October 1, 2008

—And maybe when you get a real job you can afford to buy me a different brand of dog food.

“Oh, I wasn’t aware you minded the continuity; you always seem quite excited about breakfast.”

—I’d be even more excited if there were a little variety in my diet.

“You get plenty of variety from your constant begging.”

—It’s not the same.

“You know, when I get a real job, you’ll be spending a lot more time outside all by yourself.”

—Oh.

“Hadn’t thought of that, had you?”

—Are you applying for any night shift positions?

September 30, 2008

—You humans have forgotten that there are only three really important things to worry about.

“And those are?”

—Eating, sleeping, and smelling.

“Easy for you to say: you don’t have to finance your eating.”

—I beg to differ: reminding you every morning that it’s time to feed me takes a lot of effort.

“So, let me get this straight: you’re claiming you work hard for a living?”

—Absolutely. You people are so stressed out by all the petty details of your existence, you’d quickly forget the important things if I didn’t make my presence known.

“Important, meaning filling your food bowl?”

—Of course, what could be more important?

“Maybe you could recapture your ability to track down game and become a little more self-sufficient.”

—No problem: just let me roam a little and I’ll be back in predator shape in no time.

“You’ll also be lost.”

—Now you’re just being insulting: you can’t have it both ways: keeping me penned up and chiding me for not hunting.

“You’re right: I apologize.”

—Thank you . . . say, would like some smelling lessons?

“Not if it means sniffing your butt.”

September 29, 2008

[Editor’s Note: A failed mushroom expedition prompts Lewis to protest being left behind.]

—What do you expect? You abandoned me for the whole day to go hunt mushrooms. I could have helped you locate chanterelles.

“It was only a half a day and how do you know what a chanterelle smells like?”

—I just do.

“I’m skeptical: I’ve heard of truffle-smelling hogs, but not chanterelle-sniffing dogs. Besides, if we’d let you loose in the forest, we’d have spent all our time chasing you down after you took off after some phantom squirrel or distant bird. And dragging you around on a leash would not have been fun at all.”

—I wouldn’t run away, I promise.

“Uh huh. Right. Though, admittedly, you probably would have spent a fair amount of time being intensely involved in all the animal sign we saw: bear, elk, deer, moose: a dog-nose delight.”

—See? It was very mean of you not to take me: I get tired of smelling the same old back yard.

“Sorry, but your reputation as a dog who runs away at the mere hint of freedom is well-established: we just couldn’t chance it.”

—And look what happened: not one mushroom: you paid for your prejudice against my superior canine senses.

“We’re not prejudiced against your nose: we’re worried about your indiscriminate feet.”

—Whatever . . . now could you scratch a little lower, please?

September 26, 2008

Lewis claims we should have found a way to allow him to spend last night on the bed.

“There’s not enough room.”

—It’s a huge bed. Besides, surely you’ve heard of the “three dog night” concept?

“It sounds familiar . . .”

—Both you former Alaskans should be well aware of it: it refers to the Inuit practice of using dogs as bed warmers, and a really cold night equaled a “three dog night.”

“As well as some classic rock hits that will haunt us baby boomers to our graves.”

—Yes, well, that’s a human problem. Anyway, last night certainly qualified as at least a “one dog night,” don’t you think?

“We have an electric under-pad beneath our sheets: we don’t need dogs.”

—You’d prefer to bathe your body in electro-magnetic radiation that probably causes massive cell disruption and long-term systemic breakdown to the natural heating of your loving dog?

“Electricity doesn’t have dog breath.”

September 23, 2008

“So, how was puppy time?”

—Okay, I guess.

“Even after a night’s sleep, you look exhausted.”

—I’m not as young as I used to be, I’ll admit that.

“So, what did you two dogs do?”

—I used the time to instruct the youngster about important dog lore.

“Like how to be completely uncertain about whether you want to be inside or outside?”

—I can’t control events on the outside: sometimes things happen that just have to be investigated.

“Like how to run around like an idiot barking at nothing?”

—I resent that: I’m always barking at something.

“Yeah, like a bird that’s already flown to the next county . . . and what’s all that sniffing about? How often do you have to sniff a dog’s butt? Does it really change minute to minute?”

—The tone in your voice suggests you are only asking these questions to ridicule me. I think it’s time for my morning nap . . . I mean, my morning meditation.

September 22, 2008

[Editor’s Note: Lewis learns that the neighbor’s Golden Retriever, Kolby, will be dropping by for a visit. Though Kolby is larger than Lewis, he still is, technically, a puppy.]

—Oh no, is that rambunctious youngster going to visit again?

“Probably.”

—Does he have to?

“What’s wrong? Too energetic for you? You were leaping all over the place just a few minutes ago when I let you back into the house.”

—That’s different.

“How so?”

—Well, I was excited to see you and you’re about as old as I am so I knew that our levels of interaction would be commensurate.

“Puppies just don’t know when to quit?”

—Something like that . . . can’t he just stay in his cage for the evening?

