For the last seven days we have been babysitting/boarding/loving every single minute of Max, an Australian shepherd whose owners are on vacation in Cancun. Max normally lives next door to my mother, and when we lived in her basement last winter Max and Chuck were gay lovers. There is no other creature on this planet whom Chuck loves more.

Max has basically been spending his seven days with us giving Chuck free lessons on how to be a dog, as Chuck is normally a total fucking pussy. I knew my dog was a bit strange, in a he-cleans-himself-like-a-cat kind of way, but having Max in the house and seeing the glaring difference between a real dog and our pseudo-dog leads me to believe that we have been living with an impostor this whole time.

Max follows me around every single moment of the day, from room to room, and will stand and sit with me in near unison. Sometimes it feels like we’re playing Simon Says, and I fully expect to look over in the morning to find him standing on his hind legs, admiring the growth of his pregnant belly in the bathroom mirror. He sleeps on the floor on my side of the bed and follows me each of the four times I stumble into the bathroom in the middle of the night, just to make sure I’m doing The Ten and Two.

Chuck, on the other hand, couldn’t tell you whether or not I’m even in the western United States. I will occasionally walk into our bedroom mid-morning to find him lying on his back, all four legs sprawled toward the ceiling, his head mushed between the pillows on our bed. And he will look up at me, startled, with an expression on his face that says, “Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?”

Max is also quite vocal about his emotions, whether it be utter barking glee when we return from a few hours of running errands, or grumbling, mumbling frustration when Chuck isn’t in the mood or responding to various humping attempts. This morning when we returned from the gym Max sang a chorus of barks so shrill and terrifying that the doorbell sitting above the kitchen door began chiming in tune with the frequency. It was total, wonderful chaos: barking and chiming and crazy hairy 70lb dog performing handstands on the linoleum. Chuck looked on in abject horror, his ears plastered to the back of his head, unable to figure out why anything would ever need to make that much noise. As far as we know Chuck was born without vocal chords, at least the ones that would enable him to bark more than once every two months or growl occasionally at the Mormons.

I will be completely heartbroken when we have to return Max to his owners on Sunday afternoon. I can’t remember what it was like to be in a room alone, or to use the bathroom without a living, breathing rug wrapped around my feet. I’ll be forced to go back to a world where the dog leaves the room when I enter it, where burglars breaking into the house at night would be greeted by a wagging tail and pleas for treats. Perhaps my dog would be more dog-like and grateful if I stopped dressing him up like a little girl, or torturing the feathery fur on his hind legs with hair gel and bobby pins. Starting today, I promise to stop painting his front claws pink.