Mr. Balldangles did not know what an IED was, let alone that his master had stepped on one. The eight-year-old basset hound, named as a puppy when his master decided to leave him intact, had no concept of war.
Aaron, his master, was on the phone again. Since returning from Afghanistan, he spent a lot of time on the phone, most of it on hold. He sometimes waited for over an hour, only to have the person on the other end give him a new extension to try and the whole process would start over. It did not always happen this way. Sometimes he would wait and then the line would go dead.
There was a disagreement over his disability benefits. The VA was of the opinion that Aaron needed to stop relying on government handouts, that he should pound the pavement until he found himself a job. Aaron, who had both legs amputated just above the knee, disagreed.
Mr. Balldangles did not understand telephones any better than he understood war, but he was able to sense that Aaron was upset. This did not make the animal afraid because his master was never unkind, even in the worst of moods. Still, dogs have a pack mentality and when the alpha was distressed, it was bad for everyone. With a pack size of two, there was more badness to go around.
In the past, there were three members of the pack. In addition to Mr. Balldangles and Aaron, there was a woman named Erin. The two humans’ names sounded the same and since dogs can’t read, they were effectively identical to Mr. Balldangles. Still, he had no problem telling them apart. For one thing, they smelled different. More important though was how each behaved toward him.
Neither person was physically cruel, but it was Aaron who always made Mr. Balldangles feel welcome. When he spoke, he made eye contact and stroked the dog’s fur while talking. The dog had no idea what words were being said, but he loved his master all the same.
As a young puppy, Mr. Balldangles could only return the affection by whimpering excitedly and peeing himself a little. That all changed as soon as the dog hit puberty. Aaron still had both legs at the time and Mr. Balldangles tried to hump whichever one was nearest every chance he got. Securing a good grip on Aaron’s calf with stubby, basset-hound forelegs was not easy, but Mr. Balldangles persevered for he was in love.
Aaron politely rebuffed the canine’s advances. With an “Easy tiger” or “I think I’ll sit out this dance,” he would pry the dog off his leg and gently set him down on all fours. Often, Mr. Balldangles’ hips would thrust for several seconds after being disengaged, prompting Aaron to say, “You poor thing, I wish I could take you to a titty bar.”
Aaron was in the Army Reserves. One weekend a month, he would have to report to a nearby base for a training exercise. During these times, Mr. Balldangles turned his amorous attentions to Erin. Her calf was narrower than Aaron’s, easier for him to embrace with his short forelegs. Consent, however, proved elusive.
“Rapist!” she would say and shake the dog off her leg. She never kicked or struck him afterward, but he could still tell she was upset. He did not like to make her upset, but he also knew she was not the alpha so he would try again after a few minutes. This often went on until she left the room and closed the door behind her.
Aaron got his deployment orders. He was going to Afghanistan for a year. The night before he left, he brought a steak home for Mr. Balldangles and disappeared into the bedroom with Erin. The dog greedily devoured his meal, the sounds of the humans in the other room making the meat taste even better.
With Aaron gone, Mr. Balldangles had no one to try to romance but Erin. It was different now though. She had become the alpha. Whenever he tried to get on her leg, he would find himself locked in the closet for hours afterward. He soon learned her legs were off limits.
However, that did not end the dog’s closet incarceration. Erin took a lover, her next-door neighbor named Alan. Whenever Alan came to visit, Mr. Balldangles would be put in the closet once more. Unlike Aaron’s last night at home, there was no steak to comfort and distract him as the sound of love making could be heard from the bedroom. This made the dog howl, crying even louder than Alan’s moans and whimpers while he thrusted away at Erin, who never made a sound.
After a while, Erin tired of her paramour. She broke the news to him one night right after they had sex. Alan did not take it well. He told her he loved her, which was probably not true. He also said she had no right to use him and toss him aside like that, which was definitely not true. Then he cried a little.
“Get out of my house, you little turd,” Erin said, having grown tired of trying to let him down easy.
After that, she took no more lovers. Aaron would be coming home before too long and she did not want things to be messy when he returned stateside. Instead, she had bought a vibrator online.
For Mr. Balldangles, little changed. Just like with Alan, the dog was locked in the closet on the occasions when she pleasured herself. The hum it made sounded like no animal. It was a contraption, human magic that was less frightening but from the same cloth as the dreaded vacuum cleaner that stood next to him in the closet.
When Aaron came through the door, Mr. Balldangles was overjoyed. It was as if his master had simultaneously been away for an eternity and no time at all. The dog leapt onto Aaron’s leg and gave him a welcome-home thrust. Erin stepped in and pulled him off.
“As you can see, he’s still a filthy pervert. You’d think all the time he spent locked in the closet would’ve cured him of that,” she said.
“You locked Mr. B in the closet?” Aaron said. Mr. Balldangles did not understand what was being said, but something was off in his master’s voice. It seemed flat and distant.
“He left me little choice, but since you have a problem with it, I won’t do it anymore.” Erin put her arms around Aaron and kissed him. He put his arms around her hesitantly and did close his eyes when he returned her kiss.
“Oh, your boss called earlier. He’s looking forward to having you back on the job Monday,” she added.
“Oh yeah, my job,” he said.
When Monday came, Aaron did not go to his job. He got out of bed at seven am, the usual hour for his workday. Erin, who worked at a biotech lab with an absurdly early starting time, had already left. He showered, got dressed, and went out the door. Everything so far was on schedule.
