For the most part, nothing terribly exciting ever happened in the Jackson household.
Larry Jackson was an electrical engineer by trade, but as he worked in a supervisory position, he never really got his hands dirty. Eileen, his stunningly beautiful wife, was a contented homemaker. She was a member of the sewing club, the scrapbooking club, and the club club. The club club was a club that found new clubs for its members to join. Eileen was the vice president and treasurer of that one. The three Jackson children were exceedingly normal. Trent, the oldest, was the star quarterback on the high school team. Barry, the youngest, was a budding scientist and the apple of his parent’s eyes. This brings us to Sasha, the middle child, and the subject of our story today.
Sasha, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be a perfectly perfect teenage girl. She often gossiped with her friends, spent too much time on her cell phone, and rarely cleaned her room. In many ways she went unnoticed between her more accomplished older and younger siblings, until the day of the big reveal.
Sasha first approached her mother with a request. She wanted to call a family meeting to tell everyone about a decision she had made. Eileen, as a good mother should, didn’t press her daughter about the subject of the meeting, but also as a good mother should, she promised it would happen that very evening right after dinner.
After telling her two sons to make time for the meeting, Eileen's first and most important call was to her husband, Larry, who was currently at work.
There was palpable excitement in Larry’s voice as he peppered his wife with questions.
“Did she say what it was about? Do you think she’s gay? I hope she’s gay, I’m the only guy here without a gay child. I feel like such an outcast.”
“Maybe she trans!” Eileen interjected. “How great would that be? It would sure shut up the Joneses. One trans child trumps two gay children,” she exclaimed with glee.
“What if she is non-binary?” Larry asked. “Do you think that’s possible? Can you imagine all the jealous looks at the next block Christmas party? We’ll be celebrities.”
“How about if she is trans, non-binary, and gay?” Eileen thought out loud. “That would be the best of all possible worlds. We might even make the local paper! I can’t wait. Pick up some champagne on the way home.”
Dinner bristled with nervous excitement, as speculation about Sasha’s announcement grew. As Eileen served dessert—rainbow cupcakes with unicorn sprinkles, topped with a lucious mango sorbet—she couldn’t help but pry.
“Sasha, do I need to take you shopping this weekend?” she asked.
“Why would I need any more clothes, Mom?” Sasha replied, upper lip curled in mild disgust. “Why does anyone need clothes?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe you are rethinking your whole look—”
Sasha simply replied with a stone faced stare and a sharp bark.
“What was that?” Trent looked up from his phone. He’d been texting his girlfriend, Trisha, a blue-eyed blonde on the cheerleading team. Trisha hoped to major in home economics or elementary education in college. Trisha also hoped to marry Trent in a church wedding and buy a Volvo.
“Shut up, normie—” Sasha spat.
“Sasha, you know we tolerate everything but name calling in this house. All are accepted and welcome as they are,” chided her father. “I don’t even know what a normie is.”
“Normie is a noun and adjective describing someone, often pejoratively or ironically, whose tastes and lifestyle are mainstream,” chimed in Barry, looking up from his book on evolutionary science.
“You are normies, dad, with your mainstream media telling you what to think and your popular culture telling you what to do and your toxic patriarchal religions telling you who to worship!” Sasha ended her rant by shoving another rainbow cupcake into her face, opening her mouth very wide, chewing as if she didn’t have cheeks.
“But we don’t watch television or go to church,” her mother pleaded, watching her daughter lap up milk from her glass with her tongue curled backwards. “We are NOT normies. We would never do that to you children.” Eileen got up to dab her teary eyes. Where did she go wrong?
“I think it’s time we go into the family room for Sasha’s news,” Larry Jackson said, smiling, trying in vain to stifle any discomfort. “I have been waiting all day. You know whatever it is, dear, we will love and support you 100%.”
As the family settled in for what promised to be an inspiring evening, each Jackson found their way to their favorite spot. Larry and Eileen sat together on the loveseat, holding hands and trying unsuccessfully to suppress their happy giggles. Trent pounced into the Lazy Boy, immediately extending it to a full recline position. Barry sat in the swivel chair positioned in such a way as to allow him to have access to the computer on the desk, yet still focus on the family and the supposedly big meeting and big announcement.
