HowTo:Be Man's Best Friend

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When you're hung like a hound and don't wear pants, looking mild-mannered is an art.

If you're reading this I'm guessing you're an animal, and an animal with an exceptional reading age too. So I'm guessing that you already know that it ain't easy being man's best friend - friends don't call friends Penrod, I reckon. People don't usually want to treat animals as equals - it's always "Pen-ry!" this and "Pen-ry" that, and "Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Penry go clean up the vomit in cell 6, that junkey's having a hard time going cold turkey." If I'd been one of them brain-dead German Shepherds I'd have been called "Killer" or something, and all I'd have to do is bite homeless dudes. You'd think Sergeant Flint could be a little more appreciative of my efforts, how many Police Stations got their own talking dog any how?

Myself, I try to be a good friend to the Sarge, the lovely Rosemary and to humanity in general and I reckon I got it taped. If you want to be a friend to humanity, take a leaf from old Penrod's book and turn yourself into a crime-fighting superhero. Of course, if you want to be a good friend, it don't do to make your friends feel inadequate. Humans don't want to feel they need their pets to make the streets safe, that's their job. So I don't let them know it's their mild-mannered janitor cleaning up the city. They think it's that cool-dude superhero, Hong Kong Phooey and that's the way it's gotta stay. That way they don't get all eaten up inside with jealousy. Means I still gotta sweep the floors though, and mop-up the melt-water when they defrost a cadaver for relatives to identify. But I don't mind, 'cause I know Sarge cares really. Greater love hath no man than to follow his friend round with a pooper-scooper. That's love between man and dog, and not in a nasty way, neither.

But you ain't gotta be a dog to be a good friend to mankind, you just gotta follow a few simple rules.

Rule 1

Modesty means I don't let Rosemary see me change. That & I can't get outta there without Spot's help.

Rule 1 is : Preserve an Air of Mystery

Don't let your human friends know your real identity - that ain't friendly, it's just showing off. People see you doing cool stuff like that, they gonna expect all animals to do the same and that ain't fair. I got eight brothers and not one of 'em is interested in crime-fighting. They just want to chase tail and fight over bitches and territory back in the 'hood. And who could blame them? That's what dogs is meant to do. So for the sake of your brethren and mine, get a good costume. People see you in a costume and they think you're some special kinda animal. Then they'll leave all the ordinary Joes out there to sniff butt all day. God, I miss the simple life.

What the costume looks like ain't that important. Me, I prefer something loose 'cause sometimes a dog's gotta lick what a dog's gotta lick. But if you got the balls you can be a hero naked - the only costume Dangermouse ever wore was an eye patch. That wouldn't preserve my modesty but he's a rodent and they got internal genitalia. Least ways, I hope they do or he lost more than an eye fighting for queen and country.

There ain't no costume on Earth gonna save you if you spoil your own aura of invincibility. Mighty Mouse, he had everything: the costume, the powers and he was the first! But evil geniuses ain't afraid of opera-singing mice, even ones with Titanium six-packs. I can't recall the last time I brought down a bad guy with a blast of Puccini. And that's why you don't see MM around no more, that and he's about 106 these days and living in a gated community in Arizona. Plays a lot of pinnochle, I hear.

Anyhow, a costume's good if you want to remain mysterious, but you can't be seen to change into your costume - which brings me onto Rule 2.

Rule 2

Rule 2 is : Don't let 'em Know where you Live.

Being man's best friend don't mean being his slave, you gotta have some me-time. Fortunately, there's more than one way to stop stupid humans working out who you are and and where you're from. 'Cause so as they find out, they gonna be beating at your door every ten seconds with "Hey, Phooey! Save them people from that burning building", and "Hong Kong, help! Some evil-doer in a cape done tied my old lady to the train tracks and a steam loco from a hundred and fifty years ago is about to run over her" and "Hey, mutt. Go down the store and pick up my newspaper, that delivery boy's a no good bum."

Touche Turtle carried his "secret" hideout on his back. Dum-Dum was always the brains of that outfit.

