Fetchaholics Anonymous

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 13, 2016

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Submitted: June 13, 2016

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FETCHAHOLIC’S ANONYMOUS  - BASED ON A TRUE STORY

 

“Now Wally, before we go any further in your session I’m going to have to insist that you drop the ball. Just open your mouth and let the ball fall to the floor. You can do it.” Wally froze. In his head it all made sense. The doctor was right. It would be the simplest of things to do. But his jaw clenched ever tighter on the rubber orb that sat snugly between his teeth. 

“You can do it, Wally. You have to do it. Just relax and allow the ball to fall. Open your mouth and gravity will take care of the rest. I can’t understand a word you’re saying until you do. And you want to get better, right?” Wally could feel some of his tension ebbing away as the doctor’s calm tone began to melt his anxiety. Eventually, Wally’s mouth opened enough to allow the ball to roll away across the floor. As he watched it roll to the other side of the room, his never ending need to chase things down was all fired up. The doctor could sense this, and before Wally could spring from his chair, the doctor pounced first, gathering the ball and hiding it beneath him as he sat back down. Wally barely had time to blink. He was impressed. Dr. Rex’s accomplishments were well known. The American Kennel Club’s best in show two years running. A medal of bravery for saving a family from a fire. And he was credited with brokering the deal that saw cats and dogs end their feud that had gone on far too long. He turned that tide when he pointed out that no one could remember why they were fighting in the first place. Now, he was a healer. In addition to fetchaholics, he helped car chasers, pooh eaters, endabouts - dogs who chase their own tail - fire hydrant fetishes, crotch sniffers, leg humpers, and compulsive gamblers. Being a border collie, he was the brightest amongst them, but to say something like that out loud - in this day and age - is considered racist. Or in this case, breedist. 

“How did that make you feel, Wally?”

“How the hell do you think it made me feel, Doc? I’m not paying 150 bones an hour for you to ask the easy questions.”

“Often, it’s the easy questions that find the difficult answers. Try answering this one.”

“It makes me feel like jumping up, biting you on the ass, and stealing my ball back.”

“Is it your ball, Wally?” Wally looked a bit sheepish.

“Well, not really. I stole it from some kid on my way here. But it’s mine now, and I want to chase it.”

“Tell me about your pupphood.” Oh great, Wally thought, a Freudian. 

“It was pretty normal, I guess. I grew up in a nice box with my five siblings. My mom was a real bitch. The old man was gone. There was plenty to eat, and we all got along fine. I wasn’t the smallest, thank goodness. We kinda picked on him a lot.”

“You’re referring to the ‘runt of the litter.”

“Sorry Doc, I didn’t grow up on Park Avenue with your fancy chat.” he snapped, the smallest trace of a growl evident to both of them. “Okay, I wasn’t the runt of the litter. And I wasn’t the biggest either.” Dr. Rex took off his glasses and put the end of one of the arms in his mouth.

“I could’ve guessed. Wally, have you ever heard of ‘middle puppy syndrome’?”

“No. What’s that?”

“It has to do with something called ‘family geography’. In most families, the oldest and the youngest hold special places. Positions of honour, if you will. Everyone else falls in the middle. This also holds true for size. Your mother probably had special feelings for the biggest and smallest of your siblings, although she may not have shown it. But believe me, she had them. Are you following me so far?”

“I think so.”

“Did you ever feel that you weren’t getting the same attention as the others?” Wally sat upright and alert, as if a light had gone off. 

“You know, I think I did. When we fed, there were enough teats for all of us with one left over. Only Sparky, the biggest, was allowed to touch it. That is until Beau was allowed to suck on it too. He was the smallest, er, I mean runt. If I ever went near it, that bitch would snip my ass. She did the same to Biscuit, Fido and Rover. But not Sparky and Beau. They got whatever they wanted. That bitch.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many years ago, a very wise friend of mine pointed out to me that the word ‘bitch’ is an offensive label towards women. He encouraged me to understand how hurtful and inappropriate it is, and that the term should be kept as the gender specific identifier for female dogs. Realizing how correct he was, I removed that word from my vernacular when using it for any purpose other than its original intent and meaning. However, it is a word that I enjoy saying, and I rarely get the chance to say it being that I don’t have much contact with female dogs. Therefore, you will find it used quite liberally throughout this story now that its utterance can be deemed apropos. Please forgive the latitude that I am allowing myself. Now, where was I…Oh yes, that bitch.

“Do you remember feeling different at these times?” Wally’s expression saddened. His eyes drooped a bit and appeared to gloss over, much like, well, like puppy dog eyes.

