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A Dog’s Wisdom
by J. Conrad Guest

Joe is sad today. He sits and taps with his fingers. He stops
tapping for a moment and says something aloud, which I don’t
comprehend – I understand maybe 400 words, mostly commands
and sentences are outside my understanding. The concept of
“opposable thumbs,” which he once told a friend is what leaves
Man inferior to the lower life forms, is beyond me. When he
asks me if I want to go for a walk, it’s “walk” I respond to.
I look up from where I’m laying, at Joe’s feet, to see light
flicker across his face as he goes back to tapping.

Earlier, while it was still dark outside and before he started
tapping, he stared into the light and said, “Another rejection
letter. I’m a slave to the whims of others.” I don’t pretend to
know what that means, but it made Joe sad. He sighed and put
fire to one of those sticks he sucks on without ever eating.
I don’t like those sticks; they make me sneeze. He sipped from
the cup on his desk – I can smell its bitter scent – sighed
again, and began tapping. I find the sound pleasing because
it brings Joe contentment. I can sense Joe’s moods as easily
as I can detect my favorite smells – grass, bacon and Joe’s scent.
The woman who used to come around no longer does, and I sense
from Joe sadness in her absence, but also ease. They often raised
their voices at one another, which left all three of us unhappy.

Joe finds the smelly sticks soothing, and the steaming liquid in the
cup leaves him feeling alert. He calls them his muses. Still, there
is an underlying sorrow to his mood this morning, despite the
tapping, which usually leaves him feeling good. He stops tapping to
sip from the cup, and he puts the stick between his lips; I watch
its end glow and smoke rises lazily from its end. Joe leans over to
scratch me between my ears and then goes back to tapping. A moment
later he stops and, looking into the light, eyes moving from side
to side, says something I don’t understand. Then he sighs and says,
“Shit,” which is one of the commands I know. I’m confused because
I’ve already been outside.

Joe gets up and takes his cup with him to the kitchen. I follow him
and as he pours more liquid into his cup, I sit salivating, and
stare at the door behind which he keeps my treats. A moment later
the door swings open and Joe reaches in to get me a Milk-Bone –
another word I understand. “Good girl,” he tells me, “you’re so
easy to please.” Then he scratches me between my ears before leaving
for the den and more tapping.

I don’t know why Joe is so sad. I wish he could be more like me. I’m
happy with my morning walk, a tummy scratch, fresh water in my bowl
twice a day and food in my dish, along with the occasional Milk-Bone
and table scrap. I’m happiest when Joe takes me to the park and lets
me run free among all the wonderful smells. I wonder if Joe would be
happier if he had four legs and could run free with me.


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