Most folks take the secret hideout route. Caves are always good, though if I'd been searching for Batfink's secret hide-away I reckon I might have started with a cave. Atom Ant lived in a ant-hill, which is pretty inconspicuous among thousands of other anthills. It worked real well right up to the incident with that kid and the bug-spray. I was devastated, we were as close as a dog and an insect can be, less you count my fleas. Brings a tear to my eye to think he ain't never gonna be Up and Atom again.

Better to have your hideout disguised as something people don't even notice. Even I never knew where Secret Squirrel hid out, it wasn't until he retired that we found out he was really a Marmot. And no one would have found Dangermouse in his mailbox if they hadn't sealed up the slot for six weeks during that IRA mainland bombing campaign in '91. Eating Penfold kept him alive, but he was never the same again after. His mind had gone.

Me, I still live at the station, I just don't let anyone see me change. Nobody knows they got a hero in their midst. So one way you can stop 'em knowing where you live without taking out an expensive mortgage on a hide-away is to change in private. I got me a filing cabinet with enough room for a few clothes-hangers and a full length mirror. Just as long as there's no one around, I can spring out of that cabinet and straight into the dumpster where I hide the Phooeymobile. 'Course, the spring mechanism's a bit stiff so sometimes it needs my friend Spot to give it the old magic touch before I get out. But more of him later.

Rule 3

Rule 3 is : You gotta have Back-up

The sidekicks formed a union in '89 but Karate thought Morocco being a mole meant he was an informant. Two kicks from those size twelves and Morocco was pate

You absolutely have to have good people round you if you're gonna be a hero. Me I got Spot - he don't say a lot and there's a lot of passive-aggressive-ness in the way he shakes that shaggy old head and sighs every time I look up a new move in the "Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu". It's written in ancient Chinese so sometimes I get the moves a bit muddled. Fortunately, my in-built fighting ability always sees me through despite everything - which shows what dumb old Spot knows.

Of course, some folks got better back-up than others. I wouldn't swap old Spot for anything but there have been times when I thought that I could have used a bit of muscle like Karate. His English ain't great and he didn't think so good. Too many blows to the head in training, I thought. Then Batfink explained about him being born nine weeks premature - deprived his brain of Oxygen as well as leaving him jaundiced so bad he got that permanent banana-tan. But he was a good sidekick, which is just as well 'cause a bad sidekick is a liability. Undercover Elephant, he could have been the best if Loudmouse hadn't opened his trap every ten seconds and given away his secret identity. But could that sentimental old pachiderm face the world when Loudmouse died? No, sir. People said they were more than just friends - but that's just talk. Poor old Undercover just laid down on Loudmouse's grave and trumpeted himself to death. Not that Loudmouse was in the grave, there wasn't much left to bury after Spot ate him. Now, burying Undercover- that took super powers.

Back-up ain't always sidekicks, though. I got the Sarge and the beautiful Rosemary the telephone operator, they help me out good but I gotta keep them at a distance 'cause they're human. DangerMouse had a whole organisation of other agents and such - all of them animals. He knew he could rely on discretion 'cause Colonel K's a dog. Well, probably a dog, it's kind of hard to tell unless you can get right in there and take a sniff.

Rule 4

Secret Squirrel could just summon a rocket ship or a motorcycle straight outta his trench coat. Brilliant - 'til he got arrested for flashing and they took away his spy-license.

Rule 4 is: "Arrive in Style"

If you're an animal people think you're fit for nothing but fetching sticks, so you gotta impress at all times to be their best friend. If you can fly, like Mighty Mouse, there's no more awe-inspiring way to arrive at a crime-scene. But if, like the rest of us, you need transport then your transport gotta make a statement. Secret Squirrel's car folded up and went right back in his briefcase - that's saying "Look at the technology at my disposal - you think you're gonna defeat me with flowers that spray knockout-gas, think again." You could just tell that car had machine guns and lasers and really cool alloys. Bitches love that shit. Carrying all that stuff around in his case gave him arms like tree-trunks too.

