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Woman's Best Friend. Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dog.

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"Another day, another Spanish study session," Jeff said in a mock jovial tone as he slid into his customary seat at the head of the table. "Now I know everyone probably has a lot of personal issues they'd like to get off their chests, but I'd really like to get down to the lesson at hand so I can get home before dark at least once this semester."

"Stop pretending you don't like us, Jeff, it's not becoming of a gentleman," Pierce responded.

"Jeff's not a gentleman, Pierce," Britta spoke up. "He's like.. he's like.." She struggled to find a word that fully summed up her low opinion of him. "He's like whatever the opposite of a gentleman is."

Troy looked down the table suspiciously. "Are you telling me Jeff's a woman?"

Pierce laughed and Annie had the good grace to look scandalized at the insinuation.

"You do have very soft features," Shirley smiled kindly at him. Britta snorted.

"Ha ha, I look like a girl and everyone's imagining me with a vagina, hilarious," Jeff sighed melodramatically. "Can we get on with it?"

"I know you're not a woman, Jeff," Abed piped up.

"Thank you, Abed," Jeff nodded his head in appreciation.

"I saw your penis one night when you were staying in my dorm," Abed said matter-of-factly. "You sleep in the nude and you kick the blanket off a lot."

"And again.. thank you so much, Abed." Jeff shut his Spanish textbook, positive it was going to be another one of those sessions.

"Penises are nothing to be ashamed of, Jeff," Annie spoke up. "Now that I've seen one, I know that they're really nothing special."

A confused look crossed Jeff's face. He stuck his hands out in the air. "Okay. Enough about penises, mine or anyone else's, please."

"Fine, Jeff, nobody cares about your penis anyway," Pierce sat up straighter in his seat, as if he'd been personally insulted.

"I believe we were going to going to study?" Jeff asked.

Amazingly, it seemed as if the group were actually going to get some real work done. Jeff had opened his book again, and Annie was reviewing the conjugation of the latest verbs they'd learned, when a high-pitched whine stopped her mid-sentence.

"What was that?" Shirley asked, looking around.

"Oh good, you heard it too," Pierce replied, looking relieved. "I thought it was aliens again."

Most everyone ignored this statement, except for Troy, who seemed interested. When the noise didn't happen again, everyone seemed to shrug it off.

Jeff looked longingly out the window at the fading daylight. He opened his mouth to get things back on track again, when a quick, loud woof sounded suddenly,

"Oh my!" Shirley let out a small cry.

Britta jumped up from the table. "That was a dog! Who the hell has a dog?"

"Oh, I do," Abed raised his hand. "I have a dog. He's under the table."

"Abed, why do you have a dog under the table?" Jeff asked in the nicest way he knew how, which meant his tone was one of exasperation.

Annie ducked under the table as Abed spoke. "I found him outside. He seemed lost. I figured we could use him, since we don't have a mascot yet."

"Good thinking, man," Troy held up a fist, which Abed bumped without even looking. "Dogs are awesome."

Annie came up from under the table with a tiny, brown little ball of fluff. "He's just a puppy!" She cried, practically overdosing from the amount of cute she was exposed to as he licked her face. Shirley cooed over the animal in Annie's arms, while Britta looked on with a slight scowl and gingerly sat back down in her seat.

"Abed," Jeff started slowly, trying to comprehend this turn of events. "First of all, why would we need a mascot? And secondly, why would we have a puppy for a mascot?"

"We're a team, aren't we?" Abed replied. He didn't wait for a response before continuing. "Every good team needs a mascot. Only puppies don't make good mascots, because they're more cute than fear-inspiring. So we'll have to wait until he grows up and has stronger teeth and a louder bark."

"Ugh, I hate dogs," Britta interjected. The stony silence that suddenly emanated from Shirley and Annie would have made lesser women cower in fear. Instead, Britta straightened in her seat. "They're nothing but poop factories!"

"Britta, you don't like dogs? How can you not like dogs? Everyone likes dogs," Shirley said this last sentence mostly to herself, as if trying to reassure herself that some small part of Britta may yet be redeemed.

"Yeah, they're so cute, and fluffy, and they got those big eyes, and you just want to play with them all day and hug them all night and never let them go because they're your best friend forever," Troy said. He looked as if he was about to cry, and bit his fist. Abed laid a comforting hand on his back.

Britta shook her head. "I can not like dogs because they smell and when they go to the bathroom you have to carry around a bag with their crap in it. Who wants to carry around a crap bag?"

"Well, aren't you a Negative Nancy," Pierce said loftily. "Have you ever heard the phrase 'the good outweighs the bad'? Well, unless of course you feed your dog a burrito. No amount of good can ever outweigh that." He had a distant, pained look on his face.

"Jeff, help me out here," Britta turned to Jeff.

"I have no opinion here. I don't have to clean that dog's poop up, so I don't care." He leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head. Maybe if he just used this time to recite the verbs in his head, this study session wouldn't be a complete waste of time.

"I figured we would timeshare it," Abed said. "Except for me, I live in a dorm. No dogs allowed."

"That's convenient," Britta muttered to herself. She said more loudly, "I'm pretty sure I've made it obvious, but in case I didn't: I don't like dogs."

"Maybe you just haven't met the right dog!" Shirley smiled satisfactorily at this conclusion she'd come to.

