This is going to sound really insufferable if you don't have dogs, and probably even if you do, but I don't think I've ever mentioned Ampersand in this journal, and mention is due. Ampersand is a three year old Amstaff who's been with me for over a year now. He is in most respects a pretty excellent dog.
Ashley and I adopted him in The Epoch Of Junkie Neighbors, partly in a rather naked advertisement of the potential costs of stealing our shit. As we learned (and had confirmed for us in subsequent incidents), Ampersand was a lackluster guard dog. His areas of specialization lied more in licking, kissing and belly-offering, which made him a figure of enormous popularity with aforementioned shit-stealing neighbors. Still, I've been quite pleased with his work qua dog.
One of the things Amstaffs are supposedly regarded for is "gameness," a kind of Zielstrebigkeit or single-mindedness about whatever they're after. I imagine that this is what's behind the more singular of Amp's pursuits, like the hour-long Götterdoggierung wrestling matches over rightful title of a dirty sock, or his habit of lifting up the couch to secure the errant balls that chance beneath it. Auto-fetch is, I think, the most endearing of these.
The gameness can be less cute in dog parks, though, when another dog finds Amp less interesting than Amp finds himself. What often results is a kind of canine analogue of Saturday morning in the cereal aisle, involving much barking and on-carrying to capture the attentions of his unrequited beloved. (I want to be clear that was never aggressive behavior, just profoundly embarrassing and obnoxious.) These tantrums invariably ended with Amp on his back in a far corner of the park, watching an inverted tableau of other dogs enjoying the privileges of being able to hang.
To redress this, I've been taking him to the park near every day, and he seems to have picked up some self-confidence in the meanwhile. Today an unaltered boxer basically tried to throw down with him. Unaltered males from bully breeds are really the only issue that still gives me pause with Amp—I've never seen him display any aggressive behaviors with other dogs, and he's generally extremely tolerant: other dogs have snapped in his face without result. But around other young males, I've never seen him submit during play. So the boxer opened with the gambit of marking Amp's face and attempted to mount him repeatedly. I waved and nodded at the owner, steeling myself to wade in and wheelbarrow Amp out when things got real. Except after a few minutes of evasive maneuvers and a few protesting barks, looking back at me periodically to ensure that things were still cool, he trotted back and laid at my feet. Things just went thus:
Boxer: You belong to me, because I have the most cigarettes (no homo).
Amp: It seems that we have different priorities in life. Good day sir.
It was awesome. I realize that this is like showing your friends the macaroni nonsense your kids make, only less emotionally justifiable since a dog, but it was a proud moment.