My wheels don't look much, just an old green pimp mobile straight outta Shaft, but it says "I don't need fancy, I'm gonna take you down with a good old fashioned kick to the crotch" and it makes Rosemary go weak at the knees seeing me in it. 'Course, with a little old "Bong of the Gong" it goes right from car to jet-ski, to unicycle, to pogo-stick. Now I come to think of it, maybe there was a little to much Bong-ing going on when I built that old jalopy. Why'd I ever think a unicycle was gonna come in handy?

I liked to drive the Phooeymobile myself, on account of Spot being a cat. Color-blindness is good for depth perception and hunting, and shit but you tell that to the cops next time you run a red light. Never could understand why that old Squirrel let Morocco drive all the time. Moles ain't known for their eagle-eyes neither. I guess it don't matter who drives, you just gotta have a car - the open road, the feel of the wind in your hair. And you can piss against the wheels when you get there too. Un-beatable!

Rule 5

Rule 5 is: "Have awesome powers"

You don't have to have super-powers, I ain't. But you gotta have some sort of powers to be worth being man's friend, otherwise you're just an animal, right? And what's an animal doing in a funny costume, driving a jet-car and saving the Earth from Dr Doom's cloned robo-monsters? You should be out grazing or something.

Quickdraw McGraw never had no superpowers, but he was the law. That horse put a lifetime of dedication into becoming the quickest shot in the West even though he got hooves where other gun-slingers got fingers. And what did they do? They laughed at him. Shameful.

Me, I got my Kung Fu. I'm still learning. That's why I still carry my "Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu" everywhere. It's a lifetime vocation. Mighty Mouse could fly but, honestly, he was an exception. What can Secret Squirrel do that you can't - 'cept see through the brim of his trilby? Sure Atom Ant and Super Chicken could fly too - but it ain't exactly unheard of for ants and chickens to do that. That ain't super-power - that's evolution. Or Intelligent Design, if you're from Georgia.

So you just gotta be the best at something to be a best friend. The main thing about powers is - you gotta use them properly. We're trying to be man's best friend here, not just some smart Alec performing seal. "Ooh, Ooh. Look at the clever monkey" , "Ooh, ooh, that zebra can count better than me" - I mean, humans are impressed with that shit but it don't actually help them to see you doing calculus. It makes 'em feel stupid and who needs that? You gotta save the day, hand the villains over to the authorities and pretend not to be annoyed when they've escaped again by next week. I mean, you're gonna get extra kudos for kicking their butt over again anyhow.

He may not have had superpowers but Undercover Elephant was a Master of Disguise. 13 feet tall and 25,000 pounds & you still couldn't spot him in a crowd.

Rule 6

Rule 6 is: Have a worthy opponent.

Nobody gonna take you seriously if you just help little old ladies cross the road - that ain't being a friend, that's being a guide-dog. You got to have an opponent worth fighting. Evil geniuses are good. They build armies of cyborgs that take over cities but can't fire their weapons straight for shit. They create giant gorillas that climb up buildings and harass air-traffic. They make rays to change the city population into cats. They do visible shit that gets on TV. That way you get real respect when you take 'em down.

The other great things about your average evil genius is that, for all their great brains, they got no common sense. A criminal always goes back to the scene of the crime and evil geniuses are no exception. They go back to the same hide-out week after week, making your job simple. What kind of genius paints his name on a sign outside his "secret" hideaway anyhow? And those guys can hold a grudge, so they're gonna try to destroy you every week. So you get repeat publicity every time you whup them - that is genius.

Now I fought lots of bad guys, but I figure I must have beat 'em up good because none of 'em ever came back. I'm gonna have to get me a proper arch-enemy I can defeat a few times. Then maybe Rosemary will be nicer to me. Maybe if I chew Sarge's slippers again. Or leave another "present" on his office floor.

Batfink's arch-nemesis Hugo Agogo was a mad genius, Dangermouse's enemy Baron Silas von Greenback was an evil genius, and Secret Squirrel battled against Yellow Pinkie's desperate dress-sense.

Rule 7

Rule 7 is : Have a Positive Mental Attitude

Super Chicken: destined for greatness until he hit the sauce.

