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A Dog's Life


Harry Buschman

Whenever I hear the expression, "It's a dog's life," it sets my teeth on edge. It's a phrase people use, not dogs. People have no idea what a dog's life is like -- I do! I say that in all honesty, and with a full measure of authority, because I am a dog.

I am, of course, no ordinary dog. I don't do the classic things a dog is expected to do; I don't herd sheep, or pull sleds, nor do I prowl the airport to sniff at traveler's luggage for controlled substances. In some ways I envy the dogs who do, their lives are more rewarding than mine -- filled with action and adventure, while I must be content to be the companion of a writer. Writers are not easy people to live with, particularly bad writers, and if I don't assert myself now and then, the writer I live with would forget me completely. I must tell him when the mailman arrives. If I didn't, his mailbox would soon be filled to overflowing with returned manuscripts. I have to remind him when someone is at the door. I must remind him again and again that it's time for a walk, a bath, or supper. I have given up all expectations of a pat on the head or an encouraging word long ago.

Dogs are not given the opportunity to choose their masters. If they were, few of them would be living where they are.

A popular conception maintains that dogs and their masters eventually resemble each other in outward appearance. There is a germ of truth in this, but I can safely say that it is far more likely that a dog, if he is not fastidious, will adopt his master's most slovenly habits, as well as his preferences in food and drink. Writers are careless in dress and not particularly attentive to their personal hygiene. A dog, because of his acute sense of smell, is keenly sensitive to such things and I find it necessary at times to remind my master to attend to them.

When he does so I find myself with time to write. Oh yes, the computer revolution has made it possible for dogs to write! You would probably be surprised to find that much of the material you download from the internet has been written by animals. I am a cybernautical spin-off so to speak. I must admit that thumbing through pages of written material, holding a pen and checking sources by telephone and personal interview are skills I leave to others. I am not convinced they are essential in any case. The vast majority of what I've read, written by two legged authors of the internet, indicate they have made no use of such writing techniques.

I often read over my master's hunched shoulders as he pecks away at the keyboard, lost in his convoluted syntax and invariably writing himself into a corner from which he cannot extricate himself. As his best friend I plead (voicelessly of course) with him to take another tack, or better still, admit defeat and go on to more productive endeavors.

There are times when my master, (I call him master, actually his name is Earnest) puts on his hat and coat (he has little hair on his head or body) and goes walking. He does this (he says) to reinvigorate his muse. Even when he asks me to accompany him, I refuse. When he returns he reeks of alcohol. While he's gone I have ample time to write and store my writing in the depths of his computer memory where he will never find it. His uncertain steps on the stair to our humble abode give me abundant warning to shut down.

His solitary walks are rarely productive, and his writing shows no noticeable improvement. Apparently his muse has other fish to fry, or perhaps the environment in Shorty's Tavern turns her off.

On the rare occasions Earnest and I go walking together he seems to return in a better mood. I have found that jerking him this way and that on the end of his leash has therapeutic value and to some degree clears his head and loosens his inhibitions. Moreover, upon our return, I am usually fed and we are both free to ignore each other for the remainder of the day.

There are times when I wish Earnest and I could discuss his writing -- man to man, if you will. He would find it beneficial I'm sure. You see, I know him quite well and my criticism would be based on a frank appraisal of his limitations of which he is completely unaware. His greatest fault is trying to write of situations and events he has never experienced. This is a sure road to disaster for any writer regardless of the number of his legs. My success, on the other hand, results from writing of things I know well, such as the periodic aroma of Trixie next door that sets my senses a-reel. The mouth-watering smell of a freshly opened box of Kibbles-and-bits, and the stimulating pleasure of drinking from the toilet bowl. These are things I know well - and write well about. Earnest, on the other hand labors long and hard over the mysteries of the cosmos, his relation to the Almighty and the plight of the downtrodden. There are times when I'd like to shake him back into reality!
, like I did with that squirrel in the park yesterday -- perhaps even lead him to the toilet bowl and let him experience for himself the real mystery of the cosmos.

I am a dog however, and tempered by thousands of years of domestication, and while not particularly faithful, I have learned my place. Earnest and I are linked by a common bond of necessity, (and a rather outdated computer). As things stand we are unquestionably dependent on one another. As friends and equals of the same species we would very likely hate each other and soon drift apart -- particularly when he discovered I was a far better writer than he.

So Earnest and I will continue our relationship which outwardly resembles that of any dog and master. To the casual glance of a passersby in the street, or the dwindling circle of unsuccessful writers who drop in for a beer or two -- we are nothing more than a man and his best friend. My greatest fear, however, is that he may give up writing in disgust and kick his computer downstairs.

Where would that leave me?

1995 Harry Buschman

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