 'Mr. Gilfil's Love Story,' Scenes of Clerical Life, 1857
I have decided that for the most part the human race is quite bizarre. How was I supposed to know that chewing on the couch leg, dining room table and wall were things you weren't supposed to do? My first humans were almost never home, I spent most of the day with nothing but a few chew toys and all this delectable furniture...I was bored. Besides, even when they were home, they didn't spend any time with me. All caught up in the noisy screen or the tapping box instead of paying attention to me. I didn't really understand why they left me at the place that smelled like many dogs and cats (as I later found out from a knowledgeable old Neapolitan Mastiff--the shelter).
It wasn't really bad here in fact. The accommodations were a little small to be sure; but I got to go out several times a day, which included long strolls with interesting things to smell along the way. And they took me to a class where I spent time learning the finer points of sit, down, stay and don't jump on humans. How was I supposed to know they didn't like that as much as I did? No one told me. A decent two meals a day and plenty of affection from several humans and I didn't particularly see the need to leave.
And then they moved me into a new room. Still the same size as the first one, same monotone walls but now--there were people! Everyday new people came by. Sometimes they would take me out into the big yard to run around. They seemed nice enough, not necessarily ones I would want to go home with you see, but at least not as confusing and apathetic as my original humans. And so I would misbehave just enough so they would pass me by. I got them to adopt several of my fellow building mates that way.
There wasn't anything special about that particular day in fact. Except that they insisted I get a dreadful water drenching, to clean the mud I had acquired in a good chase I had participated in with an American Pitbull named Queen and a German/Afghan by the name of General that morning.
Honestly, you'd think they'd never seen mud before, the way they scrubbed at it with the white, bad-tasting foam.
Well, I digress. Suffice to say that I did not really expect to meet the most extraordinary humans that afternoon.
"Yugi, if you are not down here in five seconds I'm changing my mind and we won't be getting any animal at all!" The booming voice of Mutou Sugoroku was nothing to be messed with despite the man's heavily graying hair and short, almost stubby stature.
Exactly four seconds later twin socks and their accompanying legs, torso and head landed on the wooden floor in front of the elder gentleman. Mutou Yugi beamed almost smugly up to him, hands out to obviously display his skill in cutting it close to the wire.
"Alright...you've proven your point," his grandfather laughed gently. "But I thought you were excited about going to the shelter?"
"I am!" The child pointed out as he rushed for his shoes and the door leading to the street. "I just wanted to put a few more pieces in the puzzle. I'm sorry I lost track of time."
Sugoroku nodded fondly at the sincere tone. This week, Yugi had found an intricate 5000 piece puzzle in the closet and had spent the better part of his free time--when he wasn't begging them for a pet, doing chores or homework--working on it. To the child's credit, it was nearly three-quarters done.
"Let's hope your new pet likes to share you with puzzles, ehh kiddo?"
"Grandpa! I'm not that bad with puzzles!" Yugi complained incredulously. Well, as incredulously as an eight-year-old could be. With Yugi's wide-set and too large eyes it didn't come off very well.
"Ehhh...no complaining Yugi." His grandfather wagged a finger in a manner that indicated such complaining would mean the pet agreement would be back out the window. Wisely the short boy closed his mouth and the journey to the shelter passed in comfortable silence. Sugoroku smiled at the boy proudly.
Yugi had been desperate for a pet the past few months and had done anything asked of him in the quest to get approval for something in the furry department. And after several late night consultations with his daughter, they had both decided that Yugi had proven himself responsible and eager enough to get a pet.
The boy was lonely, though they tried everything they could to encourage him to make friends. His daughter was far more worried over her son's social development than he was however. The boy seemed content enough and he didn't doubt that the child would make true, great friends; just in his own time.
Around them he was a vibrant, energetic, intelligent and expressive boy, eager to offer a helping hand and kinder than any other person Sugoroku had met before. Around other people however--he clammed up--preferring puzzles to eye contact and silence to spoken word.
He was shy.
Some might say painfully so.
Maybe a cat or something would help to bring the boy out of his shell.
