by jkatejohnston

22 July 2015

Dear Max,

When Petey walks, his hips sway. The toenails on his big puppy feet go click click click down the hallway. That’s if he feels like getting up.

The other night he was sleeping in the hall, and Teresa wanted him in the bedroom with us so that he wouldn’t bother Colin in the middle of the night. I got up and took him by the collar, whispering, “Come on, Petey!” But his body was limp and relaxed, and he didn’t move. “Come on, Petey!” No go.

So I pushed him down the hall, curled up and comfortable, sliding along the wood floor, sixty pounds of pure ease, around the corner, into our bedroom. He didn’t move a muscle, as Enzo would put it.

I have to tell a story about both dogs that’s a bit of a boast. Too bad I don’t look very good in it. I took them for a walk. It was the end of a hot day. I was listening to Emmylou Harris on my iPod, maybe a bit loud. We walked along an unpaved alley, one of my favorites: tall oaks, back fences, weeds. You’d never know you were in a city. We came around a corner and loud yapping from one of the houses startled me. I guess because of the iPod, I wasn’t aware of the little dogs behind the screen door until we were pretty close. Anyway, I was caught off guard. “Jesus Fucking Christ!” I said, and then as we walked away. “Assholes.” They were still going crazy.

About twenty yards later, I became aware of someone wanting to talk to me. I took the ear buds out with an inquiring look. A youngish man. “I don’t appreciate the language you used with my dogs just now. We have a brand new baby.”

Of course I apologized like crazy. I was sincerely temporarily contrite. He appeared to accept this, and we parted. Afterward I thought, “Your baby doesn’t give a shit about my language. It doesn’t even speak English. And I didn’t wake up the baby, your crappy little dogs did.”

And the whole time—walking by the yappy dogs, accosted by a strange man coming out of an alley—my two big boys said not one word. They were so much more dignified than the humans in the story.

Afterward I told Teresa and Enzo about it, counting on my fingers the number of curse words I’d used, without repeating them.

Enzo: “There’s some bad words in Jurassic Park.” He’s been watching the old ones after seeing Jurassic World in the Theater. Twice. “Do you want to hear some of them?”

Me and Teresa: “Um…”

Enzo: “Son of a Bitch!”

But I don’t want to end on that note. Last night Petey was lying on the floor with his stuffed elephant clamped in his massive, droopy, drooling jaws, and Enzo held on to the other end, playing tug of war, pulling Petey across the floor.

They both have big heads, compared to their bodies. They’re just boys.