1. How To Start A Squad

Dog Squad

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The day on which my mild annoyance for Phil ‘Mac’ Macaw morphed into a full blown, bat-shit-crazy rage started like every other weekday.

My idiot Lady Owner and my perfect furless sister, The Kid, were just about to leave the house, and on this particular day I was unusually keen for them to get going. Unusual, because normally, I hate being without The Kid. Or should I say, I hated it. Past tense, and all that.

Once upon a time, I used to slump into daytime periods of depression when The Kid left for school. So sad was I, that I would pace around the house, whining and fretting, as if she would never return. I would take sips of the Man Owner’s whiskey to dull the pain, and then I would sleep away the hours until she arrived home.

One boring afternoon, in the middle of a winter I was sure would never end, I was sulking on the couch. I was nursing a whiskey and wondering what the consequences might be should I dare take a shit in my Lady Owner’s shoes, when I overheard a couple of dogs walking past outside of the lounge room window. I scurried up onto the couch edge, stretching myself into an angle that defied gravity, trying to sneak a look-see. They were gone before I could even bang on the window to grab their attention, but not long after they had walked past, another couple of dogs crossed the road together and took off across the intersection.

I stood guard the entire morning, watching dogs, cats, and even a miniature pig stroll along the street.

A few hours of watching and waiting crawled by. I couldn’t move, just stood there watching these animals intermittently wander past. Then just like that, it was over. They were all gone. For hours more, I waited.

I was about to pour myself another shot of whiskey when I saw a pig trot up my driveway and duck under our side fence. I bolted out through the doggy door to the backyard, screaming for him to wait, but all that was left of him was his curly tail, slipping underneath the lavender bush and then through into the next door neighbour’s backyard. I called out for him to talk to me, demanded it in fact. But he was gone. How long had he been using my backyard as a short cut? Or  maybe the better question was; how long had I been day-drunk?

Just before my family returned home, the same dogs and cats I had witnessed wandering around the street that morning, started shimmying back into their homes. All of them crawling under different fences, bushes, and side gates along our street. Unnoticed. Like they’d been home all day.

Why the hell had I never thought of leaving the house? And where on earth had they all been?  

Eventually I managed to coax the pig out from his backyard and into mine. His name was Devon, a miniature pig, and he introduced me to the other pets on the street. We soon become quite the pair, Devon and I, chatting up the ladies and organising poker events together. I started to fill in the long hours of the day I was without The Kid with an interesting existence in my suburban jungle.

I missed The Kid, of course.  But isn’t life just so much more delicious with a little distraction?

Now, back to the morning of the day that changed my life forever. Devon and I had started a project together and that day was an important day for business. Hence the reason I was keen for even The Kid to leave.

The idiot Lady Owner seemed to be in a bigger hurry than normal and she was already pissed with the world. So to cheer her up a tad, I stretched down into a downward dog position, pausing long enough for her to cop an eyeful of my anus.

She rolled her eyes and just like that; mutual disrespect engaged. ‘You’re not normal,’ she said, picking up her bag and ushering her daughter to the front door.

‘Seeya, bud,’ The Kid said softly.

They locked the door behind them.

The Kid had been quiet lately. Ever since her fifteenth birthday party had ended in a two month grounding for sneaking alcohol into the garage with her mates. I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I thought it had been an excellent party and I was quite bummed when it ended. The idiot Lady Owner takes the award on how to be a decent Debbie Downer. Hands down, every time.

I wished I could tell The Kid that I was happy she was going to be home with me more, because of her grounding, but all I could manage to do was to kiss her hand and sleep by her side. The things we could talk about if only she could understand me.

The fact that humans make no effort to understand us, while us animals learn the myriad of human languages that exist, while also taking the time to learn our fellow species languages, would be insulting if not for the fact that humans are unfortunately inferior. Sadly, they lack part of an enlightenment that we possess.

Though, with the world of social media, alcohol, and status issues, it seemed to me that The Animal Kingdom was fast becoming a little bit dumber by the day.