It was quiet inside the shelter; the lazy, slightly overcast Saturday afternoon slowed the flow of visitors considerably. Several workers were sitting behind the desk, a large dog of indeterminable breed lounging on the floor under their feet, happily chewing a Frisbee and halfway towards ingesting it.
They exchanged greetings pleasantly and the young woman explained the finer points of the shelter and how things went in the building to the older gentleman.
Yugi was already drifting away from his grandfather, a wonder filled look in his unusual violet eyes as several cats made their way to the cage fronts to say hello to the little newcomer. He spied several rat and hamster cages as well, but he wasn't as interested in them. They wandered for a few minutes around the smaller cages near the front of the building, containing mostly cats of every age, size and color but also a few smaller dogs.
Yugi personally wanted a dog, though his mother and grandfather both thought a cat would be more appropriate for him. He was so small that some larger dogs would probably be taller than him. But everyone expected him to have a cat, even Anzu. Cats were cool, but a dog...that would be so much better.
"Remember Yugi, we don't have to take one home today. This is just a first look."
Yugi absently nodded, his eyes quietly trying to coax a scared looking white German Shepherd to come forward for a pet from his fingers--all that would fit through the cage mesh. "Hi Mocha. Come say hello. I won't hurt you."
Hesitantly, the big brown-eyed dog stood and approached, warily allowing the boy to gently scratch the bridge of her nose. Within moments, Mocha's eyes lost that wariness and she even thrashed her tail once or twice. Yugi smiled in a way that only he could as the gentle white dog moved to allow for more scratch space. In particular behind an oversized, tall pointed ear.
After a minute or so Yugi smiled and stepped back, trying not to feel guilty about the glazed pleading in the big eyes. He couldn't explain it but he knew this one wasn't the one for them. Even though she was so sweet and gentle. Someone else would adopt her right away. Maybe even today.
The next cage over however, he found whatever it was he was looking for. Big brown eyes watched him curiously, from where he was plastered against the grating of the cage door. He had seen the two tiny humans come in, and was eager to know who they were.
The dog was about as tall as Yugi. Maybe a little shorter so that when he stood up to wag his stub of a tail, the child could just barely see over the top of his flat head, if he stood on tip-toe. The dog was grinning, tongue lolling out of his mouth and wiggling his whole body in happy greeting.
A two-year-old Rottweiler named Maxwell was the antithesis of everything that Sugoroku thought would attract Yugi to pets. He was a little overweight, but not terribly so, perfectly groomed and generally speaking a good representative of the breed.
He was also taller than Yugi by several inches and nearly seventy pounds heavier--conservatively speaking.
The dog was also spirited, and obviously strong, judging by the extensive write up on his cage card. Several times there were mentions of a household that was experienced with dogs and willing to take care of a pet that needed much attention. He did not miss the recommendation for a household with older children. Sugoroku at least fit the first half of the requirement having had dogs while growing up and the times he was not in Egypt on digs.
But Yugi was far from a teenager and extra small for his age. And he wondered what exactly did willing to take care of a hyperactive dog entail? Daily walks? Hourly? Placing everything worth anything above all the reaches of the creature? Would it mean that no one could come in the house or the shop without the dog being locked up?
Yugi, however, was enthralled. As was the large dog.
After his initial enthusiastic launch, Maxwell had sat down, half pinching the child's tiny fingers to the grating with his impressive, sleek brown and black coat. There was something about this particular human that got his attention. His eyes were different than any other human's. He didn't look at him like his other human's had, nor like the humans who took him for walks.
They were too big for one.
They were gentle though, and smiling. The child was searching his own brown depths carefully. And for his part the dog watched him honestly, letting his thoughts be written on his face and his enjoyment of the attention be written in his facial expression.
"Grandpa...can I see him? Please?" Yugi's voice was lower than a whisper; awe and something closer to true wonder lacing words while careful fingers stroked the thick fur.
The older man looked skeptical for a long, long moment, before heaving a sigh and nodding yes. After all it didn't mean they would take the brute of a dog home. "Let me go talk to the lady at the desk Yugi."
Yugi's smile could have powered the whole building.
