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(SAF) Buster’s bed

It wasn’t like it was her favorite chair. Sure, she liked it plenty. Liked the angle of the arms and the yellowed blonde of the wood. Liked the ochre—or was it goldenrod?—naugahyde that seemed to be a ubiquitous feature of office reception areas ca. 1954. She liked that it was comfortable and a good reading chair. She also liked that it looked good pretty much wherever she put it. And, she liked that she got it for nothing when the guy working the last day at the liquidation sale didn’t know what to do with it (it wasn’t priced) and told her, “Just take it. Nobody’s gonna miss it.”

So, yeah, she liked it plenty—loved it, even. But her “favorite” chair? That would be a stretch.

Buster, on the other hand, thought it was pretty fucking great. No, he didn’t sit in it. An arthritic 70 pounds, getting into the chair proved logistically impossible for him. And, while it and he did occupy the same corner of the color wheel, it wasn’t a conscious aesthetic decision on his part. The bottom line was that she had placed it by the big picture windows in the living room, both for the view and the light, and used it there as her primary reading chair. Being a good boy, Buster wanted to be wherever she was. Plus the chair’s arms were the perfect height for him to get his head under and present himself for petting.

Over the years, they passed many hours that way: she reading or daydreaming; Buster, getting his head scratched.

Like other big dogs, Buster was lazy. Sweet as can be, definitely. Needy, yes. And, to be honest, dumber than a log. But, damn, how that dog liked to sleep. If there were three things that Buster enjoyed doing, they would be: 1) getting petted; 2) barking for no discernable reason; and 3) sleeping. If 1) and 3) could be combined, he’d probably have been happy to drop 2), which only occurred when he was a) standing (hence not sleeping), and b) not getting petted.

After she brought Buster home from the shelter, she ran right out and spent far too much money at the overly precious pet store in the neighborhood on a perfectly lovely dog bed. It had a tempurpedic foam pad and was covered with an all-cotton cover, one side of which was canvas, the other faux shearling. From the outset, he used it begrudgingly, and, then, only when she was in the room. At all other times, no comfortable piece of furniture within reach and of appropriate size was safe from him. In practice, that meant her bed and the couch.

As a matter of principle, she was firmly against letting animals on the furniture. Still, whenever he laid himself down on his bed, the movement was accompanied by a groan so pitiful that it reverberated in her gut. She knew that she could not begrudge the poor boy of the creature comforts he helped himself to in her absence. And, so, an implicit agreement was formed: when she was home, he was on his bed, on the floor; when she was gone, he had the run of the place. She wondered if he resented her coming home.

As Buster aged, he developed many of the complaints common to big dogs. His groans became less theatrical and more visceral. It took obvious effort for him to get up and off of his bed. He slept more and more. He grew to prefer the couch, which was lower, over her bed, which required a small jump for him to mount. The expensive bed that she had bought for him seemed so meager, impoverished–like an ascetic’s wooden pallet–that she often wondered if she shouldn’t get him something bigger and fluffier. Ultimately, she decided that she was just projecting her human desires onto the dog who was, after all, a dog. And dogs sleep on the ground. It was a fact. And a matter of principal.

Besides, her place was small enough as it was, and she didn’t want to trip over any more dog shit than was already the case.

One rainy winter day she was in Costco shopping for a lifetime supply of vodka and toilet paper when, heading up an aisle toward the liquor section, she passed through the pet supplies section. There, after the mega-sized bags of crap dried food and the million-can cases of crap wet food, after the mammoth-sized legs of rawhide chews and the bulk packs of flea-and-tick treatment, was a bin of dog beds. The. Ugliest. Dog. Beds. Ever.

