I live with a roommate, her three kids, and their two dogs. One pooch is a shy husky and the other is a squirrely black pit bull mix. Both of them are sweethearts. The kids are in their teens. Two dudes, one chick. Total count: Five human beings and two dogs. It’s a full-house. I’ve never lived with this many people. I maxed out at four people back when I lived at home. Being an extremely private person this has taken some getting used to. Bodies thumping down the hallway. Voices laughing and arguing. Doors opening and shutting.

I hole myself up in my room, open up a book, and dive in between the pages. Or I’ll flick on the TV and watch A&E, the History Channel, ESPN. Tune in the Travel Channel for a sarcastic dose of Anthony Bourdain; the Biography Channel to look into the mad life of Ted Kaczynski. Or I’ll attempt to write something, push out a poem; take on a snappy bout with some flash fiction. Take out my guitar and see if she wants to play with me.

I was watching The Darjeeling Limited when my phone rang. It was Kim my roommate.

“Don’t be mad at me,” she said, in a gentle voice.

“What is it?”

“I’m bringing home two puppies. They’re cute, Reno. Are you mad?”

“Why would I be mad?” I said, my mind seeing cluttered images and calculating the math. Five human beings and four dogs. Nine beasts total. “Hey, no problem.”

And it wasn’t a problem. The puppies weren’t mine. They were gifts for the two oldest kids. The dogs were their responsibility. They were the ones who had to deal with the ups and downs of puppy rearing. All I knew is those little fuckers wouldn’t be pissing and shitting in my room. This I knew. Around ten minutes later Kim pulled up. I heard the puppies running around the house. Immediately after, I heard the typical demands that comes with bringing puppies into your life. Through the walls I found out their names.

“Hey! No! Stop that! Charlie!”

“Ziggy! No! Come lay down, baby! Ziggy!”

Damn, I thought. Here we go.

Then I heard shuffling and sniffing at my door. It was the husky and the pit bull. Chance and Tazz. They wanted nothing to do with the puppies and wanted in. I opened the door and they took their respective spots with agitated looks on their faces.

“What happened, fellas? Yeah, I know. This is how it works, brothers. Out with the old and in with the new. Hear me out now. I’m giving you pearls.”

Chance is as soft as they come. All he wants is pets, gourmet meals, and to sleep on the biggest fluffiest bed in the house. He’s a husky, but could give a damn about snow, the outdoors, Siberia. He has no interest in such things. He likes watching TV and staring at the refrigerator. Tazz, on the other hand, is nuts. I love his energy. He huffs and puffs, chases squirrels and lizards, makes wild sounds when he yawns and is always looking to mix it up. There’s a goat that lives behind us and Tazz is all up in its business. When I let him out he bolts to the fence and gawks at it, his amber eyes ablaze with animal desire.

“You wanna poke that goat, huh?” I asked him when we were alone. “I see that. Well, don’t worry, bro, I ain’t saying shit. Your secrets are safe with me.”

He looked at me with yes and thank you all over his mug.

After a week into the puppies keeping their owners up all night and dropping turds and leaving puddles of piss in their rooms the honeymoon was all but over. Reality set in.

“Charlie! No! You can’t have that! Charlie!

“Oh, no, Ziggy! I just took you outside! Really?”

I told Kim that we might have to call the Dog Whisperer. Give that oddball (I actually think he’s pretty cool) a ring and have him do his magic. I told Kim our conversation would go something like this:

“Hi, my name is Cesar…”

“Yeah, I know who you are. See those two babies, Millan? Good. Fix them. Their owners can’t handle them. They bark, sniff, fart, play grabass. You’ve heard this story before. OK, so I’m gonna go to the bar and get my drink on if you know what I mean. So do your thing. There’s wine and frozen taquitos in the fridge. Help yourself. You have my cell number. Call me when they’re cured.”

Kim was rolling.

“You crazy ass.”

My father always brought animals home. Be it a neurotic cat, a blind dog, or a chicken that had no visible legs. One day he brought a chicken home. He named her Henny. I called her Linda No Legs. He found her on the side of the road in the middle of the desert. She was just sitting in the sand and watching the traffic pass by. My father saw her, threw a U-turn, and brought her home.