Moments later, the young lady who worked at the desk was wrestling with the overactive dog in a vain attempt to get a gentle leader collar over his muzzle. But with a little help from a well-placed cookie and a glimpse at the two humans watching, the dog slid into the headgear and out of the cage.
"This way guys. We're going to head out into the yard so we can take Maxwell off a leash and let you guys meet in a little less crowded environment."
Dubiously Sugoroku followed the straining and furiously wiggling dog that had promptly bounced out the door to the grassy, gated in yard.
Yugi was about as open he had ever observed the boy to be. Eager and smiling, laughing really and racing towards the door and the gate. He was even asking the young adoption agent why Maxwell had been given up to the shelter.
While she was explaining, she was barely able to keep a hold on the eager puppy and only then through a considerable show of strength and ingenuity. The dog never bowled Yugi over though, in fact seemed extra careful in his exuberance around the small child.
Odd. Almost like the dog recognized the need for caution. But that was ridiculous. This was a dog they were talking about.
Maxwell, as was typical with most dogs, sprinted out at the first indication that he was free to run. Left and right and around in a few circles. A stop here and there to take care of business and then a few more laps around the yard. He pointedly ignored the repeated calling of his name.
And after a few minutes he had indeed exhausted his search of the yard and turned his attention on the short humans and the taller caretaker person. First, the shortest one, the one with the interesting eyes and gentle voice.
Sugoroku was anything but comfortable as he anxiously watched the huge dog bound over to his eight-year-old grandson. There was no way that the poor creature could avoid barreling over the boy and leaving him hurt on the ground.
Maxwell however was far more confident in his abilities and slowed to a stop inches from the young Yugi. Well, now that the exploring was done, time to investigate his new human.
"Hi Maxwell." Yugi half laughed, an outstretched hand just brushing the tip of his cold black nose. He could feel the gentle hot breath ghosting in and out of the dog's nose. "I'm Yugi."
Game? The human's name is Game? How odd...though I suppose not unusual for a human. They are bizarre no matter how nice they might seem. Hmmmm but he is cute, and just about my size too. Interesting.
Maxwell without further ado began a furious sniff of the boy. From head to foot in his hair and right up to his lips. Under his arms and all around his sneakers, which he approvingly found--were covered in mud. And even to each individual finger, which was alternately covered in salts or smells that deserved a few licks. Besides, he liked it when the child laughed, squirming playfully from his tongue.
The inspection was thorough and the verdict overwhelmingly in favor of the young boy. All one hundred thirty pounds of dog were currently swaying into Yugi's scratching hand that had obviously found a beloved place behind a floppy ear.
"Amazing!" The young lady proclaimed.
The older man looked up apprehensively. "How so?"
"I've never seen Maxwell this well-behaved before. Maybe he just needed to meet someone his own size. We were hesitant about integrating him into playgroups because of his size and the fact that he usually tends to play rough. But it's obviously not an issue." She gestured to the dog that was gently licking Yugi's hand clean of a piece of candy produced from a pocket.
"Maxwell. Come here good boy." The dog locked eyes with the taller caretaker and stood fluidly from where he had flopped on the ground with Yugi.
He ignored the human who had called him. If he wanted to go with this tiny human child he liked so much, he needed to convince the old man with the tough eyes that he was a good dog. So he proudly sat and let the older inspect him as thoroughly as he had inspected the child called Game.
This human had interesting eyes too, but they reminded him of his old human's a bit.
They were harder.
They were adult eyes.
Hmpphh. But--Maxwell reasoned sensibly--they were in charge of the little one's eyes; they were similar enough that once long ago they might have been the same. He could at the very least learn to respect those eyes. That was not unreasonable for now. The rest could be worked out later.
And so he continued with his best behavior.
Yugi was obviously sold as evidenced in the furious begging session that occurred while Sugoroku inspected the large dog carefully. His eyes were critical, but in the end there really would be no debate.
Watching his only grandson play with such ease, completely oblivious to anything other than the large dog was one of the most welcome sights he'd had in a while. And the dog was exceptionally careful, playing with just enough force to give the boy a challenge, but never enough to actually hurt him.
With a defeated sigh--that didn't really sound defeated at all--Sugoroku turned to the young woman next to him. "When can we take him home?"