Made of petroleum distillates and covered in a selection of patterns and colors and textures that were guaranteed to match absolutely nothing in your house (unless there was something very, very wrong with you), they were the kind of dog beds that, well, one would expect to find in Costco. But, the beds were big. Massive, really. Four feet across and nearly a foot thick. Her curiosity got the better of her and she looked at the price. At $17.99, they were a quarter of what she had spent on that tempur-fucking-pedic thing that she and Buster had grown to hate. A shopping frenzy took hold of her and and she threw herself into the bin, desperate to find a bed that she could live with. She did, more or less.

The innocuous side of the bed was of a faux shearling not all that different from Buster’s old bed. The other side was a different story altogether: it contained some kind of a patchwork damask, containing a mélange of vaguely Persian patterns, in shades of brown and beige that must have been selected for their ability to mask a dog’s trackings and emissions. But that wasn’t the worse of it. Around the circumference of the bed, was a trim of thick gold braid that lost its curtains somewhere on the road to Vegas.

She figured that she could place the bed shearling side up, and hoped that time and Buster would take the luster out of the trim.

“Buster Brown Dog!” she announced, as she always did when returning home. “I got my good boy a present!”

Buster turned his head, doubting that he did indeed hear the word “present.”

“Look, sweetie!” she said throwing the bed and its 20 pounds of dead weight on the floor. Shearling side up. “It’s a new bed!”

Buster looked at her, his tail wagging uncertainly, and went to investigate the bed. He gave it a sniff, and went back to her, waiting for the real present to be produced.

“It’s a new bed! C’mon, sit!” She kneeled beside the bed and pounded the top for emphasis. Buster wagged, and stood his ground. She crawled up on the bed herself. “C’mon, Buster! It’s comfy!” That it was. Buster walked over, put his head in her lap for scratching. But, still, he would not sit on the bed. She hoped that he just needed some time to get used to the new piece of furniture, and comforted herself with the thought that it was only a waste of $17.99. If nothing else, it would be a good donation to the pound.

The bed had sat on the living room floor for nearly a week, taking up valuable space. Buster hadn’t got any closer to it than the sofa, which he still favored. She would have thrown in the towel, pulled the thing out, and put it aside until she could find the time to take it to the humane society, but, really, she had nowhere to store it. The floor was the only place commodious enough.

“Oh well,” she thought. “It was worth a try.” And then, aloud, “Right, Buster?” Buster looked at her from the familiar position of his post-prandial stupor: on the living room floor, mouth wide open in a grin, one ear flipped, singing to himself. He wagged his tail in response.

She was in the kitchen making dinner when the sounds coming from the living room sounded much more animated than usual. Dogs can be the most entertaining things and she loved to watch whenever he went ugly on the toy-of-the­-moment (choose from: tennis ball, kong, rope pull, bones; they were all on the floor). She peaked her head around the corner to spy on the reverie. This, she could not have predicted: Buster was wrestling with the bed. He was pawing it, biting it, and head-butting it. He was growling. From what she could tell, he was trying to kill it. That bed was definitely going to the pound. Unless it was shredded. In which case, it had become an expensive chew toy. A large, expensive chew toy.

Eventually, the battle sounds died down–as they always do–and she suspected that Buster had worn himself out and had finally settled into his post-dinner pre-walk nap. She ate her dinner in peace, read an article in “Dwell,” and did the dishes.

“Walk time! Buster! Who’s my good boy?” she called from the sink, as she always did. No response. Not a surprise—he often needed to be convinced. “C’mon! Let’s go,” she said, emerging from the kitchen.

Buster wasn’t going anywhere. Turning the corner into the living room, she found him in an usual position: on his belly, head between legs, front paws turned out like the flippers on a seal; his back legs tucked under him. He was still and peaceful, only his eyes moved, to look at her as if to say, “go away.” He was on top of the new bed. Which had been flipped so that he was lying on the damask-like side.

That moment marked the beginning of a beautiful relationship as he rarely ventured off of the bed. From then on, the sofa and her bed were left undisturbed, as Buster obviously preferred to loll on his bed, like some sort of sheikh in his harem.

And, from that day forward, he insisted on being called Farrouq al Istafani.