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What are those things? (03/13/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

“So,” said the dog-who-must-not-be-written-about, “are those cats?”

“Cats?” I asked. “Are what cats? We don’t have a cat. But I saw a cat under the bird feeder.”

“I thought that was a squirrel,” he said. “The funny-looking furry things with the twitchy tails.”

“Those are. Cats are bigger and they aren’t hoppy. They kind of slink,” I said.

“Oh, the sneaky ones?” he asked. “But then what are those other things? They’re bigger than cats.”

“Coyotes? The ones that look like dogs?” I asked.

He jumped up and said, rather loudly, “They do NOT look like dogs! They’re ugly. They’re evil! They, they, they…”

“Geez, sorry,” I said. “A human might mistake them for dogs, but certainly they aren’t as attractive. Certainly not!”

“A human! Humans are not very attentive to detail, I’d say,” he said. “They do not look like dogs at all.”

“So, are you talking about cows?”

“Oh for heaven’s sake! I know what a cow is,” he said. “And I stay away from them, too. They deploy secret weapons from the rear.”

“Then what are you talking about? What do these animals look like?” I asked.

“They are smaller than you are, and only have hair on one end like a human. But they have a funny bark, very high and shrill. They move around a lot, and it’s hard to predict where they are going to go. And, you let them sit on your lap.”

“You must mean my grandchildren,” I said, smiling to myself.

“Why can’t I sit on your lap?” he asked. “I would sit still, I really would.”

“You’re too big!” I said. “And you have a tendency to hang on with your sharp toe nails instead of soft little hands.”

“So, did these grandchildren come from the breeder, too?” he asked.

“Well, humans don’t exactly have breeders,” I said, wondering how to explain the complexities of the family unit, and human adoption and foster parents…so I decided not to try. “I got my grandchildren from my children.”

“Oh,” he said a little sadly, “another one of those things humans won’t let dogs do. Do you realize I’ll never see my children or grandchildren?”

“I hate to break this to you,” I said gently, “but you’ll never see your children because you don’t have any children, and you never will.”

“Oh, yes,” he said, equally as sadly, “the neutering thing, right?”

“’Fraid so. But think of it this way. You don’t have puppies, so we don’t have to sell them!”

“Sell them! What! You’d sell my puppies?” he was standing now, tail not wagging.

“Of course. You don’t think I could have seven or eight 60 lb. standard poodles living with us, do you?” I thought he’d certainly understand. After all, I mean, really!

He was silent for a long time. Then he came over and put his head on my lap and looked up at me with those sad brown eyes.

“How much do those grandchildren weigh?” he asked.



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