“It was hard not to feel different. Often, I would go and sit in the corner of the box and stare at whoever was getting that extra teat, wishing it was me.” Dr. Rex couldn’t help but think about how much better this world would be if we could just come to terms with what it means to suffer from ‘middle puppy syndrome’. He thought of a world where fewer people were bit; strays that stayed at home; no more shits on the shag carpet. Alas…

“Were you ever distracted during these times?”

“Distracted? How do you mean?”

“Well, did you ever notice what was going on outside of your box?”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The term ‘thinking outside of the box’ has become overused and tired. Please discontinue using it except for those rare times when someone is in a box, and circumstances within that box requires someone to look elsewhere, like, outside of the box. The same goes for the term, ‘at the end of the day’. just stop it.

Wally thought for a moment before he answered. It had been a long time since he lived with his family, but his memory was good.

“Yes. I remember a young girl who lived there. She was always picking us up and letting us lick her nose. One day, her nose was covered in jam. Sweet. Then she’d put us on the floor and let us explore her world.” Wally paused and looked wistfully into the distance. “You know, I almost forgot about that little girl. If it wasn’t for her,… “ His words trailed off and he fell silent again.

“Can you remember any games that she played with you? Did she ever encourage you to fetch anything?” Dr. Rex could see that Wally was reliving something. But what?

“She used to play Tug O’ War with me. She had this old sock that she teased me with. I’d get the end of the sock in my mouth and she would hold the other end. But I remember playing with her one day when she took the sock and threw it into the corner. I wasn’t finished with this game so I ran after it and brought it back to her, you know, so we could play some more.” It was as if the brightest light in the world went off in Wally’s head. “That’s it! That’s when it started. She made me fetch this old sock if I wanted to play with her. Whenever I brought the sock to her, she’d throw it. I thought she was a nutbar, that maybe she forgot how to play Tug O’ War. But that wasn’t it at all, was it Doc?”

“I think she was teaching you a new game, Wally. You see, to people, fetch is a learned activity. But to you, it’s become a pathological urge. That is, you need to fetch more than you want to fetch. In reality, that little girl changed your behaviour.”

“Well that’s just great. I didn’t want to be this way. This is nothing but bad news.”

“Not really, Wally. You see, the good news is that you were able to identify how the problem started. You can take the next steps in your recovery. But before you can do that, you have to admit the condition to yourself.”

“What do you mean? Doesn’t this prove that I’m not at fault? I didn’t ask for this.”

“No, you’re right about that. You didn’t ask for this. But it belongs to you nonetheless.”

“How do you figure?”

“Think of it this way. Do you remember Spot, the Dalmatian from the movies?”

“You mean the one that got run over by the fire truck?”

“Exactly. Do you think that he wanted to be run over by a fire truck? He didn’t. But it was his problem all the same. He just stopped in the middle of the street to pinch a loaf when a hook and ladder came around the corner, and just like that, he had a new problem to deal with. One that he didn’t ask for.” Wally thought about Dr. Rex’s words. He knew he was right. He also knew that there would be no easy way out. 

“So what do I do now?”

“The first step in any recovery is to admit you own the problem. I want you to say, ‘Hello, my name is Wally, and I’m a fetchaholic. Can you do that?” Wally looked nervously around the room, as if he wanted to make sure that they were alone. He began to pant a little harder. He hoisted up his leg and licked his balls a few times, as this was a stress relief  for him. 

“I’m a…oh my, this isn’t easy.”

“No one said it would be. You can do it. I believe in you.” 

“My name is Wally, and I’m a…I’m a…dammit, I’m a fetchaholic.” Wally’s panting increased. “Whoa, that’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say.”

“I’m proud of you , Wally. That took balls. Not the ones that are in your mouth again.” Wally had assumed his relaxation position. Wally allowed his scrotum to return to its spot between his legs.

“Is that it? Am I cured?” Dr. Rex chuckled.

“No, Wally. It’s not that simple. But believe me when I say that you couldn’t get any better until you said those words. You need to say them to yourself every day. Now, admitting the problem is the most important step, but it’s just the first step. The next thing you need to do is to join a support group.”

“Support group? What’s that?”

“It’s where you go to meet others who have the same problem that you do.”

“You mean, I’m not the only one?”

“Not by a long shot. Sadly, the world is full of fetchaholics. Many of them started the same way that you did. I have a colleague that runs a group for recovering fetchaholics. They meet once a week out at the city junk yard. Every Monday night. I want you to go and be a part this group. I think it will help.”

“Will it cure me?” Dr. Rex looked sadly at the floor. He took a deep breath.