Linda No Legs was injured and couldn’t stand, her legs tucked into her belly. He would pick her up and place her wherever he saw fit. Sometimes she’d be in the living room relaxing in a milk crate. Other times when he felt she could use some fresh air he’d put her in the backyard. She was like a duffel bag. Our two dogs were in utter confusion. They didn’t know what the fuck to think looking at a chicken sitting in front of a bowl of feed and a bowl of water. They were mystified.

I don’t know how long the picking up and laying down of Linda No legs lasted, but one day we looked out in the backyard and there she was strolling around pecking at the dirt and stretching out her wings. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It was a miracle! The dogs were in a complete state of shock. Not only was Linda No Legs walking, but her newfound mobility cranked up her confidence and she immediately took charge of the backyard. It was hers and she let it be known. She scratched the ground with gumption, walked in and out of the dogs’ house, jumped on top of it, flexed her wings, sprinted across the yard like Carl Lewis, and corralled the dogs to the corner of the yard. It was crazy.

“Jesus,” I told my mom. “I’ve seen it all now.”

My father also brought home a blind poodle which cottoned to my mom, relieving him of the responsibilities of dealing with a dog with a major handicap.

He did pawn off two animals on me because over time he found them to be his nemeses. One was a chihuahua named Buster. I called him Boohea. He was a good-looking dog with a barrel chest and big brown eyes. But Boohea had a problem: he was a sex addict and was always sucking himself off or fucking our labrador. He’d blow himself into a frenzy and his crayon would scream out of his body throbbing under the hot desert sun. It was foul. It disgusted the whole household. And when he wasn’t in the mood to give himself a hummer he’d nip at Jet’s hind legs until he would lay down. Boohea would then mount one of his hind legs and do his thing. This also disgusted the whole household. No matter how many times we yelled and pleaded with Boohea to stop sucking his dick or to quit banging Jet he wouldn’t.

He needed therapy.

He was sick.

And he was mine.

This went on for years.

Then there was a neurotic cat named Maxine. I called her Muga. Or Muga the Sooka. My father brought Muga home for my sister who was a little girl at the time. He got her from his sister who was a crazy pill-popping, beer drinking bitch that had three equally jacked up kids. They all lived under the same roof. Muga was screwed from day one. Anybody or anything living in the droopy frazzled shadow of my aunt was doomed to a life of substance abuse, paranoia, and full-blown depression. I can’t say Muga swallowed benzos or reds or licked booze on the quiet, but she had a thing for rubber dishwashing gloves. After the first taste she was hooked and was always pawing at the cupboards for another fix.

“Why does she eat my gloves?” my mom inquired, examining some gloves that had the fingers ripped off of them.

“She was born into a dysfunctional home, mom, and there’s not a damn thing we can do,” I said reflectively. “We just have to ride it out.”

But Muga soon became my cat when she started shitting in the living room. She was particularly fond of dropping a deuce behind my father’s beloved La-Z-Boy chair. I don’t know what got into her. We always kept her crapper clean. We never neglected her. She all of a sudden went through these spurts when laying down a few dumps around the house was the thing to do. It was like a hobby of sorts. At the time my father was working graveyard and I’d hear him get up (he always woke up pissed off), thud around the house sniffing deeply, trying to locate Muga’s latest steamer. He always announced his discoveries and ended his rants by calling out my name so I could get Muga before he ended her life right then and there.

“Shit! Son of a bitch! Fuckin’, Muga! Shitass cat! Reno! Reno! Come and get your damn cat before I kill her!”

She, too, needed therapy.

She, too, was sick.

And like Boohea she was also mine.

This also went on for years.

I hope that neither Charlie nor Ziggy have a thing for their own peckers or rubber dishwashing gloves. Or acquire any hang-up for that matter. I wish for them to grow up as normal as possible. There’s a touch of craziness rattling through this house and I hope they look beyond this and move into the future with ease. I also hope that none of them gets a wild hair up their ass and think they can nip at Tazz and mount one of his legs. He already told me that he won’t play that shit.

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RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

26 responses to “Dogs of Addiction and Miracle Chickens”

  1. “Sometimes she’d be in the living room relaxing in a milk crate.”