Human superheroes are always wetting their panties - their parents got shot up by bad guys, they got mutated by spider-bites or plutonium or some such. Animals don't have trouble with tortured souls. Animals don't got souls. I mean, there's something wrong with Super Chicken all right, but it ain't inner pain. All those years stuck in that battery cage is bound to do something to the brain.

If you want to be a good friend to humanity, you gotta make them feel better about themselves. So, instead of crying into your cape like some big girl's blouse, you gotta project positivity and there's two ways to do this:

1. A memorable catchphrase.

Everyone loves catchphrases and it lets the bad guys know you're there. Half the time they just give up then and there and pull off their own rubber masks to reveal Mr Jenkins the hotel owner, or whoever. Mine is "Hah! Hoo! And a-rinky dinky doo (to you)!" - which I should probably work on. But you can't beat a solid statement of intent like "Your bullets cannot harm me, my wings are like a shield of steel" - who'd want to carry on fighting after hearing that? Except for Hugo Agogo, and between you and me, he's a few cans of dogmeat short of a picnic.

But if a catchphrase is too corny for you, how about...

Batfink got those bullet-broof "wings of steel" when he lost his own wings in a childhood accident. Registered disabled and still a superhero, how's that for being a best friend?

2. A memorable theme-song.

It can be difficult to get standersby to sing your theme song in harmony so you might want to pre-record it and install a really kicking sound-system in your super-hero mobile, if you have one. Either way, it's got to be simple, quick and scare the living shit outta bad-guys:

"What an agent, what a squirrel.

He's got the country in a whirl.

What's his name?

Shhh...Secret Squirrel.

He's got tricks, up his sleeve,

Most bad guys, won't believe.

A bullet proof coat, a cannon hat,

A machine gun cane with a rat tat tat tat."

You gonna take on someone armed like that? No one ever called Secret a buck-toothed, rodent asshat and got away with it.

I just point out that I'm "quicker than the human eye." What with being super-tough when the going gets rough I don't usually have to prove that I'm the number one super-guy.

Rule 8

Rule 8 is: "Take compliments gracefully."

Spot and me both love Rosemary but I'm trying to be more subtle about it.

You gonna get a lot of publicity if you're as successful a superhero as me. There's gonna be people wanting to shake your hand and give you ticker-tape parades and such. But you don't have to be every man's best friend, you just gotta be a good friend to humankind in general. The mayor gave me the key to the city once - what kind of sense does that make? How they ever gonna lower crime if they don't even lock up?

Anyhow, the way you deal with the adulation which is gonna come your way is one of those things that truly marks out whether you're man's friend or not. Friends help friends and don't expect nothing in return. And believe me, nothing is what I get plenty of. If I wasn't man's friend, I'd take all the rewards on offer and then ask for some more. Shit, I got the moves, I could demand more, and if I didn't get it I could see to it that accidents kept happening all over the place. Don't think I ain't considered it. Penrod's Protection Posse, that could work if this janitor gig ever folds.

But for the time being, I'm sticking to the tried and tested incognito superhero. Saves the embarrassment of being mobbed everywhere you go, and means you can spend your day off hosing fire-hydrants without being bothered, and there ain't a damn thing anyone can do about it. If the people out there knew who I really was, the mayor would want a direct line to my kennel - with a telephone shaped like a big old, red bone if I know that guy. That or a two-way TV screen so I could see his stupid face interrupting the 2.30 at Churchill Downs. They beamed a huge signal into the sky every time they wanted Batfink - near drove him crazy. And him with those hyper-sensitive ears too, they could just have whispered and he'd have heard them.

I could let a few people in on my secret, just the ones I work with closely. But, between the two of us, I ain't sure Sarge is up to keeping a secret - he ain't over-burdened in the brains department. That's why he became a cop, I guess. Rosemary is a different matter though. Man, I hunger for that girl and she's so desperate for companionship. I mean, why else does she answer the phone "Hello, there. This is Rosemary, the lovely lassie with the classy chassis"? That's desperate and lame. I know there'd be problems. We're from the opposite ends of town and there's the age difference. And the species difference. But hell, what is the point of trying to be the best friend to the whole Hominid genus if you can't even get into one of their panties once in a while?

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