“Wally, there is no cure. You will always be a fetchaholic. But you can learn to control the urges that send you sprinting off after anything that moves. But in your world, you will only be as good as your next rolling ball. That’s the reality of your condition. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that.”

“That’s pretty heavy, Doc.” Wally looked towards his own balls, but fought the urge. “Are you sure this is the only way?”

“Many dogs learn to live with this, Wally. Some of them have it much tougher than you. I knew a poodle who only imagined something moving. He chased after things that weren’t even there.”

“That’s messed up.”

“It is, but he has it under control. He learned how to do that in the very support group that I’m recommending to you. Go to them. They know what you’re going through.”

“If you think it’s best. I will go. But am I finished seeing you?”

“No. I want to see you in three months. We’ll go over your progress then. In the meantime, stay strong, remember that you’re not alone, and the only balls in your mouth should be your own.” With that, Dr. Rex got up, walked over to Wally, and sniffed his ass.

“You’ll do fine, Wally. I believe in you.”

 

The following Monday, Wally headed out after dinner. He kept to the back alleys hoping to avoid anyone he might know. He was still coming to terms with his, um, condition. He reached the river and the foot bridge that led to a culvert. Once through, he could see the junk yard down a dead end road. He slowed his pace, giving himself time to change his mind. For a brief moment he tried to convince himself that he could get better on his own. Then he remembered that that never worked before. He resigned himself to this new fate.

As he approached the gate, a shadow emerged from behind a revamped Plymouth Fury. It was Spike the Doberman. Wally froze in his tracks. Spike the Doberman was the most feared dog of his day. He was mean, and no matter what that song said, there is nothing meaner than a junkyard dog. Not this one, at any rate. He walked up to his side of the gate and showed his teeth. They looked like they had chewed their fair share of things that weren’t kibble. He had the haunches of a lion, and his pecks bulged in all directions. And his tail wasn’t wagging.

“What’s the password?” he snarled. As if for effect, a large amount of drool slipped from his mouth and fell to the ground. Wally felt his blood run cold as he struggled to remember if he had been provided with a password.

“Um, er, well…”

“Spit it out, cur.” Spike the Doberman was beginning to posture, and even though there was a fence between them, Wally began to shake. “Do you know what happened to the last dog who showed up here without a password?” Wally could only imagine but chose not to at this time.

“Well, um, that is, I wasn’t given one.”

“That’s the wrong answer, duffus.” Spike the Doberman moved closer to the gate.

“Wait, wait. Let me try to remember. I’m sure that Dr. Rex didn’t say anything about a password.” Spike the Doberman held his position and starred Wally in the eyes. Eye contact is not good in a situation like this - a moment not lost on either of them.

“Did you say, ‘Dr. Rex’?”

“Yes, Dr. Rex sent me.”

“That’s it. C’mon in, mate. Welcome.” Spike the Doberman immediately morphed into some other kind of innocuous being. His tail began to wag, his ears relaxed, and he hid is teeth as he opened the gate to allow Wally access. “You must be here for the Fetchaholics Anonymous meeting. Here, have a sniff.” he said as he stuck his ass in Wally’s face. Wally returned the greeting. He had the distinct anus odour of a prize fighter. 

“Sorry about the tough guy stuff. You can never be too sure around here.” Spike the Doberman’s voice had changed completely. Soft and melodic, kind of like someone who works a suicide hot line. “I’m not quite that bad.”

“No, no, don’t apologize. I understand. Your bark is worse than your bite.”

“On the contrary. I could rip your throat out before you had the chance to stick that pink pencil of yours out one last time.” Spike the Doberman was chuckling but Wally could tell that this was no joke.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by…”

“Don’t worry about it, kid. It’s all good. You want to head down this row of cars and turn left at the end. You’ll see the others there.” With that, Spike the Doberman trotted back to his original hiding spot, no doubt, waiting to scare the crap out of the next unsuspecting slob. 

Wally walked slowly between the rows of cars that were piled high on either side, creating a hallway of sorts. As he reached the end of the corridor, he peered to the left to see a group of dogs, nine or ten in number, sitting in a circle. He could hear one of them talking. With equal measures of strength and apprehension, he walked towards them. He listened as he heard one of them say, “Hello, my name is Biff, and I’m a Fetchaholic.” Then the rest of the group said, “Hello, Biff.” It sounded welcoming. He felt his anxiety ebb just a bit. Before anything else could be said, one of them looked up and saw Wally approaching.

“Hello, friend.” he said. “Come, join us. My name is McDuff.”

“Hi. I’m Wally.”

“Hello, Wally.” the group said in unison. McDuff got up and sniffed Wally’s ass. Wally did likewise.