    Well, you know, who isn’t in the living room relaxing in a milk crate from time to time? Good spot to reflect, gather one’s thoughts and such…

    • Reno Romero says:

      Amanda:

      Good morning! Yup, she loved that milk crate. A little cramped, but it was a place to reflect, watch some ESPN, stare down Muga. She had it made. Thanks for reading.

      RR

  2. New Orleans Lady says:

    Lol.

    Quickly, I want Linda Legs, Boohea freaks me out a little, and I love Muga.

    Cats are always perfect. Always.

    You’ve been on a roll lately with all these funny posts. Keep ’em coming.

    -NOL

    • Reno Romero says:

      NOL:

      Hell, NOL. And a happy Sunday for you. Let’s hope that when the day closes that your Saints have put a 5-Star beatdown on the Ravens. The game is not showing in my neck of the woods. This sucks. But on the other hand I don’t have to see Ray Lewis’ lips blowing out that lame pre-game pep talk he gives to his jock friends. For this I’m thankful.

      And I’m thankful that you read about Muga the Sooka, Linda No Legs, and the perverted way of Boohea. Shit! That damn dog had issues. Regardless, I loved him. Throbbing boner, big eyes, and all.

      Okay, NOL. You have a grand day. I’ll keep and eye out for your Saints. Brees better not let me down or I’m gonna blow up your FB page. Just sayin’.

      Tom Dempsey Never Did This,
      Reno Romero

  3. tammy allen says:

    It’s seems all pets are quirky just like us. I think my cat needs kitty prozac. Animal stories are always funny. XO

    • Reno Romero says:

      Tammy:

      Yes, quirky like us. AND don’t we start looking like our pets? Or they start looking like us. Either way it’s a wrap.

      Metal,
      Reno

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Reno,
    Your stories are so full of charm -it’s impossible not to read them with a smile. I love this one – maybe because it’s about animals and your love and empathy for them comes shining through.

    “She was born into a dysfunctional home, mom, and there’s not a damn thing we can do,” I said reflectively. “We just have to ride it out.”

    And that line -right there – well, that just cracked me the hell up.

    You tell such a good story, dearest D. So full of deft touches and snappy sentences. I love your work. Charming, funny and de.lish.is.
    Z

    • Reno Romero says:

      Z:

      Thank you very kindly. Muga was a baby and doomed from the get go. She was a nervous wreck and only stayed in my room (she slept behind my waterbed). Sometimes I didn’t know she was in my room and then poof there she was blinking her eyes after a 10 hour slumber. She was a good girl. And despite her paranoid disposition she lived 17 years. Maybe that was the secret: to avoid contact…

      Take care, Z, and thanks again.

      For Muga,
      D

  5. Slade Ham says:

    That chicken was fucking with you. Once she realized she could get carried around, she just figured “Why blow it?”

    Much the same way some women pretend to be incapable doing anything that involves tools.

  6. Jim Lyons says:

    Nice one R.J. Poor Muga. Tell you what, we got back to my friends’ place last Sunday after witnessing a rare Lion victory. A snowstorm rolled in and it took us 2 hours to get back in what would normally be 45, so Jen showed me to the basement bed. No driving for me. What happens as soon as we open the door to the basement? Damn cat shit on the steps. Rocco must have been pissed I slept in his bed the night before, too.

    Thanks for the story, Reno.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Mr. Lyons:

      It’s raining big time out here in the CA desert. Last week the Mojave River (which is down the street from my pad) was bone-dry and today that fucker with flowing with water. Sure, no snow, just wimpy water, but for the desert this is as good (or bad depending…) as it gets.

      Cats. I love them. I’m both a dog and a cat lover. I like them both for their differences. But here’s the difference in their predisposition:

      Give a dog food, water, and shelter and he/she will think you’re a god. Give a cat food, water, and shelter, and he/she will think they’re a god.

      That’s how it works.

      There’s no doubt in my mind that Rocco threw down a deuce because you fucked with his space. Thanks for reading, Lyons. Meow.

      RR

  7. Victoria Patterson says:

    This is excellent. Thanks for the great read.

    I had a sex addict black labrador when I was a kid. It was both entertaining and disconcerting. I remember he’d even go for the basketball, dragging it across the asphalt while doing his thing.

    And I’ve had my share of neurotic cats, particularly Lola. After I gave birth to my first son and came home from the hospital, Lola decided to express her outrage by shitting and pissing on my pillow and in the laundry basket. She started performing this vile cough thing, like the hairball of all hairballs was lodged in her throat and she was about to die. So I had to give Lola to a friend.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Victoria:

      Oh, too funny.

