Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dogs I: Some Background

He could not remember any part of his childhood that did not involve living with dogs.

His grandparents kept and bred a string of Llewellyn setter bitches that emerged one from another over the years like slow-motion matrioshka. There was always at least one. More often, two.

And from his earliest recollection until his young adulthood, his grandparents also had a dog named Midge that was half coyote. Midge was devoted to Dad-Ernie, and, like him, hated cats. Every day, Dad-Ernie would send Midge out into the front yard to bring in the morning newspaper. One morning, it was raining, and Midge, for all his feral ancestry, did not like the rain. Dad-Ernie insisted that he go out to get the paper. Midge declined. Dad-Ernie spoke harshly to him. Midge acquiesced. And walked slowly out onto the rainy lawn, lifted a leg, and pissed on the newspaper. He then walked slowly back to the porch. He was not punished.

His own family, when he was young, had had two Llewellyn setter dogs, George and Linc, who were the offspring of his grandparents’ bitch, Hilda. And, though two setters might have been thought more than enough for a two-bedroom house on a town lot, his mother, at some point, had allowed him to buy a dog of his own, a tiny mongrel bitch that cost him $3.00 at a pet shop. He named her Suzy.

Suzy subsequently became pregnant by either George or Linc (his money was on Linc, the more enterprising of the two). How it had been accomplished, given the size differential, was anybody’s guess. But accomplished it had been. One Caesarian section later, Suzy was delivered of one stillborn pup and one live one. They kept the live one and called him Fang. And Fang was his dog when Suzy was gone.

Some time later, his little brother acquired somewhere a small mongrel named Farouk.

And so it was that there had always been dogs. (Oddly, he could not remember the fate of a single one of those dogs. Was that significant?)

Until he was grown and moved out. At which point, he discovered an unexpected delight in furniture that was not covered with dog hair, and rugs that did not exude an aromatic history of dog-related mishaps, and yards where you could walk carelessly. In short, he had discovered the joys of living without dogs.

And shared those joys with his young wife, with whom he might have been content to live indefinitely dogless.

They had a cat, or sometimes two. And once a goldfish. And after a time, the usual methods having been employed, they had two sons. But no dogs.

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