“You must’ve been sent here by Dr. Rex. We’ve been expecting you. Please, have a seat. We’ve just begun. This will give you the chance to see how our encounter group works.” Wally strolled over to a spot and sat down between an old Beagle and a hot French Poodle. Wally was hoping to sniff her ass later. “So, Biff, can you begin again. From the start. Biff was a mutt, much like Wally. There was something familiar about him but Wally couldn’t put his paw on it.

“Hello, my name is Biff, and I’m a fetchaholic.”

“Hello, Biff,” came the response, identical to the last one. Biff continued.

“Since last week I’ve fallen off the wagon once or twice. I tried, I really did. But this apple fell off a tree and rolled down a hill. When I saw, I, I, well, I ran it down.”

“Biff,” said McDuff, “did you eat the apple?” The look on Biff’s face said it all. He just shook his head ‘no’. “What did you do with it, Biff?”

“I looked for someone to give it to.”

“And what would that accomplish?”

“Maybe they’d throw it again.” 

“Very good, Biff. You now know the difference in fetching and eating. It’s not fetching if it’s for food. But you weren’t hungry, were you?” Again, Biff shook his head ‘no’. 

“I hate apples.” he said. 

“That’s a very important discovery about yourself, Biff. Can anyone else explain why?” Wally looked around the group to see who might pipe up with an answer. No one did.

“Biff has given us our first, and most important, rule. For Wally’s sake, I’ll explain our do’s and don’ts. The first don’t you have to come to terms with is, ‘If it’s not food, don’t chase it.’ Now, can everyone repeat that.” 

‘If it’s not food, don’t chase it.’ Wally heard the words come from his mouth in unison with the others. 

“That’s great.” said McDuff. “If you follow that simple rule, you’ll cut your fetching down by half.” ‘Let’s see,’ thought Wally, ‘that would leave only ten hours a day of chasing after things.’ But, it was a start. McDuff could see that Wally might be struggling with this.

“Wally, can you share with us your story?”

“My story?”

“Sure. Tell us a bit about yourself.” Wally looked around the circle. He wondered how much he trusted these strangers. If only he could sniff their ass.

“I’m not used to speaking in front of a crowd.”

“This is a safe place, Wally. Whatever you say will not be judged, nor will it leave this circle.” The other dogs mumbled their agreement with this. 

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t chasing things. Sticks, balls, leaves that blow in the wind.” The hot French Poodle let out a gasp. Wally looked her in the eyes. “Yes, that’s right, I chased after leaves. I can’t help myself.” At this point, the entire group let out a collective howl. It frightened Wally until he saw McDuff laughing.

“I’m sorry, Wally, but I should’ve explained this to you at the beginning. Every time we say ‘I can’t help myself’ we are trying to deflect the problem onto something else. And what to we say about deflection?”

“Deflection is for cats!” came the chorus.

“And what do we say about cats?”

“We’re not pussies!” they sang together.

“You see, Wally, if you can’t help it, no one can help you. It’s your problem. Own it. When you do, you’ve taken an important step in your recovery. Now, Wally, what do we say about deflection?”

“It’s for cats?” he said in an asking tone.

“Good, Wally. And what do we say about cats?”

“We’re not pussies.”

“Say it again.”

“We’re not pussies.”

“Louder.”

“We’re not pussies!!!” Wally yelled this as if he was in an old time revival tent. His response startled him a bit. That’s when he noticed the French Poodle raising her tail and her hind leg, giving Wally a faint whiff of her lady bitch parts. 

“How did that make you feel?” McDuff asked. Wally let go with an involuntary chuckle.

“Kinda good.” 

“Kinda good! Wally feels kinda good, everyone. And all it took was a few simple words. Tell me Wally, did it feel as good as say…fetching?” Wally was caught off guard. Was this some kind of a trick?

“Well…it felt  good, but not the same kind of good.” His voice trailed off and up in register, as if he was a valley dog.

“But it did feel good, didn’t it?”

“Yes. It did feel good.”

“That brings us to our second rule. What is the second rule, everyone?”

“Replacement” came the unified response.

“That’s right. Replacement. That’s when we put something good in the place of something bad, like fetching. Wally, if you’re like everyone else here, then you feel good when you fetch something. Am I right?”

“Oh yeah, real good.”

“No one wants you to stop feeling ‘real good’. What we want you to do is to replace the fetching with something else. Something that isn’t harmful to you.” Wally couldn’t help looking at the French Poodle, her scent so strong he could taste it in his mouth. “But you need more than words or slogans. You need an activity that replaces the need to fetch. Is there anything you can think of?” Again, Wally stared at the Poodle. 