      Doing some serious business on a pillow!

      A vile cough!

      All my life I’ve heard stories of animal rebellion. I’m sure this is the case for you as well. I dunno. I’ve always viewed animals very human-like. I dunno if this is a good or a bad thing, but in my experience it’s very true.

      Thanks for reading, Victoria. Have a great holiday.

      Cat Scratch Fever,
      Reno

  8. Matt says:

    How big is this house, anyways? Because that’s a lot of warm bodies under one roof.

    My last dog was a very loveable pooch in every other way, but take him to the dog park and he turned into a gay pedophile rapist. He’d pick another dog (almost always a puppy), and would spend most of our time there trying to mount it. Just that one puppy. We’d go to the far side of the park, and he’d still zero in on his chosen victim, heading straight for him like a damn cruise missle. It was so annoying. Little jerk.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Matt:

      Well, the house is not big enough. But the good thing is is that everyone has their own room. For this I thankful. But, yeah, nine beasts is a lot. But like I said I hole myself up (hell, I do this anywhere I live) in my room and hunker down. It’s all good.

      I had a basset hound that had no interest in other dogs. When I took her to the dog park she’d smell a few asses and then bail to find some poor sap to pet her. She didn’t give two shits about the outdoors, physical fitness. She wanted the couch and steak cooked medium rare. Take care, sir. Thanks for your time.

      Dog Catcher,
      Reno

  9. J.M. Blaine says:

    Here’s the thing I really learned
    about writing from you Reno –
    if you establish that sad sack
    lovable character
    everything is interesting.
    I don’t say this to sound
    overly literary or above it
    that your character is so loveable
    I say it because I so very much
    enjoy everything you write.
    I’m just there with you brother.

    Husky’s taste usually leans towards German metal, right?

    • Reno Romero says:

      11:

      Thank you, 11. I don’t think you can go wrong with animal tales. I love animals. A sucker from head to toe. Been like this from day one. As usual your compliments are too kind. I can’t say that I understand why you like my junk, but I’m honored. Truly. Perhaps, we were separated at birth. Fought in a war in a previous life. Or the love of all things metal. Regardless, we’ve been chugging side by side for years now. And for this I’m grateful and fortunate. We carry on, 11. Always looking for Graceland.

      Elysian Fields,
      Reno

  10. Irene Zion says:

    This line is wiser than you even know, Reno:
    “This is how it works, brothers. Out with the old and in with the new. Hear me out now. I’m giving you pearls.”
    Linda no legs was a miracle.
    I think that is clear.
    Also clear is that I never want to read about Boohea again.
    Ever.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Irene:

      Well, Irene, you probably have figured this out by now, but I talk to my animals. Always have, always will. In fact, on some days I’d rather talk to a dog rather than a human being. Just the way it goes with lunatics like me.

      Linda No Legs was a miracle and a pretty cool bird. She was pretty, all white. And she had some moxie weaved in her feathers which made her that much more charming. I like my women with a little punch to them. Right?

      I don’t blame you in regards to Boohea. He was a stinker. But he was mine and I loved him despite his foul sickness. Oddly, I’ve told his story many a time only to find that he’s not the only one who liked to “handle” himself. Can’t say I was happy to hear this news, but it was a relief of sorts. He wasn’t the only one. Anyhow, Irene, you’ve heard enough from me. Have a Happy Holiday and thanks for reading.

      Pearls,
      Reno

      • Irene Zion says:

        I talk to my dogs too, Reno.
        Victor thinks I’m crazy,
        but that never stops me.
        If I stopped everything he thought I did
        that was crazy,
        I’d just sit still
        and I can’t do that.

  11. Corky says:

    My oh’ My… Linda no legs is an inspiration to handicapped chickens everywhere, she needs her own Animal Planet special. Tell Tazz to stick to his guns.

  12. Corky says:

    My oh’ My… Linda no legs is an inspiration to handicapped chickens everywhere, she needs her own Animal Planet special. Tell Tazz to stick to his guns. (loved it)

  13. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you happen to be using? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest blog and I’d like to find something more safe. Do you have any suggestions?

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