In September 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, I left Cincinnati, Ohio—after a decade in exile—and returned to Spokane, Washington, the place I consider my home town (even though I was born in New Jersey). I was going home to assist my mother, who had recently begun her third battle with breast cancer. Part of my new job involved chauffeuring my mother to her regular appointments to see her oncologists and to receive chemo-therapy. As it happened, one of the medical professionals my mother saw frequently was Andrea, a nurse practitioner, and someone with whom I had attended high school. In fact, the last time I’d seen Andrea (before returning to Spokane) was at our 20th High School Reunion, just before I’d moved to Cincinnati. I was happy to become reacquainted and soon my mother was urging me to ask Andrea out. I delayed, not because I didn’t want to ask Andrea out, but because I thought it would be best to get a couple of other things accomplished before beginning any new endeavor. Specifically, I wanted to complete my PhD. Which I did, over the course of the next two years. At last, in the summer of 2007, the doctorate finally in hand, I asked Andrea for a date and she accepted. And it was when I went to pick Andrea up for that date that I first met Lewis, Andrea’s black Labrador retriever, an incredibly friendly beast, who also had the misfortune of carting around a large benign lump on the left side of his body. (Actually, the lump is an incidental detail, given that veterinarians had declared it basically harmless, and the fact that Lewis clearly paid no attention to it at all. However, references to it will be made in The Lewis Letters, so it bears mentioning.)
Time passed, and eventually, so did my mother. The job I’d come back to Spokane to do no longer existed; it was time to find new employment. As a newly-minted PhD, I had the curious notion that perhaps an academic job awaited me, so I began working the MLA and AWP Job Lists and sending out applications. At the same time, I was spending more and more time at Andrea’s house. And that meant spending more and more time with Lewis. Soon, a routine was established: Andrea would head for work and I would begin composing an e-mail for her to read to begin her day (and before I continued with my job search). At some point, I began including a “dog report” in some of the e-mails. And then, after awhile, my ability to communicate with Lewis developed to the degree that we could engage in lengthy conversations, which I faithfully transcribed for Andrea in the daily e-mails. The nature of this inter-species communication remains somewhat of a mystery, even to this day, and I’m not sure there’s much about it I can elucidate. I ask, then, that readers take on faith that these letters record—accurately and completely—what Lewis said to me and what I said to him in return, however those conversational interchanges may have actually transpired.
Finally, a note on style. To reduce clutter and repetition, the original e-mails have been stripped of everything not related to Lewis, so no e-mail addresses or subject lines or greetings and closings, etc.—only the date the e-mail was sent remains, now enshrined as the post’s title. Just as it took time to learn to communicate with Lewis, it was awhile before the conventions for recording these conversations became standardized. After a few weeks, though, the following format was established: all conversation enclosed within quotation marks is human; all conversation preceded by an em-dash is canine; any editorial shenanigans appear in italics.
Because this is an “historical” blog, I’ve disabled the comments (also, I simply do not have the time or the patience to moderate the avalanche of responses this blog could undoubtedly generate, and yes, emoticons go here). However, if you simply must contact someone about something, use this e-mail address: email@example.com.
[And now a message for the legally-inclined: All text and photos appearing in The Lewis Letters : Copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016 by Dirk Stratton. Thank you.]