DOG DENTIST by Stephanie Yu

Dog Dentist comes home, takes off his shoes, puts his feet up on the table, and says in a voice too loud, “Man my feet are B-A-R-K-I-N-G, if you know what I mean!” He laughs uproariously to himself. A joke intended only for one.

I’m fixing up his favorite: meatloaf and mash. After a day of grinding down dog teeth, he’s only in the mood for food that is barely reconstituted. My meatloaf is a special recipe that’s super moist. More “fudgey” than “cakey” so the enamel faces zero resistance on the way down. I can tell that sometimes Dog Dentist barely chews, just lets the food dissolve a little before swallowing it whole.

Dog Dentist started his business by posting flyers around the neighborhood. Super grisly pictures of canine’s canines all rotted out. A crusty black molar against a shock of labial gum line. The flyer didn’t make any sense. It was formatted all crazy so you didn’t know it was advertising for dental hygiene services until the very end (“Ever woken up to put the coffee pot on and water in the dog bowl and when you bent down to pet his furry old head realized that WHEW your dog’s mouth is RANK?”).

Somehow, though, calls came in for Dog Dentist. Some were super out there calls. From people who were probably mentally ill, he would say to me. You really start to wonder who is walking outside and sees a flyer and thinks it’s ok to call the number on the paper when there’s no website or any way to confirm this dog dentist is an actual human. But I guess there are some real loonies out there.

Business is good and Dog Dentist is happy. One night, he decides to go all out and make me spaghetti and meatballs. He cooks the whole box of Kirkland pasta until they’re way past al dente. Like no more dente left. And he styles the noodles in these two crooked towers with one enormous meatball at the top of each. “What’s the occasion?” I ask. 

“I’m making money, baby!” he says, wagging around in an apron that says “Trust Me, I’m a Dentist.” He bought it off of Redbubble last week for some reason. “We got funds, we got the goods,” he says as he motions to the bounty of pasta before us.

“How’s business, daddy-o?” I’m tapping the table like a stick to a cymbal.

“Amazing,” he says. “Never been better. Dogs come in a-howlin’ and leave me a-whistlin’. I’m getting referrals on referrals from people who’ve come in to see me.”

I’m about to brave the pasta tower when Dog Dentist leans in and adopts a conspiratorial tone. “I’ll let you in on a little secret.” I set down my fork and knife and crouch low to meet his face. It’s all a big show. I know with his timbre he’s not capable of whispering to anyone. 

“I put BOTS in their teeth.”

Now I’m genuinely surprised. “Bots? What do you mean bots?”

Robots, babe. It’s mind control.” He’s tapping his index and middle finger up against his temple like a loaded gun

“Fuck out of here,” I say.

“No, for real, babe. This is what’s really gonna make us rich. Like filthy stinkin’ rich. I’m gonna plant all these dogs with bots and when they activate it’s gonna be insane. They’ll run away from their owners and be able to talk to each other. But the GPS is programmed for our place so they’ll show up here first and then I’ll take them on a traveling roadshow. People love dogs who do tricks. And I got the key. The button’s in my pocket and the receptors . . . they’re in their mouths, babe.”

I’m sitting there looking at him slurping a strand of spaghetti down. It’s snaking around the spaghetti tower and it’s setting the whole plate spinning like a record player in a cartoon. No way I’m seeing this. No way I’m hearing this.

But with Dog Dentist, it’s best to just keep laughing and chum around and be all “That’s amazing, babe.” And he really is in a good mood with his spaghetti—it’s a good sign that he’s cooking anything at all. Much better than the alternative when Dog Dentist doesn’t get out of bed for weeks on end, dour as all hell, basically melting into the bedsheets. When he’s saying he wishes he was dead and had finished human dentistry school instead of being a no-good back alley dog dentist. Better than when he gets a call later from one of his “patients” about their dog spitting something out after dinner, some screwy piece that came out of a hole where a tooth used to be. Better than when the mail comes in from the Better Business Bureau and they’re seeing red and they know he’s been practicing dog dentistry without a license for months. Better than when he’s screaming that he’s going to do it just hit “ACTIVATE” and then the world will see—I’ll see—that he was right all along and his dogs are gonna come running and he’ll sit there on the front porch with his bowl of spaghetti waiting for the call of his hounds because when they show up they’ll answer to he and he alone. They’re gonna stream in like the cavalry and help build his case against the BBB and they’ll publish a story about him in Scientific American oh how amazed the canine science community will be at this feat Dog Dentist accomplished pushing dog dentistry forward by 100 years maybe 150 if you’re really keeping score.


Stephanie Yu is an attorney and writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner Nate. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in carte blanche, Eclectica, Gingerbread House, Heavy Feather Review, and the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. You can find her on Twitter @stfu_stephanie.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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