Twenty minutes later, he came back with a 12 pack of Hamm’s. He began to drink in the kitchen, leaving the rest of the beer on the table next to him so he would not have to get up after emptying a can. Aaron was on his eighth beer when Erin showed up just before noon.
“Jesus, Aaron. I got a call from your boss wondering where you were. Apparently, you’re not taking his calls. Or mine either.”
“I’ve been drinking.”
“So I can see.”
Aaron’s drained the rest of his beer. Though his eyes pointed at Erin, his gaze went far beyond her, not stopping until it reached a blood-stained patch of dirt half a world away.
“I’ll cover for you this time,” she said. “I’ll say you’re sick or something, but this can’t continue.”
But it did continue. Aaron did make it to work about half the time over the next couple of weeks though he often arrived late and left early. Finally, his boss ran out of patience. He was an old friend of Aaron’s and respected his military service so he didn’t fire him outright. Instead, he put Aaron on the same extended unpaid leave as when he was deployed.
“When you get everything worked out, you’ll have a place here,” his boss said.
Aaron thanked his boss then went home and drank.
Mr. Balldangles was happy to have his master at home all day. Though Aaron’s mind was elsewhere, a humpable leg was always present and available. There were no objections now, no gentle admonishments and setting the dog back on all fours. With the mind somewhere else, the limb could do nothing but consent. For the randy basset hound, it was honeymoon bliss.
Erin was less enamored. She wasn’t sure what she expected in a partner, but was fairly certain that an unemployed, PTSD-addled drunk/dog’s fuck toy wasn’t it. She left Aaron, cleaning out their shared checking account to bankroll her fresh start.
An hour after she left, Aaron was treated to a sympathy hump from Mr. Balldangles. His mind was more or less stateside at the time, but he took no steps to dissuade his animal companion. Instead, he stroked the dog’s head lovingly and offered encouraging words.
“Atta boy, show the bitch who’s boss,” he said.
With no money in the bank and no current source of income, it looked like dire economic times lay ahead for Aaron unless he took action. If current circumstances continued, necessity would likely have compelled him to lay off the drinking, seek counseling to help him adjust, and start earning a paycheck again.
Uncle Sam had other ideas. Aaron got his deployment orders. He was going back to Afghanistan. Erin was out of the picture so the neighbor Alan was tapped to take care of Mr. Balldangles in his master’s absence. Aaron promised to reimburse all expenses upon his return.
“I’d be honored,” Alan said. “You know you can count on me.”
After Aaron’s departure, Alan kept meticulous records of every cent spent on Mr. Balldangles then bumped the totals by about a third. This bit of creative accounting was accomplished by purchasing products of lesser quality and quantity than Aaron specified in his instructions.
The dog didn’t mind. Any kind of food was better than no food at all. To show his gratitude, he decided to treat his interim master to a thank-you dance.
Alan did not appreciate the gesture. His admonishment was not gentle like Aaron’s or even with a cold nonviolence like Erin’s. After shaking Mr. Balldangles off his leg, he shouted a homophobic slur at the dog and delivered a hard kick to his midsection.
The animal had no grasp of hate speech or insults, but the kick was all too real. While there were no broken bones or internal injuries, it left Mr. Balldangles both sore and afraid. He attempted no more amorous advances on Alan. This punishment taught him that he was a bad dog. He wasn’t sure why, but he wasn’t taking any chances. There would be no leg humps, no acting excited when he was taken for a walk. He did not even want to risk being seen wagging his tail. Mr. Balldangles spent his days sitting in the corner and pretending he wasn’t there.
Fortunately for Mr. Balldangles, he did not have to endure this predicament for long. Two months after deployment, his beloved master came home. Most of him anyway.
“Your dog is a goddamn sicko,” Alan said, handing an inflated expense report to the wheelchair-bound Aaron.”
“Yeah, watch yourself or he’ll try to fuck your…” Alan stopped himself when the sight of his neighbor’s stumps reminded him that this was a non-issue. He took Aaron’s reimbursement check and left, never to return.
Mr. Balldangles was thrilled to be home with Aaron again. The absence of humpable legs did confuse him.
“Sorry champ,” Aaron said, stroking the basset hound’s head. “It seems I left your dance partners on the road outside of Kabul. When I have some money saved, I’ll buy a nice set of prosthetic legs. It won’t be as good as the real thing, but it’ll have to do.”
The saving of money did not materialize. Aaron’s old job required being ambulatory. He got some money from going on disability, but not much. He was entitled decent benefits from the VA and would have gotten them too if the bureaucracy did not assume that everyone was malingering until proven otherwise.
This could be maddening even for someone in the best of mental health. For Aaron, it was too much. He retrieved his pistol from the closet and wheeled back to the kitchen table where he pressed the barrel against his right temple and pulled the trigger.
Mr. Balldangles, who had been asleep on the couch in the living room, was startled awake by the gunshot. He ran into the kitchen and found his legless master dead. Aaron had toppled out of his chair sideways when he shot himself and now lay on the linoleum, the gun in his loosened grasp.
The dog approached cautiously. Aaron’s eyes were open, but the worry in them was now gone. Mr. Balldangles licked his master’s face, happy to see him look so relaxed.
Then he saw the bullet wound. This was definitely something new. It was open, warm and inviting. The sight of it made his penis stiffen. The next thing he knew, he had mounted his master’s head and was pumping away. It felt good, better than anything in his entire life, and what it perfect was that Aaron made no effort to stop him. The dog could take his time, sliding his glistening pink doghood into the welcoming orifice until he climaxed.
Mr. Balldangles loved his master very much.