And so two days later, Yugi Mutou walked out of the Animal Rescue League of Domino holding the leash of one ecstatic Rottweiler named Maxwell.
They made quite the pair, both nearly the same height; one tiny and fragile, with baby fat still clinging stubbornly to most of him. The other, a leanish, imposing and anything but baby looking dog. The dog matched the child's pace carefully, his feet slowing considerably so Yugi would not have to run.
And so the pair made their way back to the Game Shop that also served as a home for Yugi and his small mismatched family.
"Welcome home Maxwell!" Yugi shouted as he pushed open the back door to the living area of the shop. The dog's deep bark of approval nearly sent a customer at the front of the shop running out the door. In the kitchen was a large crate, where Maxwell was supposed to spend the night.
Pulling the leash off with a secretive smile, Yugi bent down so he was looking into the big brown eyes before him. "I'll give you the special tour alright?"
The dog didn't answer, but touched his wet nose to Yugi's chin in obvious approval none the less.
"Good dog!" The boy praised enthusiastically and proceeded to explain in detail every section of the house, from floor to ceiling, important to useless. Maxwell followed amiably behind. Though he didn't understand most of what was being said, it was obvious the boy enjoyed talking to him. It was alright. He liked this human and so he could put up with noisiness. Was better than ignoring him like his past humans.
"...and this...is my room Maxwell. Mom says you have to sleep in the crate downstairs, but I wish you could sleep here instead. Maybe I can convince her that you'd like it up here better! Would that be good?"
A stubby tail wagged slightly. He liked that plan, crates (while like your own little home) were notoriously boring.
Plan not entirely set out, but obviously decided on, Yugi showed the dog the large and finished puzzle on the floor, and another one, half-finished on the table next to his homework.
Summarily sniffing each box, and even testing the taste of another was in order of course, but Maxwell did it more out of custom than insistence. Yugi was rubbing him endlessly in the mean time, and he was tempted to flip over so the child's small hands could scratch his belly.
"I wanna show you my treasure Maxwell. Nobody but Grandpa and you know about it yet. Not even my mom!"
This might be interesting, and so the large dog took adequate note as the boy slid under the bed and then out again with a glittering golden box. There were hieroglyphics covering nearly every inch of it; obviously well cared for yet extremely old. Maxwell's nose could tell that right off the bat.
But there was something else about the box that both intrigued and worried the large Rottweiler. There was something important there.
He inspected the box carefully and let his tongue loll out when the boy asked if he wanted to see what was inside. The inside smelled even older and of splinters and the mournful howls of the dogs that had been hit by humans. It reeked of regret and longing for things that had been no one's fault.
It was another puzzle.
"See. It's a puzzle. Grandpa gave it to me last year for my birthday but I can't even start it. The pieces all look the same and I don't know what it's supposed to look like when it's finished."
Yugi promptly upended the golden contents onto the floor and sat down, immediately immersed in the challenge the puzzle provided. Maxwell put his nose into the box quickly to check for other smells he might have missed before laying down next to the boy to watch him play with the thing.
"The only piece that's different," and here Yugi picked up a single piece and turned to let Maxwell inspect it like he might to another person, "is this one."
The piece was indeed different, bulkier than the others and with a large eye in sharp relief over the metal. Maxwell thought it looked angry. Experimentally, he licked it.
"Ewww! That's gross Maxwell...don't lick that!" Yugi laughed, as big brown eyes looked up at him (possible only because the dog was lying down while the child was sitting up) in a very confused but eager manner.
"I don't think it'll help me solve it any faster! No offense or anything." Yugi was quick to explain to the large ball of black and brown. A snort from his intended recipient was all that was provided in answer.
It was late in the afternoon and so the boy worked at the puzzle for a while, while the large dog alternately watched and dozed comfortably. It had been a long and stressful day and he still didn't feel quite right from the weird nap he had taken the day before. His head still felt a little fuzzy.
And right when he was starting to wonder if they ever ate at this house Yugi's excited voice startled him back to the present situation.