"Yeah!" Annie agreed excitedly. "Here Britta! Hold him!" She jumped up from her chair and came around the table.

Britta screeched and ran away from her. "Get away from me with that thing! It's gross!"

"You will love him!" Annie shouted, chasing her around with the puppy held out in her extended hands.

Using a chair as a defensive weapon, Britta held Annie at bay.

"This is tragic," Pierce said forlornly. "Clearly the lack of a good man in her life has left Britta unable to accept the feelings of warmth and companionship that even a lowly dog can provide."

Shirley nodded in agreement.

"Pierce, spare me the Psych 101 diagnosis," Britta said. "Annie.. put the dog down."

"Only if you put the chair down first!"

"Fine," Britta smiled and set the chair down next to her, within reach if necessary. Annie responded in kind, and set the puppy down on the floor.

The dog looked around for a moment before bounding over to Britta and sitting at her feet, looking up at her.

"Aww! He likes you, see?" Annie said happily, clutching her hands to her heart as if she'd just witnessed a reunion between two long-lost family members.

"Well I don't like him," Britta tried very hard not to look down at him. "Can't he tell that?"

"Maybe he wants to make you his bitch," Pierce offered. Britta narrowed her eyes at him as Troy laughed.

Jeff's shoulders sagged, and he knew once again he'd have to solve another messed up situation with his dysfunctional classmates. He braced himself to delve into whatever dark twists and turns of Britta's psyche that needed exploring, and stood up. But before he could even open his mouth, Britta burst into tears.

"Oh, sweetie, don't cry!" Shirley got up and came right to Britta's side, comforting her. "What is it? Whatever it is, you can tell us!"

"It's not that I don't like dogs," Britta said haltingly, sniffles interrupting her words. "I'm afraid of them, okay?"

Jeff threw his hands up in the air – apparently he wasn't even needed to solve problems today – and sat back down.

Annie picked up the puppy, who was trying to climb Britta's leg. "But most of them don't bite! Only the mean ones. And dalmatians."

Troy perked up. "You mean the fire fighting dogs? That's a dirty lie, you take that back!"

Annie ignored him. "Something must have happened. What happened?"

"A dog bit me when I was 5 years old. I was playing in the yard, and he just ran up and bit me! I had to have reconstructive surgery. I was in rehab for a month." Britta wiped at her nose.

"The surgery wasn't successful? I'm so sorry," Pierce said sincerely.

"No, you jerk, it went fine. But the experience scarred me forever! I just can't be around dogs. I get nervous."

"Britta, if anyone knows anything about getting back up on the horse, it's me," Jeff chimed in.

"That's disgusting Jeff, there's no need to bring your perverted bestiality habits into this." Pierce looked offended.

Abed stood up and took the dog from Annie, bringing him closer to Britta. "You should name him."

"What? Why?" Britta asked.

Jeff came to stand next to Abed. Feeling annoyed at being rendered useless, he chipped in his two cents. "Because if you name the dog, then it means you have a connection. He's not just a random dog anymore. He's your friend."

Abed nodded. "You can't be afraid of a friend."

"Oh, that's nice," Shirley smiled at Abed.

Britta tentatively reached out a hand towards the tiny puppy in Abed's arms, who was wagging his tail excitedly. "I guess that makes sense." She patted him once, and quickly jerked her hand away, expecting him to bite. When the dog stayed happily motionless, Britta steeled herself and reached out to pet him again, and again.

"See? That's not so bad," Annie smiled triumphantly.

"I guess not." Britta accepted the dog when Abed transferred him to her arms. The dog licked her face. She laughed a little at the ticklish sensation.

"So what are you going to name him?" Troy asked. "'Troy' is a really good name."

"How about something Spanish, so this past 20 minutes isn't a complete waste of time?" Jeff chimed in, but his voice lacked an edge.

"Okay, well, what's Spanish for dog?" Britta asked.

Annie rushed over to her Spanish-English dictionary and flipped through the pages. "It's 'perro' for a boy and 'perra' for a girl. So, Perro!"

"Oh. Perro," Britta smiled, and patted the puppy on the head. "That's dumb. How about Rex?"

Everyone nodded and muttered noises of agreement.

"We should celebrate!" Shirley waved her hands in excitement. "Let's all go get hot cocoa in the dining hall!"

"Oh man, some hot cocoa would really hit the spot," Troy said emphatically. He gathered up his stuff, and the others followed suit, except for Jeff, who wondered for the millionth time how he had gotten involved with such a bizarre group.

"Oh, they're not going to let a dog into the dining hall," Britta said. "Here, Jeff, you wanted to study anyway. You can look after the dog at the same time!" She handed him the puppy before he could protest, and picked up her jacket.

"This is wrong," Jeff said, looking down at the two large brown eyes of their newly acquired mascot dog.

"Don't worry Jeff. I'll bring you back a hot coca. With marshmallows, just how you like it." Abed gave a sideways smile and left, the others following him and giving Jeff a pat on the back or an encouraging nod as they walked past.

Jeff watched them walk out of sight down the hallway, then down at Rex.

"Okay dog. You and I are going to get our conjugation on." Jeff set the puppy on the table, and opened his book again. If a dog was the only study companion he could get, he'd take it.

"Avanzar. To advance. You paying attention, Rex?" Jeff looked over at the dog, who was curled into a ball and staring at him. He continued. "Yo avanzo, tu avanzas..."