Garry said I should write about dogs. I had a hard time explaining that in addition to the idea of what to write about, you need a “book concept,” an idea of where you will start, finish, and what will happen in between. It can be anecdotal in places, but it needs more than little stories. It needs a direction, action and a cohesive story.
My favorite cartoon by George Booth was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably, his wife watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”
Our home used to be full of dogs. Now, it’s just the Duke. We thought about getting another after we lost both Bonnie and Gibbs within weeks of each other, but the Duke likes being the only dog. Also, considering the cost of feeding and vetting dogs, I’m not sure we can afford another one.
Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the Duke. He is family. Not surprisingly, people who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors here. These days, we don’t have many visitors anyway. As we’ve grown old, so have our friends.
It’s okay. I prefer the company dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs but the two big ones are love and honesty.
Dogs love you completely, totally and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely. Your dog will never betray or abandon you.
Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.
When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially funny, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.
Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit or maybe have you throw that toy and play a little tug-of-war. If they don’t get what they want, they love you anyway.
When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.
I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. I finally gave up and now I cook for the Duke. It costs less, I know what he’s eating. He smells better and he’s healthy.
Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress. Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.
Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have always had kindly gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.
We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house. Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.
The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being a god than being a dog. We pledge to care for them. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer. If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.
Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.
Dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a happy place called “now.” When their time comes, we make sure they pass gently from this world. That is our contract. We live up to that pledge because we are the only gods they know. Their love is a prayer.