“Sasha, you have the floor,” Larry opened, sounding like he was facilitating a meeting at work. “Please feel free to tell us your news, whatever it might be.” At the end of the sentence he flashed a smile to Eileen, delighted with his daughter even before she shared her news.
“Well,” Sasha started, obviously a little uncomfortable. “I’ve known for quite some time that I’ve been living a lie and—”
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” Eileen interrupted, too excited to wait for Sasha to complete her sentence. “We are so proud of you. Do you have a girlfriend? Do you want a penis? They can do that now you know.”
“No, mom. It’s not that. You see, I’ve discovered I’m—”
“Non-binary! It’s so wonderful!” Larry practically yelled. “They are growing up,” he said, squeezing Eileen's hand even tighter. “They have made us so proud.”
“No dad, it’s not that either.”
“Not gay or trans?” Eileen asked, trying not to seem disappointed.
“And not non-binary?” Larry added, putting the champagne back on the table in front of him. “If not any of those, then what is the lie you’ve been living?”
“I was getting to that,” Sasha responded, feeling more confident by the moment. “I feel like I’ve been born in the wrong body. I know when you look at me you see me as just another human, but in my heart I’ve always known I was a dog. I am finding out just now what my true species-identity is. I can’t live as a human anymore.”
“Are you at least a gay dog?” Larry asked before Eileen slapped his hand and blinked back tears.
“Can I go now?” begged Trent, who needed to leave for his part time job, scooping ice cream at the roller skating rink. He’d already finished his Algebra homework as he was hoping to sneak out to meet Trish at her church’s youth group meeting. If his parents found out, there’d be hell to pay.
“Yeah, can I go now, too?” added Barry. Both boys got up to leave. “By the way, cynanthropy is the magical practice of alternating between dog and human form. Sasha, are you a combined canine and human form, with both anatomical features? Or just a hairless dog?”
“Shut up, Barry!” Sasha yelled, throwing a decorative “Love is Love!” pillow at her brother.
“Because if you are just a shapeshifter, you may have a form of therianthropy,” he suggested.
“I hate you! Why can’t you all see that I’m a dog in a girl’s body!” With that, Sasha got down on all fours and trotted as best she could around the loveseat. Her parents lifted their legs as she looped around them, chuffing and barking with her.
“Growl. Woof! Oh, I think this is wonderful,” Eileen said, holding her folded hands to her heart. “I saw ‘A Dog Mom’s Life is Ruff’ t-shirt on Etsy. I’m going to get one in every color!”
Sasha stopped short, cocked her head to the side and looked quizzically at her father. Then she used her left leg to start scratching.
“Oh, Sasha darling. Do we need to get you a flea collar?” her father said, leaning forward in concern.
Sasha rewarded him by patting his leg with her hands. She held them up and looked at them sadly.
“Eileen, don’t you have the number for your friend from college? The plastic surgeon? Dogs don’t have fingerprints. I think Sasha would be much happier with paw prints. Right?? Who’s my good girl? Who’s my good girl?” Larry scratched his daughter behind her ears.
In her heart of hearts, Sasha knew her home had always been a safe space, but in this moment, when she was able to be her authentic self for the first time in her adolescent life, she reveled in the freedom she felt.
The last thing was the hardest yet easiest thing she had ever done. She stripped off all her clothes. After all, dogs don’t need clothes. Her neck, where her turtleneck had been just a few minutes earlier, now sported a fancy pink dog collar. Protruding from her lower back, held in place by a pink strap was a glorious tail. It was just a bit of a cosplay outfit she had bought online, but it would have to do until she could have one surgically attached.
It was her father’s proudest moment when she handed him a pink leash that perfectly matched her collar. Larry smiled broadly as he attached the leash to his new dogter’s collar and took her outside for her first walk.
In parties and gatherings to come, Larry and Eileen would always brag how their precious dogter Sasha never messed in the house and how she always ate all her kibble. It wasn’t what they expected from life or had planned for their child, but they were terribly proud of their canine nonetheless.