By Hank Spankler
Local dog-lawyer Rusty Barkwater (Ruff Ruffington & Partners, Attorneys at Paw LLC), has announced a bid for the Mayoral seat in the next election. Barkwater promises a crackdown on cat immigration and more lax laws on poop control.
I was able to chat with Rusty during a break in his busy schedule. We first met at R Kitchen for lunch, but were promptly asked to leave because of a strict no dogs policy, so we moved to the alley behind the restaurant where we found some scraps of food leftover in the garbage.
Rusty tucks a napkin in his collar and begins to chew on a leftover pork bone.
“So Mr. Barkwater, what made you want to get into politics?” I ask, anxious to get down to the furry details.
“Listen, I’ve been watching the way things are done in this town for a long time,” Rusty said. “It’s just, it’s out of control, let me tell you. Mayor Feeney seems like a nice guy and all, but we’re talking about a man who doesn’t even poop in his own backyard. Mister fancy pants has a special porcelain bowl to do his business.”
Rusty hacks on the pork bone a bit and then rummages again. An overcast sky clears up and some sun starts to shine onto our little alleyway soiree.
“Hmm. I’m not sure the average citizen cares about these kinds of things, Rusty. People want to hear about job security, environmental policy,—”
“Cats!” I’m cut off by Rusty, who stamps his paw on the ground.
“Well I don’t think necess—”
“The cats walk around here like they own the place. People ask me… ‘Rusty, who’s a good boy?’ And I know it’s me. We all know it’s me. So why do the cats get to run around scratchin’ and howlin’ and doin God-knows-what… if someone sees me running around without my collar I’ll be snatched up in no time.”
I sense angst and frustration in Rusty’s voice. An old dog who’s been through it all, from a humble beginning as a street dog without a single bone to his name, to the well-kempt dog-lawyer rummaging through trash in front of me. I can help but empathize with his deeply-seated resentment towards the felines who roam our town freely.
As if on cue, a cat crosses the other side of the alley.
“CAT! CAT! DAMMIT! CAAAAT! HEY!” Rusty begins to totally lose his grip on civilized behavior.
“RUSTY, NO!” I yell. “STOP RUSTY, BAAAAD DOG-LAWYER.”
“Shit… sorry… sorry, I got a little carried away there.”
“Listen, the truth is I love cats. I’m the biggest cat lover you’ll ever meet, okay? And the cats, they love me too. They say ‘hey little Rusty-boy, we love you.’ And I love them too.”
“But you want to round them up and have them placed in shelters, correct?”
“Listen, I feel bad for the cats, I really do. But what can we do? We can’t just allow them to run around committing crimes and pissing everywhere.”
“It’s interesting you bring up the public urination, that’s been a big subject of yours in the past. I have you quoted here last April in an interview from the Chillicothe Gazette.”
Rusty shuffles uncomfortably. I continue:
“From the article—’Listen, I pee wherever I want in this town. Fire hydrant, I’m peeing. Patch of grass where some husky bitch peed a couple hours ago? Pee spot. Side of a building? Car tire? It doesn’t matter, I’ll pee there. And everybody will know Rusty was there. And they’ll all love me for it. I get treats every time I pee. They tell me I’m a good boy and I did such a good job peeing outside. I love it.'”
Rusty is visibly annoyed that I brought up the Gazette interview. “You’re taking that completely out of context… the Gazette totally twisted my words on that quote.”
“Do you care to explain what you mean by that?”
“Listen… the media, and I really mean this, the media they don’t like me. A dog lawyer, who is ruff on cat immigration, it’s easy for them to paint this picture… and you know what picture I’m talking about, the meow meow meow and suddenly I’m the bad guy. Let’s get real. We all know I’m a good boy, people tell me that all the time I’m just walking down the street and they want to stop and pet me. And I let them! I wag my tail, I give ’em kisses, they love it, they love it so much.”
Rusty stops talking for a moment to lick his balls.
“Rusty, could you maybe do that later, I’m trying to—”
“Yea, yea, I get it you’re politically correct or whatever. Listen all I’m saying here is people love me. They’ll line up to vote for me. I haven’t even began to pull my complete set of tricks yet. Just see what Feeney has to say during our debate when I do this…”
Rusty stands on his hind legs and hops around.
“How ’bout that? People line up to give me treats for that one.”
I have to admit, I’m a little impressed. “You balanced for a long time there, Rusty. I can tell that’s something you practice.”
As our lunchtime meeting comes to an end, I can help but admire the prestigious pup in front of me, narcissistic faults and all. I don’t know if he’d make a good Mayor, but he’d damn sure make a good friend. One could say even, the best friend for which a man could ask.
“Well Rusty, I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to meet with me,” I say.
“I always have time for you Hank, you just keep that milkbone train rolling on over to my office.”
“Sure thing, Rusty. Shake?” I ask, holding out a hand.
Rusty holds up his paw and I shake it.