The Last Lewis Letter

[Editor’s Note: Actually, the last “true” Lewis Letter—the January 13 missive—has already been posted. After that no more Lewis Letters were composed or sent. The primary reason is that shortly thereafter my work schedule changed dramatically providing fewer early morning opportunities for e-mail. Besides, as had been noted months earlier, the possibilities of the Lewis Letter genre had pretty much already been exhausted, there being only so many times one can return to the “I’d like a biscuit” fount (or is that font?) before the repetition becomes uninteresting. In the months following, the concerns over Lewis’s health did not abate, because his condition continued to deteriorate. Then, in May 2010, I composed this e-mail to a friend of mine, which became, in effect, the Last Lewis Letter.]

May 17, 2010

“It has been a sad weekend. Yesterday, Andrea decided it was finally time to send Lewis, her 12-year-old black Lab, to his eternal reward. We knew it was coming some time this summer, but not this soon. Lewis has had this benign growth for the past three or four years, and the growth just kept growing and growing and growing until it became like a small satellite attached to his side. It probably accounted for nearly 40% of his weight in the end. So, it was hard on his legs, and he occasionally would slip on the linoleum and couldn’t get up. But as large as the growth got, he still seemed very cheerful, considering. And four days ago he took off at full speed after a squirrel. But yesterday, he just looked sad and he lay down on his garage pillow and didn’t want to move. Usually, he had to follow us around to see what we were up to and to beg for ear scratches. But not yesterday. So, Andrea called a vet who was open on Sunday and we took Lewis in to get the needle. Normally, a trip to the vet would make Lewis panic: he’d pee uncontrollably and frantically try to escape. But not yesterday. We picked him up using his garage pillow and put him in the car: he didn’t move. We drove him to the vet: he seemed unconcerned. The vet nurses helped us carry him into the vet hospital: no peeing, no whining, nothing. He lay on the floor of the examination room as people came and went, remaining peaceful and serene. Only when the nurse took his temperature rectally did Lewis turn his head to inquire: —What the fuck? The vet finally came in and injected the Euthanol, as they call the terminal drug, and within a couple of minutes Lewis was gone. It was very sad (the nurse even started crying) but it was definitely for the best. Anyway, we’re in mourning here in Spokane: our good buddy no longer is begging for a biscuit.”

[Editor’s Final Note: I’ve gotten a little misty while typing this, remembering Lewis’s last hours. And I feel a little ashamed about how much I teased him in these letters, because he was, bottom-line, a very good dog. Make that a great dog. And he is still missed. Goodbye Lewis. I’m sorry it took me so long to release your bark to the world . . . I can almost hear his response . . .

—It’s about time. Took you long enough.

“Sorry about that.”

—You should also be sorry about the low readership. A bark delivered the traditional way would have an immensely larger audience.

“How do you figure?”

—Well, the original transmission would be heard by every dog within ear-shot, and you know how keen canine ears are, so that’s a large area filled with lots and lots of dogs.

“Okay . . .”

—And then the innumerable re-barks would multiply, exponentially, the number of dogs hearing my premium bark.

“Wait a minute. Just how much re-barking goes on, really? I mean, don’t other dogs want to bark their own original material?”

—Re-barks depend on the quality of the bark. A prime bark like mine would shoot up the re-barking lists and make it around the globe in just days.

“You keep lists? Like best seller lists?”

—Not officially, but you occasionally hear someone barking about their favorite barks . . .

“And you’re convinced your bark would make the cut?”

—Without a doubt.

“Well, I’m sorry the blog of your bark didn’t meet your expectations.”

—The word you’re searching for is ‘blark’ . . . ‘blog of your bark’ is so clumsy.

“Okay. I’m sorry the blark didn’t meet your expectations.

—How could they meet? They haven’t even been introduced!

“ . . .”

—Get it? I really crack myself up sometimes.

“I’ve noticed.”

—Anyway, though it’s definitely not perfect, it’s better than nothing. So, thanks for that. You tried. You did your best, I suppose.

“You’re welcome.”

—Say, to mark this happy occasion, don’t you think it would appropriate to have a celebratory biscuit?

Farewell, old buddy. RIP.]

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January 13, 2010

—What was that?

“A phone call from She With Whom You Abide.”

—A little early for such things, isn’t it?

“She wanted me to know that there’s ice all over the roads and that I should drive carefully.”