“Would you like to be left in a cage? You don’t even like being left in the back yard.”

—That’s different.

“Oh really. I thought patrolling the back yard was part of your difficult job as a guard dog.”

—It is.

“And yet, lately, you often give me the sad-eye treatment when I ask you to go do your job.”

—I do not.

“Oh please.”

—The weather’s changing, it’s getting chillier.

“So, you’re a fair-weather guard dog? What good is that? Should we put up a sign that says: Beware of Dog! (When the Temperature Reaches 65 Degrees and Above.)?

—That won’t be necessary, but I’d really appreciate it if you could somehow limit Kolby’s visit.

“I don’t know . . . I think the exercise would do you good . . .”

September 19, 2008

“Did you actually think you might get away with it, and get fed twice?”

—What do you mean? You haven’t fed me once.

“Ah, slipping into the old legal beagle sentence-parsing mode . . . no, I haven’t fed you, but you have been fed, and I have the note from She With Whom You Abide to prove it.”

Lewis is silent, but I can tell he’s trying to figure out his next move.

—I didn’t want to disappoint you.

“What?”

—You seem to enjoy my morning greetings, and I didn’t see why you should suffer their absence simply because you were a sloth this morning.

“All for my benefit, then?”

—Absolutely.

“No attempt to deceive me?”

—None whatsoever.

“Uh huh.”

—Still, if your appreciation for my performance had included a little nutritive recompense, it would have been rude of me to not accept it.

“No, when you want to be rude, you just fart.”

—I don’t do that on purpose.

“Maybe not, but it’s definitely rude.”

—Biscuits help with my gas problem, you know.

“No, I didn’t know that.”

—At least, they don’t make it worse . . .

September 15, 2008

Lewis says that he, too, is ready to do his part to make life easier for She With Whom He Abides.

“And what exactly will you be able to do?”

—I’m an excellent source of affectionate tongue massage.

“Toe-licking?”

—That’s just a small part of my repertoire.

“What is it with the toe-licking, anyway? I mean, do feet taste good, or what?”

—Whether they do or not is not the issue: we know you love it.

“We?”

—The canine community.

“So, the canine community is willing to lick even the nastiest toes simply because you know that humans love having their toes licked?”

—Basically.

“Such a noble sacrifice.”

—Indeed. And it’s become traditional, so . . .

“Oh, so now it’s a cultural thing?”

—Something like that.

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate the attention.”

—Of course she will.

September 3, 2008

Lewis, of course, is glad that I have no dreams to report in this e-mail.

—It was taking you away from your more important work, he tells me.

“Meaning, writing about you?”

—Yes. I figure that if this book is a success—and how could it not be, considering the subject matter?—that you might feel obligated to thank me for the inspiration by giving me better treats than you’re currently offering.

“Always a food angle with you . . . you know, your deadly sin is probably gluttony.”

—I prefer to think of myself as a gourmand, someone always looking for broader culinary experiences.

“Okay, whatever you say. Certainly you do that part of your job better than any other.”

—What do you mean?

“Well, for instance, I heard you had a bath the other day.”

Lewis beings to look sullen.

“And that you did not enjoy it.”

—It was unnecessary, that’s all. And what does a bath have to do with my job, anyway?

“You’re a retriever. You’re supposed to dive into lakes and ponds and swim out to get ducks and such, yet you don’t seem to like water very much.”

Lewis does not reply.

“Plus, you’re a ridiculously bad retriever, as well. You never chase stuff I throw for you, or hardly ever, and then you don’t give up the item and let me throw it again. What’s with that?”

—I’d rather not talk about it.

“Why?”

—I’d rather not talk about that either. Or the water issue.

We were silent for a while.

“You’re being very mysterious about this, Lewis.”

—I prefer the word dignified. Or reserved.

“Those are not words I’d usually associate with you.”

Lewis does not reply: he lies down with his back to me, in a very deliberate ‘nuts to you’ type of way.

September 2, 2008

—What’s she talking about? She With Whom I Abide is not slothful. No way.

“Yes, but let’s consider the source of this endorsement: you sleep 20 hours a day.

—You’re mistaking my deep thinking time with my sleep time.

“Deep thinking?”

—Oh yes: it’s a combination of meditation and intense analytical philosophizing that would shame human versions of the same.

“Uh huh. And what exactly are your deep thoughts?”

—I’m afraid they are too deep for you to comprehend.

“Try me.”

—Sorry, I know how fragile human egos can be.

“So you’re not answering me to protect me from getting my feelings hurt?”

—Yes.

“I don’t know how to thank you.”

—No need: protection, as you know, is part of my job as a faithful canine companion.

“Again, my gratitude knows no bounds.”

—Do I detect sarcasm?

“Sarcasm? How is that possible? I’m just a stupid human who can’t possibly understand the deep thoughts of dogs.”

Lewis looks at me, begins to reply, then thinks better of it, and flops down on the floor for some more deep thinking.

I decide to pursue the issue of his next bath some other time.