I Will Not Beg For Scraps

by Julia Gaskill

My greatest aspiration, when I was five,
was to grow up and be a dog.
Your faithfulest companion.

I walked everywhere on all fours
no matter the location.
Ballet practice, kindergarten, grocery stores,
Sunday school, the pumpkin patch, Goodwill.
I made my parents call me
Lady, Wishbone, Lassie, Porkchop.
The life of a dog is easy, after all,
so why not?

I was nineteen the first time I was ever called
a bitch.

It was said to me at 2am over Facebook messenger
when I told a guy that I did not return
his desperate sentiment.
His vocabulary was the cliché rhetoric
of those who believe in the mythical “friend zone” :

How dare you not like me back?
You are a tease.
You are a lead on.
You are a bitch.

But all I could hear was:

You are a dog.
You are a very bad dog.
You have forgotten your training.
Learn to take commands.
Stay. Obey. Lay yourself down.
Do whatever it is that I say.

You think that all I should be capable of
is to be told when to roll over?
You think you can command me
to come?
Tell me that I’m your “good girl”.

Look, you Robin Thicke glorifier,
let me make this crystal clear:
I would rather be a bitch
than your lovesick puppy.

I am a Greyhound outrunning
prejudice, intolerance, sexism.
I am a Saint Bernard barreling
through frozen tundra in search of victimized women to assist.
I am a Black Lab helping
the blind who cannot see that misogyny kills.
I am a Blue Healer pissing
inside your favorite fedora.
I am a Dalmatian bearing
my fangs at unwanted creeps in my life.
I am a Doberman mauling
anyone who lays a nonconsensual finger on me or my friends.
I am a Chihuahua readying
to rip out your throat.

I am a Pit Bull receiving
stereotyped judgment when all I want to do
is shake.

I am a Great Dane,
giant but gentle.
I am a Yorkie,
little but fierce.
I am a Corgi frolicking
through life in the pursuit of happiness.
I am a German Shepherd
loyal to a fault.

I was wrong when I was five.
A dog’s life is not easy,
yet I know a destiny when I see one.
I know what my life has and will become,

and you cannot put me to sleep
just because I do not please.

Like a dog,
once I am kicked

I do not forget.

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