Monday, March 16, 2020

The Girls by Victor Banis

Another Excerpt from Paws and Reflect

I'm continuing my posts of excerpts from this great collection of essays about men and their relationships with their dogs with this bit from "The Girls" by Victor Banis.

Victor was a terrific guy, a gentleman and a pioneer of gay literature who wrote prolifically for the pulp paperback world beginning in the 1960s, under many pen names. This excerpt gives you an idea of how wonderful his prose is, and his attention to detail.

She was a year old when a boyfriend—mine, not hers—arrived one day carrying in his arms a peculiar-looking little animal that purported to be a German Shepherd with the ears of a jackrabbit. 

Her name, he informed me, was Prima, and she had been terribly abused in her previous home. I pointed out that I had neither the desire nor the room for a second pet, and reminded him that my landlord had not been happy about the first one, but he asked plaintively if I would just keep her for a day or so while he found a home for her. I made the mistake of saying yes.

In all fairness, he did warn me that she was not yet housebroken. By the next morning, however, Jennie had seen to that, and they were going outside together. That struck me as even more mysterious, since it was not the sort of oddity you would expect to have happen twice. Still, I had no reason to complain.

Since we lived in the city, I tried training the newcomer to a leash, thinking that Jennie’s instant understanding of that necessity was certainly not likely to repeat itself, as the toilet training had. But Prima was such a frightened little thing that, no sooner had you put any kind of collar around her neck than she fell to the floor in a quivering, peeing mass and could not be induced to regain her feet until the collar was removed and she had been reassured that no physical violence was intended.

It was Jenny once again who took charge. To my astonishment, by the next day she had taught Prima to heel at the snap of my fingers, and from then on I could walk down a busy sidewalk in, say, West Hollywood, with both girls safely and politely at perfect heel.

How had Jenny done that? What secret language had passed between them? I only knew that whatever I wanted her to do Jenny divined, and whatever Jenny did Prima did as well. So I could come out of the kitchen into the den, where the rug had just been shampooed, and walk around the bare-floor perimeter to cross the room, and Jenny would follow after me, and Prima after her, and not a paw upon the damp rug. I could entertain less–dog enthusiastic guests in the living room and, though the girls had the run of the house, they would sit politely in the doorway while I sipped cocktails with the guests. I have had two legged friends whose manners weren’t so good.

The story of Victor's life in the pulps
They could be parted from me only by trickery. If, of necessity, I left them home without me, they would sit at the upstairs window and cry in great mournful howls until I returned, to be greeted with wagging tails and scathing looks.

The girls shared my life for fifteen happy and loving years. About halfway through that span, we moved to a cabin in the mountains. They loved it: the great outdoors, exploring together, creeks to splash in, all sorts of scents to investigate. In the summer we took long treks in the woods; in the winter, they liked me to throw snowballs for them to catch. They got friendly with the squirrels, who lost their fear of the girls and would leap over Prima when she slept in the doorway to come inside and beg for a snack.

Victor Banis passed away but his work lives on.

You can buy Paws and Reflect from Amazon or other retailers.

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