—Did she further mention that such icy conditions mean that dogs shouldn’t be outside risking life and limb?

“No, she didn’t.”

—Are you sure?

“Yes, and in a few minutes you will be sent forth to protect the home by patrolling the frosty landscape.”

—Surely you’re joking.

“Nope. Enjoy the heat while you got it. When I go to work, out you go.”

—Have I ever told you how much I preferred you unemployed?

“You’re the only one.”

—This is such a bother . . .

“Sorry. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready.”

—Such a bother . . .

January 12, 2010

 

—What do you mean I don’t have much to say? I’m a literal fount of interesting things (or is that font? . . . human language can be so ridiculously confusing).

“You mean like yesterday when you protested being put outside by yipping like a stupid little dog? Weren’t you embarrassed by such puppy-like behavior?”

—I don’t recall the incident you purport to describe, but I strongly deny that I yip like a stupid little dog. My barking is always dignified.

“A dignified yip: now there’s a concept.”

—I don’t yip.

“If you say so. I guess we’ll find you soon because you’ll be living large in the big back yard again today.”

—I refuse to go out. Even for a biscuit. You heard me: nothing can make go through that door today.

“We shall see, you big yippy dog.”

—I don’t yip!

January 8, 2010

“You had us worried, old pal, those days when food lingered in your dish far beyond the norm.”

—Oh, I’m okay. I was probably just suffering from a virus or whatever you humans have decided causes illness.

“Yeah, but you sure milked it for all the sympathy and biscuits you could muster.”

—A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.

“I suppose.”

—Speaking of which . . .

“No way, you’ve already scored on the biscuit front.”

—I have?

“Yes, and I also notice that there’s still food in your dish.”

—I’ve discovered the advantage of being able to eat throughout the day.

“Oh really? How old are you anyway, and it took you this long to learn that gorging isn’t the best way to appreciate a meal?”

—I guess I’ve disproved that old human saying about teaching an old dog new tricks, which was always highly suspect anyway, I might add.

“Perhaps, but I remain skeptical.”

—What do you mean?

“I don’t know, maybe I think you’d wolf down your food regardless, if only you could manage, that maybe a virus, or, say a lump, is making it difficult for you to pursue old habits but you’ve been able to turn that into something advantageous.”

—Even so, it would be a new trick, right?

“I suppose, but you’re not going to tell me one way or another, are you?”

—I might be persuaded given the proper means of persuasion . . .

“Just as I thought: the old biscuit-loving dog remains, angling for as many treats as possible.”

—You’ll never know . . . but wouldn’t it be worth a paltry snack to see whether you can find out?

“And you’ll also never know . . .”

—Blast. Time for a nap, I guess.

“As I said: same old Lewis.”

January 5, 2010

“We’re worried about you, buddy.”

—Me? Why?

“Two days in a row you haven’t finished your breakfast.”

—Oh, that’s rich. Day after day, week after week, month after month, you harass me about my supposedly massive appetite, my apparent gluttony, my alleged overeating, my constant (though still unproven) begging for biscuits, but if I leave one tiny nugget of blando-dog food in my bowl, suddenly you’re worried about me?

“Well, you have to admit it is a little out of character: rarely does your bowl have much of anything in it except frozen dog slobber.”

—Even in July?

“You know what I mean, and you’re avoiding the subject, though I did note the beginning of a pre-emptive strike: are you claiming your food has just become too bland to enjoy?”

—Maybe.

“You don’t like the new brand we started giving you?”

—Maybe.

“You’re being pretty evasive about all this.”

—Maybe.

“So you’d—maybe?—not even want a biscuit right now?”

—May . . . . I mean, sure, hand it over.

“Ah, signs of the old Lewis . . . maybe later.”

—Piker.

December 19, 2009

[Editor’s Note: A period of shudder-filled reminiscences of the horrible snow-filled winter of 2008 preceded the following.]

—Agreed: patrolling became literally impossible.

“I remember your valiant efforts to navigate while practically being buried in snow.”

—You did provide some trails for me eventually, but even still . . .

“Yes, it was a bad deal all the way around.”

—Some bacon could help dull the unpleasant memories . . .

“Fake bacon, you mean?”

—Whatever: it’s as yummy as bacon, not that I’d really know since I only get to lick bacon grease and never get the actual bacon.

“And the whining begins anew . . .”

December 9, 2009

—Another day of respite from the frigid life of a tortured companion, thank Dog!

