A Dramatic Dogalog

Art Homer

I'm standing outside the supermarket with Hooch, waiting for my wife to pick up a couple of things, when up walks about the fourth elderly woman in a row to say "What a pretty dog."

Thanks," I say. "He thinks so."

"What kind..." she begins, then corrects herself. "I mean what do you call this brand of dog?"

"He's a Golden Retriever."

"I like dogs..."

"I can see that," I say.

".... but I'm a widow," she continues, ignoring my impertinence, "and my husband always said -- we always lived on the corner of 55th up here. Well, people don't pay attention to the stop signs. They just go like I don't know. It's bad enough when they run over the squirrels, but then the Humane Society has to come out and scrape up a dog, or maybe not so much a cat. Oh, if it were my dog I'd just feel so guilty."

"Well, they do take a lot of looking after." I scratch Hooch on the head. He's pulling a little on the leash, trying as he does to get downwind of the stranger the better to evaluate her. She has a broken blood vessel near the corner of her mouth which is pretty well covered up with makeup, except in the creases. It looks like a spider has hidden in her face.

"He isn't vicious is he?"

I try to sound reassuring. "No, he likes people, but he's a male, so with dogs he gets a little..."

"Because my husband was at work," she says as if I've interrupted again, "and he'd get wrapped around the stake and I'd be afraid to go out there and untangle him. Rowr! Rowr! Leaping at the chain. Hardly move, poor thing!"

"What kind of dog?" I ask.

"A school teacher, and he didn't get home for two hours. I was too afraid. It was a big dog I tell you, and vicious, not like Lassie on TV."

"A Collie, then," I say, feeling a bit more on solid ground.

"Yes, but black and brown, but the people come by with all kinds. Big and little, I don't know all the brands."

"Yes, well they have to be walked so they don't get bored and run away."

"I would like to have a dog, but are they little when you get them or do they come this size?"

"Well, dogs are animals..." I babble. "I mean, they start out..." I stop and try again. "We got Hooch here from the pound -- so he was grown. We haven't had him since he was a puppy."

"I see. He's a beautiful dog-- a beautiful, beautiful dog."

She went into the store. Hooch gave me a puzzled look, sighed, and lay down. "Good dog," I said. "Good dog."

Art Homer teaches at the University of Nebraska-Omaha Writer's Workshop. He's author of three collections of poetry and a nonfiction book, The Drownt Boy (U. of Missouri Press). Having recently received an NEA Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, he feels entitled to drive around in a pickup with his dog in back.