December 29, 2013

My black Lab Smut walked out on the pier where I was fishing and watched me for a moment, then asked, “If you catch a fish, what will you do with it?”

“I’ll scale it, clean it, filet it, dredge it in cornmeal, and fry it for supper,” I said.

“Well, if you catch two fish, I don’t mind you doing that with the second one,” Smut said, “but don’t cook mine. And don’t bother scaling it or cleaning it either, please.” In Smut’s mind, if I only caught one fish, it would be his.

“You mean,” I asked, “if I catch a fish for you, you don’t want me to cook it?”

“No,” Smut said, “I want it for something else.”

“Well, I’m not having any luck. Let’s go back to the house.” I began gathering my gear to head back.

“You have no patience,” Smut observed. “You’ve only been at it for three or four hours. I really need a fish!”

“Smut, if you have more patience than I do, you’re welcome to use the gear and catch a fish yourself,” I told him. But the lazy old dog ignored my offer and followed me back to the house.

When we were settled inside, I with my cup of hot coffee, and Smut with his glass of Scotch whisky, we went to the living room. Smut sat in his favorite easy chair, placed the whisky on an end table, reached over to the humidor and pulled out a Cuban cigar. I know: it’s illegal to have them, but Smut has habits that must be satisfied.

“Mind if I smoke,” he said, not so much as a question but an announcement.

“You know I do,” I replied, “but that never stops you.”

He ignored me, sipped some whisky, and lit up. He was the figure of sophistication and erudition in his red fez and burgundy smoking jacket, and his Advanced Particle Physics text on the table beside him.

“Smut,” I said, “You didn’t want me to cook you a fish! I’ve never known you to turn down food. What do you want a fish for?”

“Well, if you must know, I want to get a date.”

“So? What’s that got to do with fish?”

“A fish will help me attract a date,” he said.

“Don’t understand, Smut. How will a fish help you attract a date?”

“Fish don’t reach their full potential until they’ve been dead on the beach under the sun for a while,” he replied didactically. “Then they become aphrodisiacs, you see.”

“They become rotten and disgusting,” I pointed out. “Why do you think they become aphrodisiacs?”

After taking a puff of his cigar, he told me, “When they’re just right, the aroma is overpowering.”

“Can’t argue with that, dog.”

“Then I can roll on it and get all smelled up. Female dogs find it extremely sexy and appealing. Don’t expect me home all night when I go out on my date.” He settled back in his chair looking expectantly pleased with himself.

“If you roll on a rotten fish, I don’t want you home that night. Be sure to swim around in the river for a while before you come back to the house. And I won’t let you in without giving you a bath, you disgusting dog.”

With an expression of consternation on his face, Smut pointed his cigar at me and said, “You’re criticizing my smell of choice? When you put on the stuff you use sometimes, I’m repulsed at the rank smell. It’s a wonder you don’t run women off with that stuff.”

I don’t much like the smell of what I use either, but the ads say it really attracts women. I guess what passes as cologne for men or dogs leaves a lot to be desired. But at least I don’t roll in mine.



December 13, 2013

Mischief and I took a walk this afternoon. It was cold, wet and entirely uncomfortable, the kind of day Mischief favors. She is a Labrador retriever, and revels in cold weather, and finds the cold water of the Neuse River in December to be pleasant.

“Let’s go in the house,” I suggested after about ten minutes.

“Come on, let’s stay out a while,” she responded. “I haven’t identified all the new smells here since I returned from Greenville. Why did you dump us there last week?” she asked.

“Will and I wanted to eat oysters at home without your friend Smut competing with us for every one of them, so we left both of you in Greenville for a couple of days. But then I had the accident, and couldn’t fetch you for a few days.”

“Oh, yes, the accident,” she replied. “You fell off a pier and bumped your head, as if humans don’t do that every day. And except for a little cosmetic deterioration, you don’t look bad. You weren’t pretty to begin with. So don’t start again. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but I—and probably everyone you’ve talked to over the past week—am fatigued at your constant talk about ‘the accident.’ Please just shut up about it. It’s over.”

“Point taken, Mischief,” I replied, a little annoyed that she would be so blunt. My human friends, of course, are too polite to tell me to shut up, even though they should, according to Mischief.

We walked a bit more, then I told her that I was cold and was going back to the house. “You can stay out by yourself,” I said.

“Okay, we’ll go back,” she said, sulking. “Guess we’d better check on Smut, anyway. No telling what he’s gotten into.”

Smut is my other lab, a sneaky and resourceful old dog who is a brilliant particle physicist, but in all other ways just a typical old lab.

As we entered the living room, I saw Smut scoot through the kitchen door and quickly flop into his easy chair. His fez was askew, and his smoking jacket was awry, but the look on his face was lazy and unconcerned.

“What are you up to, you old mutt,” I asked with acid suspicion.

“I was just getting some water,” he replied. “Why do you look so suspicious?”

“Because I know your tricks,” I said.

While Smut straightened his fez and adjusted his jacket, I looked in the kitchen. There on the floor in front of the refrigerator was a bone—all that was left of half a country ham.

I angrily returned to the living room and found Smut leaning back comfortably in his chair, legs crossed, puffing on a cigar, a glass of my 16-year-old Lagavulin in his other paw.

“You ate my country ham, you nasty dog,” I shouted at Smut. “That was going to be breakfast for days to come, and it’s gone! No grits and country ham with red-eye gravy! No country ham biscuits! No eggs and country ham!”

While he finished a swallow of whisky and exhaled a puff of smoke, Smut said calmly, “Well, you know I don’t like grits. And that ham was too salty for you.”

“But you didn’t leave me any,” Mischief whined at him.

Why can’t Smut just stick his tail between his legs and hang his head in shame like other dogs, I thought.