Today's Reading

How do you think Earnest and Zippy responded to this new situation, when it was time to go out in the morning? If you're a dog person, you have already guessed. I'd open the back door, and the two of them would sprint to the screen door—which I remind you was surrounded by nothing—and stand there, waiting for me to open it. I swear I am not making this up. It took them a couple of weeks to fully comprehend that they no longer needed to follow the two-stage procedure for going outside.

Earnest and Zippy provided me with a lot of entertainment. They were a comedy team, like a low-IQ version of Abbott and Costello. Sometimes when I was working they'd settle down snoozing on opposite sides of my office door— Earnest usually inside with me, Zippy outside in the hallway. They'd lie quietly, sometimes for hours, while I tapped away on my keyboard.

Suddenly, one of them would be activated by something. Dogs do this; they'll be sound asleep, then, for no apparent reason, they'll leap up, barking furiously. My theory is that there's a Dog Satellite orbiting the Earth, emitting signals that only dogs can hear as it passes over. Whatever it was, one of my dogs, usually Earnest, would hear it and start barking. This would awaken Zippy, on the other side of the door. He assumed Earnest was barking at something important, so he would start barking and leaping against the door, trying to get it to open so he could come in and help Earnest bark at whatever it was. Hearing this, Earnest would assume Zippy was barking at something important, and she (Earnest was female) would start leaping against the door from her side, which would make Zippy even more excited.

Now the two of them were hurling their bodies against the door in an escalating frenzy of dog alertness, by which I mean stupidity. They would keep this up until I got up and opened the door. Earnest would then bolt out of the office, barking; Zippy would charge into the office, also barking. The two of them would eventually conclude that there was no threat, or that they had scared it away. I'd close the door and they'd resume snoozing on opposite sides of it, and the office would be peaceful again, until the next transit of the Dog Satellite.

So Earnest and Zippy were not geniuses. But they were fine dogs, and I was sad when I lost custody of them via divorce. I then entered a period of doglessness that lasted for ten years. When I remarried, I tried repeatedly to convince Michelle that we needed a dog, but she had never had a dog and was firmly opposed to getting one. Her view was that dogs are dirty, smelly animals that bark and slobber and chew things and jump up on you and deposit turds all over your yard.

All of which is of course true.

"But dogs are affectionate," I'd argue. "They make great companions."

Michelle would respond that she preferred companions that did not display their affection by suddenly thrusting their snouts into your groin.

"But dogs are funny," I'd argue. To illustrate how funny dogs are, I told her the story (this is a true story) about a boyhood friend of mine who had a dog named Boomer who, while riding in the car, saw another dog and jumped out the car window while the car was traveling at a fairly high rate of speed. Upon landing, Boomer broke a number of important bones. He had to wear casts during a long and difficult recovery. Finally he healed, and not long after, he was again riding in the moving car, and he saw another dog. With no hesitation whatsoever he jumped out again.

"Why is that funny?" said Michelle.

"Because he jumped out again," I said.

"Why did they have the windows down?" said Michelle.

"They never thought he'd jump out again," I said. "But he did! Ha ha!"

Somehow this line of argument failed to convince Michelle that we needed a dog. And so we were dogless, and I thought we would remain dogless.

Then we had Sophie. From the start Sophie loved animals, all animals, and they loved her. She gave off some kind of vibe that resonated with them. Butterflies—I am completely serious here—would land on her hand, or in her hair, and just stay there. Cats—cats—would seek her out and rub against her, purring. Once we were in a rain forest in Costa Rica, and we saw a baby deer, which looked like Bambi, only cuter, standing a little way off the trail. A crowd gathered to take pictures and go aww, and the baby deer, instead of running away, came out of the forest, went directly to Sophie and licked her face. I know this happened because I took pictures.

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