“Well, I like going for walks in the woods.”

“There you go. That’s something you can do instead of fetching. Anything else?”

“Now and again I like to dig up the yard.”

“Good. Good. You’re getting it. There are many things you can do to replace your fetching needs. And that brings us to point number three. When you’re doing something good…you’re also not doing something bad.”

“I’m not sure I get what you mean by that.” Wally said.

“Think of it like this; if you’re doing something good at the same time that you’re not doing something bad, that’s two things that are happening. Not just one. So, would you feel better if someone gave you one bone, or two bones?” Wally thought for a moment.

“Two, of course. Oh, I get it now. If I’m going for a walk in the woods, that’s like having one bone. And if I’m not fetching something, that’s like having another bone. That’s two, right?” The entire circle of dogs began to clap and cheer. They’ve seen breakthroughs before, but none so quick.

“Wally, you’re going to be okay. Now, that takes us to number four. The last part of your recovery. Take a good look at everyone who is here right now.” Wally began to scan the other members of the support group. He started with the French Poodle, who was becoming shameless in her presentation to him, and then followed the circle until he was looking at McDuff. “Do you see these faces?”

“Yes.”

“They’re the ones you can count on when times are tough, and temptation becomes unbearable. And they need to know that they can count on you, too. Can they count on you, Wally?” Wally looked around the group one more time.

“Sure. You bet. I mean, I don’t know what I can do, but I’m willing to learn.”

“That’s the next point. Support others who have the same problem that you do. Here, we all support each other. We wouldn’t be able to change without it.”

“What do you mean ‘we’, McDuff?” McDuff smiled.

“Well, Wally, I’m not only the group facilitator, I’m also a client. You see, I came to this group just like you. My fetching addiction was truly monumental. One fall day I started chasing after a bird that was flying south for the winter. I was halfway to Mexico before I turned around. Once, I was trying to fetch a leaf that was blowing across the lawn, and crashed my face into the neighbour’s fence. I wasn’t able to lick my balls for a week.” Wally gasped at such a thought. “My breakdown happened when I visited a farm for the first time. You see, my favourite thing to fetch was flies. Well, I walked behind the barn where there were millions of buzzing flies hovering over a manure pile. I ended up having a psychotic episode. When I came out of it, I decided to get help. And now, here I am today.”

Wally began to feel some self assurance. If McDuff could change his ways, surely Wally could as well. After all, this seemed like a great support group. Everyone had each other’s back - or ass, in this case. He knew that he could count on them, and this helped him feel in control, even if just a little. That’s when McDuff walked up to him and smiled.

“That brings us to the final point. Follow-up. You need to spend time with us each week, and then go and see Dr. Rex again. He’ll want to hear about your progress. And I think you’ll have a great deal to tell him, won’t you?”

“I’m sure I will. Thanks, McDuff. And thanks to everyone here. There might be hope for me yet.” With that, Wally sat down and began to like his balls. He felt the reward was justified. 

 

Three months later, Wally showed up at Dr. Rex’s office early. He was excited to see him again. The two of them sniffed each other’s ass and then sat down.

“Well, Wally, you certainly look more relaxed. Tell me everything. How do you like the support group?”

“They’ve been great. They’re always there for me, and I’ve needed them more than once. I can’t say that it’s been easy, but It’d be impossible if not for them. Even McDuff comes by now and again to check on me. However, I’m proud to day that I’ve gone six weeks without chasing a single thing.”

“Six weeks! That’s extraordinary, Wally. You know, it takes just four weeks to create a habit. I’d say you’ve turned a corner. I think it’d be good if you continued to spend time with the group. I’m sure that you’ll be good for new members. They need to hear your story.”

“And I have another piece of good news; I’ve been seeing a French Poodle bitch I met there. She’s one heluva bitch. A bitch’s bitch. The best bitch I’ve ever met. (AUTHOR’S NOTE CONTINUED…You may notice that I’m taking great liberties with the word ‘bitch’ again. Perhaps your old pal Norman needs his own support group, if such a thing exists. Sadly, I’ve come to the end of this tale and won’t be able to use this lexicon until such a day that I write about these characters again. Until then, I will refrain from using the ‘B’ word, except to say that Wally went on to describe his new woman as being a ‘real bitch’ sometimes, at which point Dr. Rex pointed out the offensive error of his vocabulary. At that point, they both licked their own balls, respectively. I will leave you with one of their favourite jokes. Do you know why humans don’t lick their own balls? Because they can’t. Dogs love this joke.)


© Copyright 2017 Norman K. All rights reserved.

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