Tabasco

HOWL: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit - Crown Publishing
A year before my dog Tabasco died I wrote a story about her to be included in this book with a bunch of cool writers. You can get a copy wherever you order books. All the money goes to help dogs.

Littermate

By Marga Gomez

My nostrils burn when she licks them but it’s either that or on my pursed lips or if I’m slow my dog will slip me the tongue. It’s because she left her litter too young and wasn’t properly socialized. I’m not her only conquest. The singer Tenille (of Captain and Tenille) was so taken by the smooth coat, the brown spot on the butt, the floppy ears and the naturally black lined eye lids, that she bent down on one knee to make friends. It was alarming. I wanted to shout, “Get up Tenille! Move away from the dog” but it was too late. Tabasco had already reared back on her Jack Russell haunches, aimed, and stolen another French kiss. I apologized profusely as we were led away from Tenille’s dressing room in the Tampa State Theater. She was starring in Victor Victoria. I was working next door at the smaller Tampa State Theater Annex which doubles as a storage unit most of the year. It wasn’t the greatest week of my career but Tabasco liked the blistering sun and the fresh scent of armadillo outside of our Holiday Inn.  

I’d like to say that Tabasco was named after the town in Mexico but really she was named after the hot sauce my girlfriend sprinkled on her eggs at a roadside diner on the way to pick up our puppy.  Getting a dog was her idea and we were so in love I would have agreed to any name she liked from ‘Cornflakes’ to ‘Decaf.’ If we merely had a baby instead of a puppy we’d probably still be together. But I quickly fell under Tabasco’s spell. Instead of bringing my girlfriend flowers I bought Tabasco a new squeaky toy every week. I got custody after the breakup even though she clearly favored my girlfriend. When dogs sense fear they may attack but when they sense codependency they pick you last. It’s not the worship I expected from a dog. She’s stingy with the tail wagging and getting a kiss from her is like pulling fangs. So when she affectionately swabs my sinus cavities I tell myself it’s genuine not because she wants something. Then I fix her food - half a cup twice a day, presoaked in spring water and not one kibble or biscuit more.

I wish I had somebody to control my meal portions. While my weight fluctuates Tabasco’s compact physique has never exceeded 13 pounds. She has the dimensions of a six-pack of beer, just small enough to slide under an airplane seat in her FAA approved Sherpa travel bag. Some airlines offer two spaces per flight for pets small enough to remain confined under the seat for the duration of the trip. Flight attendants go postal if they see a paw poking out from the blanket on your lap, trust me. No doubt they’re envious of the divorced bankrupt former flight attendant who invented the Sherpa bag, became a millionaire overnight and sent little dogs packing coast to coast. Tabasco and I became versed in where to find trees and shrubs at JFK and LAX and dog friendly hotels in America. These seemed to fall into two categories; the high end establishment that catered to the Chihuahuas of the rich and famous or the going out of business dump that will take anybody and their dog, cat or ferret for an extra 50 bucks, in other words the downtown Tampa hotel of our first road trip. It was a rough road to single parenthood. Tabasco sniffed our dreary room from wall to wall and opted to spend the first night brooding under one of the twin beds. I lay awake wondering what she was thinking or if she was thinking. Was she homesick? Did she miss my apartment or my ex girlfriend’s apartment? Or was she pining for something primal that no human could provide.

We got her from an old-fashioned country vet on a horse farm. He showed us her mom, long legged and slim, hopping around the barn in a cast after getting stomped by a horse. The dad dog was tied to a tree, all muscle and medium height like Tabasco. The vet claimed this dog enjoyed watching cartoons, which sounded cool but may have been another fabrication like telling us Tabasco was eight weeks when she was only seven weeks. Finally we were taken to the puppies. It’s impossible to feel like an adult at a time like this. I was clapping my hands and squealing like the six wild balls of fur at my feet. If I could design my afterlife it would be populated with puppies, specifically Jack Russell puppies, no disrespect to the other breeds. The puppies would be born in heaven not taken from earth because that would be sad. Tabasco was the runt getting tackled and sideswiped by the pack but persevering. We lifted her out of the melee and she wiggled joyfully in our arms. She was a happy puppy until we drove down the gravel road and past the wooden gate at which point she let out a long mournful howl followed by another. Aliens in a Volkswagen spacecraft were abducting her. Where were her brothers and sisters?

I’m no pet psychic but I am an only child and I recognized alienation when I saw it under that bed in Tampa. There was only one thing that could draw her out. Food. Food changed everything for us. Tabasco got a bonus meal in the middle of the night. She looked up at me with love while she chewed. Not a love for her master because I fawned too much to ever gain that distinction. It was a love for a long lost littermate, a partner in play, a source of body heat for cold nights, and a really big dog that had her back and would never go away. It was  what we both were missing. My roll-aboard suitcase became her exclusive dog bed for the week. I pimped it out with a pillow and threw in my dirty socks for that lived in aroma dogs crave. I moved the easy chair and ottoman to the window giving her a two-hop viewing stand of the occasional bird flying by. We enjoyed many walks along the nearby creek and an up close armadillo encounter that stirred her killer instinct and made her tail quiver with excitement. But for Tabasco nothing compared to kissing Tenille in that special way reserved for the Captain. It was a bold move from a creature of habit turned adventure seeker. Tampa was our territory. Now we roam new lands as a small but fierce pack of two, masters of our destiny. She anticipates each voyage before I start packing. She sits by the suitcases before the airport shuttle arrives. Howling is in the past. All we hear is the call of Tennille.

“I will, I will, I will, I will
Be there to share forever
Love will keep us together”

Copyright Marga Gomez. Please do not reprint this without permission.
Marga & Tabasco Photo courtesy of Linda Sue Scott.
Biography | Comedy | Theater | Producer | Tobasco

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