"I made a piece fit!" The barely audible sound of a metal on metallic click confirmed that indeed the child had finally matched a piece with its partner.
And while Maxwell was excited and glad that the boy had made such progress on such a difficult (if seemingly meaningless) task, the reverberating call of "Dinner!" was far more important.
A quick nose to Yugi's face in apology and the dog was out the door and down the stairs, following the inevitable trail to a meal. After carefully putting the puzzle and it's newly attached pieces back into the box and under the bed, Yugi rushed down to dinner too.
The pleading at dinner over Maxwell's sleeping arrangements was in vain as the dog half knew it would be. Despite Yugi's eyes getting even larger and more liquid violet, they seemed to have little affect on his mother or the older man.
Dinner and chores were finished, Maxwell went for a long walk with all three of them in the early fall air; not yet freezing but no longer oppressive summer.
It was a Saturday and so Yugi was allowed to stay up slightly later than usual because there was no school the next day. So while Yugi watched a movie, securely wrapped between his grandfather and the couch Maxwell lounged on the floor. And played alternately with a chew toy they had given him and Yugi's socked feet, which the child seemed to enjoy thoroughly.
When the clock had crept far beyond it's normal rounds for Yugi, and he was in bed, Maxwell found himself being ushered into a crate in the quiet kitchen and bade a hushed good night.
The bed was uncomfortable, too thin and yet too fluffy at the same time. It was sure to leave a crick in his back for weeks on end. Most certainly it would not do. And after a few desperate attempts to find any better position Maxwell gave up. The woman person was not a great bed maker.
Time to be fixed.
Maneuvering the latch was easy, as was getting up the stairs and past the sleeping adults' rooms. Yugi did not actually close his door at night and so even that was simple as he nosed it open.
Maxwell had expected the boy to be sound asleep. He had been dozing on the couch through the last twenty minutes of the flickering box thing they called a movie.
But he was wrong.
Bathed in moonshine, Yugi was sitting up in bed intently watching his hands as he flipped something over and over in them. The dull glint of gold and glimpses of a severely staring eye peeked out from between his fingers.
He looked like some picture from a storybook, light filtering through the thinner portions of his hair. His rumpled pajamas were covered in stars like the night sky and his eyes were quiet and joyful as if he were sharing a secret with someone infinitely important.
"Maxwell!" The child whispered excitedly when he finally took notice. Four heavy feet plodded over and the large squarely flat head rested on top of the blankets next to the petit boy.
"Come up! Here!" And with no more than that, the child squirmed and moved, leaving appropriate room for Maxwell to launch himself onto the small bed.
And then they both realized exactly how small said bed was. Twins were not exactly meant for two people to lay together on. So Maxwell lay down and moved so Yugi could crawl and sit in between his front paws.
Yugi told him stories then, about the piece in his hand, about how he was bullied in school all the time. Maxwell knew that the child told him things he had told no one. Would never tell anyone. He listened because there was little else he could do. Attacking those who had caused this would only separate him from Yugi; he knew that. Resting his head on the child's shoulder seemed to do wonders for Yugi's disposition. He smiled.
"But you know what Maxwell? You're my friend. So it's not that bad anymore."
Maxwell snuffled approvingly.
And when Sogorouku found the two of them in the morning they were in nearly the same position. Yugi was woven in between the large dog's front paws cradled against a broad shoulder, legs underneath a massive paw. Two gentle, thinish arms were wrapped around the large black neck—slack--when they at one point were obviously tight in a hug.
It didn't look comfortable to the older man but then years of sleeping on rocks and in sleeping bags in conditions both harsh and severe had made him yearn for the comfortable features of a bed.
In any case they were both sound asleep, a smile on Yugi's lips and a content look on Maxwell's as his blocky head moved up and down in rhythm with the little boy's even breathing.
Sogouroku could only wonder as to how they matched together. But then again; Yugi was an extraordinary child. And Maxwell just might have been the first one outside of their mismatched little family to notice it.
An extraordinary pet and friend then to a lonely little boy just as extraordinary.
With the collar he received that afternoon, Mutou Maxwell became an official member of their family.
Soooo comments, criticisms, praise, flames...anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.
Thanks for reading.