I put my head against the front door and waited until I heard the car start, then moved to the laundry room to exit through the doggy door. I ran across the backyard, over to the fenceline and snuck under the lavender bush to the hole that Devon had dug ages ago. I shoved my head through the hole in the ground to look up under the fence. ‘Psssst, Devon!’ I whispered. ‘Wake up, fatso!’ 

‘You know what, man? I really don’t appreciate you calling me that,’ said Devon, hiding whatever he was eating behind his back. ‘I’m working out these days. Yoga. Look at these pins, bro. I reckon they look heaps thinner.’

Devon paraded his pink body past my head. It took me a second to focus on what was different about him that morning. It certainly wasn’t that he was any skinnier.

I noticed that his pig trotter’s were covered in shiny gold nail polish and his wiggly tail held red ribbons on the end of it. On his left eye he had what looked like five pairs of fake eyelashes stuck to him. On the other eye, only one set remained but it had somehow managed to come loose from his lashes and half hang itself off his eyebrow. Kind of like an eyelash flag, flapping in the wind.

‘What the fuck happened to you?’ I yelped, laughing. ‘You look like a girl pig! A tiny, mini princess pig.’

‘Yeah,’ sighed Devon, looking down at one of his front hooves. ‘The Stoner Owners. They got me good last night. Must’ve gotten their hands on some pretty potent weed, because well, just look at me. I’ve washed off the lipstick already. The beardy Stoner Owner pissed his pants laughing. Literally.’

‘Oh, Devon,’ I said, sympathising. The Stoner Owners were on a slightly weirder level than my owners and it was times like these that I was almost grateful for mine. Almost.

‘But, you know, it’s fine. I’m ok with this,’ he said looking back at his wagging, ribboned tail. ‘Better this than when they got the munchies and ran out of snacks. Because that time they actually came up with a plan, on paper, using pens and written words and they concocted a plan on how they would cook me, Ming. I mean, I didn’t even know they could write.’

‘They’ve lost it.’

‘You’re telling me!! They were gonna do a dish called ‘pig in a blanket’. Have you ever heard of that? It’s some sort of sausage wrapped in bread, I think, and because they didn’t have any bread, they tried to wrap me in an actual blanket and shove me in the oven! I ran outside so fast, man. I’m not afraid to say that I was squealing. Those bastards kept yelling, “Heeere, piggy piggy piggy in a blanket!“‘

‘Shit,’ I said. ‘Wait, aren’t they vegetarians?’

‘Yeah, well so they say. I think they forgot that bit. They’re definitely lazy at least, I know that much, which is lucky for me because I reckon that’s why they didn’t bother coming out to the backyard when I ran.’ He looked down, trying to scrape some of the nail polish off one hoof.

‘Lucky they weren’t much hungrier, you mean, ‘cos everyone loves bacon,’ I said.  ‘C’mon, climb through, short arse. We’ve gotta go. Big day.’

‘Indeed!’ Devon ducked under the fence into my backyard and shook off the dust that lined his belly. ‘Are all those eyelash thingies gone now, Ming? Oh dear, I’m a mess,’ he complained and blinked his eyelashes at me.

I helped him take off the ones from his left eye but didn’t touch the rogue lashes that were sticking out from his eyebrow.

‘Yep, you’re a right mess,’ I agreed, smirking.

Devon looked thoughtful. He stepped forward, looked me in the eyes, all earnest and shit. He said, ‘Hey, speaking of eating, you’ve never had bacon before have you, Ming?’  

I smiled. ‘No, fatso. Never been interested in pig bum.’

‘Nah, I didn’t think you would. Not my best friend, King Ming. No way, man.’

He walked off first and ducked under the side gate. He pushed all his weight on one end of the gate, lifting it slightly on the opposite side so I was able to slip under. He walked out to the street carefully, his little butt swaying back and forth. I licked my lips a little then shook the idea of crispy, hot bacon away.  

