Like every southerner, Bentley’s manners are impeccable. He sits on command, doesn’t beg for bacon, get on the leather couch, or pee on the hardwood floors.
I found him when he was eight weeks old in the trunk of an oak tree on the Springfield Greenway. I don’t know how he ended up in such a strange place, but my guess is someone abandoned him. Now, he lives with my hairdresser in Clarksville, TN. She instilled the manners.
For the past week, he’s been at my house while Laura goes home to Michigan for her grandparent’s memorial service. I’ve found homes for nineteen dogs, but Bentley’s the only one I’ve been lucky enough to puppy sit. He’s three months old, thirty pounds, and pale blond. Laura’s vet guessed that he’s a pit bull-lab mix.
While he’s been at the Farnival, we’ve walked thirty-four miles in seven days. He has potential. I’ve noticed some fear aggression, but it’s nothing that can’t be cured with socialization, exercise, and discipline. He’s still young and small enough to mold.
I hear his translucent milky nails clatter down the hallway’s hardwood floors. His gait is easily distinguishable because it sounds clumsy and inconsistent. He hasn’t established a pattern yet. He bolts through the door, like he robbed a bank, then suddenly halts. I swivel my chair around and face him. I bend my elbow, giving him the sign to sit. He sits properly, on his haunches, gangly front legs poker straight. His ears are cockeyed, one hangs in an upside down triangular shape and the other points straight to the side. It gives him an irresistible expression.
Besides his impeccable manners and crooked ears, Bentley’s balls are his best feature. There’s no other way to say it. As he sits in front of me, I have a perfect view. His gonads are downy and slightly pink. They don’t hang but bulge with the size and firmness of grapes. I notice because I don’t see many puppies’ testicles. My dogs were all neutered young.
It strikes me: why can’t men’s balls be the same? We clone tomatoes and sheep, why can’t we clone a puppy’s balls? Instead, men walk around with semi-deflated balloons covered by chicken-neck skin that sprouts pubic hair like weeds in a snubbed garden. It doesn’t seem fair.
Bentley’s watermelon pink tongue hangs from the side of his maw. His sharp, young teeth are vividly white, like he wore Crest Whitestrips. Everything about him is pink, white, and clean, even the inside of his cockeyed ears. He shakes his head and grins.
You’re silly, he says.
You’re sillier, I say.
He lunges for his frayed tennis ball, which was forgotten next to the bookshelf sometime yesterday, and lopes to my side, plunking it at my feet.
Let’s play, he says.
Okay, I say, leaving my work until later in the day. It’s hard to focus when a puppy wants to play. He bounds away, swishing his tail in joy. For a moment I watch. His balls barely jiggle.