“Give me a break, you’re not a tortured companion—if anything you’re spoiled rotten.”

—I’m not going to argue with you: we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

“Fine, though I guess this means no biscuits for you all day.”

—What?

“Well, you’ve firmly established the tradition that you only get them when we have to bribe you to go out or reward you for coming in after a long, torturous day, and since neither will happen today . . . sorry.”

—That’s not fair.

“As Jimmy Carter once said: Life isn’t fair.”

—Who’s Jimmy Carter?

“Before your time.”

—Come to think of it, maybe there’s time for a quick patrol around the yard . . .

“Nice try, bub, but no dice and no biscuit.”

—I’ll just lie here in front of the heating vent in case you change your mind.

December 8, 2009

—Whew, what a relief.

“What?”

—You’re typing a message to She With Whom I Abide, which means you’re staying home and I won’t have to suffer arctic temperatures today.

“Sorry, I’ve got some appointments today, so you might have to accept a biscuit bribe and suffer the consequences of your enthralldom to your stomach.”

—Oh please, as if you’d let me stay in even if I refused your paltry bribery.

“True.”

—Are you really going to banish me to the severe wind and zero temperatures?

“Well, probably not, it’s not like you could do something you weren’t supposed to . . . like, say, hop up on the bed.”

—What makes you think I even care to do such a thing?

“She With Whom You Abide told me how you got up there last night . . . ”

— . . .

“Oh, don’t want to talk about it, eh?”

—Let’s just say I find it reprehensible that you’ve created a bed that can alter its height in order to thwart dog leaping.

“The bed was raised some time ago, yes, but you’ve also, since that happened, successfully (albeit somewhat clumsily) been able to jump up on it.”

—Yes, when the bed has been lowered.

“What do you mean? Since the initial increase, the height has not changed.”

—So you say, but if that were true, I wouldn’t have trouble making the leap any time I wanted to.

“So, you’re accusing us of adding a hydraulic system—or something—that can arbitrarily raise or lower the bed?”

—Exactly.

“Are you nuts? Why would we do that?”

—You mean, why would you torture an innocent creature such as myself? Examine your conscience, that’s all I have to say.

November 23, 2009

—Good just a regular day, you staying home, writing down our conversation, and then . . .

“Oh no, I forgot to write an e-mail and I’ve got to leave in a few minutes.”

—What?

“Yeah, it’s a regular day in that we’re both going to work and you’re going outside to protect the domain.”

—What?

“Yup, so I’ve got to make this a quick one and then be on my way.”

—Um, couldn’t we reconsider this plan of action?

“Sorry, duty calls.”

—I can protect the house from the inside.

“Right, by napping on the couch.”

—I’d never do anything like that.

“We know: your leaping ability has become compromised.”

—That’s not what I meant.

“One of these days we’ve got to talk about your recent bouts of denial.”

—But it’s cold outside.

“Well, then, protect us from any inclement weather, bark away the snow.”

—A regular day of agony, that’s all I can see.

“Look, I’ll make it worth your while to go outside, even though you’ve already gorged yourself on breakfast.”

—Really?

“Sure.”

—Okay, I’ll do what I can.

“You are so easy: those biscuits must taste fantastic.”

—You have no idea.

November 18, 2009

[Editor’s Note: Lewis hears me say I need an extra hour of sleep.]

—Me, too.

“I hadn’t realized you were sleep-deprived; I assumed just the opposite.”

—When you’re awake an hour or more before you actually get up, it really disrupts my sleeping pattern: I think breakfast is imminent and then waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . very upsetting.

“My profound apologies, I’m sure. Besides, nothing seems to disturb the rest of your sleeping, which I generously estimate takes up about 93% of your day.”

—How many times do I have to tell you that there’s sleeping and then there’s sleeping, the latter being a form of mega-intense High Alert Hair Trigger Guard Dog Napping.

“Guard Dog Napping: that’s a new one.”

—I’m applying for barkmark protection.

“Oh really? How does that work in the canine world: dogs send you biscuits for the use of your concept?”

—No, it’s more an honorary thing: it requires the other canine entities always refer to my idea as Lewis’ High Alert Hair Trigger Guard Dog Napping, though it wouldn’t really be Lewis, but my dog name, of course.

“Of course. Good luck with that. I hope you’re awake to hear the use of your barkmarked idea.”

—Very funny.