As Devon looked back to make sure I was following, I quickened my pace, trotting faster to keep up. For a miniature pig, he moved fast. We ran side by side, avoiding humans, just like we had done almost every day since Devon had shown me how to get out of my yard. We had been escaping for around two years by then, and so much had changed since that day, but on that morning, we were just a dog and his pig walking our streets.

Nothing unusual at all.

 

We walked two streets over to Gypsy and Bella’s house. Gypsy with her fair golden retriever mane, soft and luscious enough to be some sort of bandana model, was unexpectedly tough and brazen. Always ready to tell you what she was really thinking. Bella, on the other hand, with her entwined breed of brown labrador and some sort of brindle shepherd mixed up in her genealogy, wasn’t fond of confrontation with anyone but her sister.

Gypsy and Bella constantly argued with each other. They had recently embarked on a twelve step program, taking each day as it came without the consumption of alcohol, after our partying had gotten out of hand. Though we assured them we didn’t need to drink around them, they swore they now had it under control.

I think the arguing came as a relief for them both to take the edge off their struggle. Either way, we had learned quickly not to get involved. God help you if you took a side in one of their arguments, they would instantly turn into a team and come down on you together.

Gypsy and Bella’s Man Owner had set up their family garage with copious amounts of recording equipment and computers for a human podcast that he and his mates produced. They called it Two Dope Dads, and they spent time talking about kids, dope, life, and beer. What’s not to like about that combo, right?

When Gypsy and Bella’s family went out for the day, we were straight up in that garage. Every weekday, Bella would let us know when it was safe and clear of humans, so we could sneak around the back. A good number of us domestic animals had been hanging out there for years. For Bella and Gypsy, I thought it must have been a tough place to be recovering alcoholics. Two Dope Dads had a segment on their podcast where they reviewed beer, so the fridge was always stocked. Good for us. Not so much for the girls. But they insisted they didn’t think about it, their bodies a temple and all that. Tough bitches, is what I’m getting at.

We used to just sit around in that garage, chatting, sinking a few beers and playing scrabble. We’d listen to the Animal Kingdom radio stations, and Bella would sing along. She had been blessed with the voice of an angel. She and her friend Poppy the  bulldog, would get into these awesome harmony competitions and howl like Mariah Carey. Bella would outshine Poppy every time, but they were good sports about it.

Sometimes we’d organise racing events and place bets on all the ‘burb rats. Until one day the rats got a union rep involved and started throwing around too many demands. It wasn’t long before we gave up on gambling.

On another particular boring day, Gypsy came up with the great idea of starting a podcast like her owner and his mates. Not one of us thought the idea was stupid. In fact, in a garage full of equipment meant for podcasting, we couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it earlier.

We already listened to The Animal Kingdom’s (TAK) podcasts from time to time and we were familiar with how they worked. Different genres. Different hosts. Just some animals talking shit and shooting the breeze.

Gypsy enjoyed the Namaste Morning podcast with Harris the Sloth, using it to calm herself when she felt like punching someone in the throat, which was a fair bit. Harris’s show was full of positive affirmations, goal setting and meditation. It was shit. I knew we could be a million times better than him. Totally different genre, of course, but I was sure we could at least, at the very bare minimum, be entertaining enough not to make our listeners fall asleep.

Devon and I became the main anchors and writers. Bentley Badass, another mini schnauzer, took it upon himself to become our third wheel and comic relief. Arlo the rabbit was the sound guy, and Ralph the guinea pig took on the role of our producer. Bella and Poppy wrote and performed our theme song. Gypsy moved all the heavy stuff, and kept everyone in line.

In the end, every member of the squad had a role and a function.

And then we started a podcast. We called it ‘A Dog With A Pod…Cast.’

It took us almost three weeks of learning and studying podcasting on Youtube to make our grand debut on the TAKPI (The Animal Kingdom’s Podcasting Industry) frequency.

It was good. We were funny and entertaining.

With the help of our foreign correspondent, Hamilton Barkley, we managed to pick up The First Dog, Patton, as a special guest for one of our interviews. 

Hamilton’s interview skills helped ease The First Dog, Patton, to spill so much goss on Donald Trump and the White House that we were talked about in The Animal Kingdom Esquire for months. We quickly grew a fan base and topped the weekly ratings week after week. The segment ‘Hami In Miami’ had been very popular on our show ever since, and most certainly contributed to our massive ratings.

Soon it was rumoured that we were on track to be nominated for the much coveted TAKPI’s ‘Best Humour Podcast’ in the annual awards. I was unbelievably hungry for that trophy.

Then, we heard about Phil ‘Mac’ Macaw. He had started his own humour and interview style podcast at around the same time we did, but his show had gotten off to a slower start. Probably on account of him being a fucktard and having B grade guests. However, only a few months after he started, and with the worst guests and segments possible, somehow his ratings were only slightly trailing ours. We hired the Rat Pack Research Team, made up of seven of the best rat detectives from TAK’s Rat Force, to investigate how his ratings were even up that far. 

In the end, they had found solid but limited evidence on rating hacks.

Mac became known in our squad as a cheat. And our squad didn’t tolerate cheats. We believed that when you worked hard, you were rewarded with the benefits. Buying your way there with Instagram robots and fake news was transparent and dodgy, yet it seemed that only we could see it. When the TAKPI award nominations were released and Mac had been nominated in our category, it was confirmed to us that he had fooled everyone. Still, it wasn’t only about topping the charts to us. We loved doing A Dog With A Pod…Cast together. It gave us a purpose.

We had become a family of daytime misfits who looked out for each other.

We had become the ultimate Dog Squad.

 

Devon and I arrived at Bella’s house and waited for her to bark us in. We stood waiting, out of sight, near the bushes for when she did.

‘Bentley better not take over the recording today, Ming. Showboat, he is. He really needs to get it together, follow the script and all that.’

‘It’s just his style, man. He’s the famous Bentley Badass. It’s what he does. He’s funny when he interrupts and breaks script,’ I said.

‘No. It’s only funny when he interrupts me and breaks script when I’m speaking. That’s what you mean. He never does it to you.’

‘He wouldn’t bloody want to,’ I said and let off a small bark in case Bella had forgotten us, which was unlikely considering we were there almost every day. Also, today was podcasting day. Thursday. I looked up at the sun to see what time it was; just after 9am.

’What’s keeping Bella?’ I asked Devon. I sat down. I stood up. Ants in my pants, as The Kid would say. We were wasting time waiting around. We really needed to be rehearsing.  Kourtney Kardashian’s cat was lined up as our celebrity guest for that day’s performance and we needed to check our Skype connection and go through the questions. We were the only podcast that went live and it was a niche that no one had the balls to challenge us with as yet.

Devon looked down at his ridiculous gold hooves. ‘Oww, crap. Bentley’s gonna have a field day with me,’ he said.  ‘And look at that! Get this ribbon off my tail, will you Ming?’

‘Mate, I’m not putting my mouth anywhere near your stink arse,’ I said.

Arlo, the sound guy, hopped under the front fence and came to stand by us. ‘Fellas,’ he greeted.

‘Help this princess take out her ribbons please, Arlo,’ I said to the rabbit.

‘Sweet baby Jesus,’ said Arlo, standing up on his furry hind legs to see Devon closer. He cupped Devon’s face with his paws, pushing his head from side to side. ‘What happened? Oh wait, The Stoner Owners?’

Devon nodded.

Arlo undid the ribbons with his strong front teeth and looked at Devon’s hooves, ‘I can’t help you with whatever the hell that is, though. Nor whatever is on your eyebrow.’

Devon’s shoulders hunched further down into himself, then he straightened up fast. ‘Wait, what’s on my eye?’ he asked, blinking furiously. ’Ming?’

My ears twitched as I heard the faintest of Bella barks.

I slapped Devon’s bacon bum. ‘Not a thing, my man! Bella’s calling. C’mon, let’s go smash some ratings!’

 

 

2 thoughts on “1. How To Start A Squad

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