I’m secreted away in a bunker fortified by steel and wood. To be more specific, I’m in my home office with the door closed.
No matter. Esme still takes offense. For the dog of a writer, she seems to hate when I practice my craft. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising; she’s the first dog I’ve ever known to have a look of condescension. As if to say: Come on, simple human; you can do it.
So it goes with my writing. She hates it. Or at least she refuses to be around when I’m attempting it.
And I’m not sure why. Perhaps I used to yell at the computer when I was struggling with a story. Or cursing the keyboard when the Mac froze.
Whatever the case, she hates to be around when she senses stress. Her big brother, Teddy, used to be a notorious ruiner. He’d chew on jeans til there was a hole the size of a softball. Shoes were simply the tenderloins of rawhides. He once chewed my wallet to pieces — along with all the cash inside.
So perceptive was she that she would leave the house the moment I awakened and walked into the living room — she knew the shock and awe of Teddy’s handiwork to come.
I’ve tried everything to soothe her nerves, to keep her comfortable on the couch: music, a space heater, four blankets and a pillow (I never said I was a logical dog owner).
No matter. When the keys are a’clackin, she gets to packin.
Like right now. She must have heard you reading and headed for the door. Thanks a lot.
I’m not so much a gadget freak as a gadget mutant alien virus.
My technology jones runs deep. I have four outdated cellular phones, a half dozen MP3 players and four digital cameras. My middle name could be iSucker.
I even like the ads for electronic stores. When I lived at home, I would seek the Sunday fliers for Best Buy and Circuit City, simply to marvel at Moore’s Law, the theorem that technology doubles every 18 months — so your computer and cell phones should be twice as fast, hold twice as much data, every year and a half — with requisite price hikes.
So Cyber Monday has become my Black Friday, as it has for millions of Americans: Roughly $6.6 billion sales are logged on Cyber Monday, a figure that must give brick and mortar shops a raging erection. Though it’s surprising that the ever-clever internet denizens didn’t come up with something more clever than Cyber Monday. If the creators of e-shopping really wanted to mock traditional stores, which is clearly part of the strategy, they would have called it “African-American Monday.”
Regardless, Amazon has gone nuts over the phenomenon it helped manifest. The site has created a cyber-flier that is replete with gizmos and whatzits. It’s terrific reading.
There’s a laptop about the weight of a candy bar. There’s an Alexa-powered webcam that looks like it came from NASA, with night vision and motion detector alerts sent to your phone.
But my favorite by far was Furbo, a remote dog treat dispenser.
The idea is fascinating. A remote camera keeps an eye on Fido, using your computer and even cellular phone to monitor the pup, scold it to stop incessant yapping, and reward it when it’s good. Tell Spot to sit, and you can remotely eject a dog treat to your canine.
This is the stuff of The Jetsons. As I read, I wondered: Are we really this bored and wealthy?
Turns out the answer is “goddamned straight.” Furbo had 1,049 reviews and a four-out-of-five-star rating. It also had 271 questions from interested buyers: Could you use your own dog treats? How long is the warranty? Does it works for cats? (For what do you even reward a cat? A furball-free day?)
As I scrolled through the questions, I noticed it didn’t address my primary one: What happens when a dog jacks its leg to pee on it? I’m guessing it happens, as there’s an entire YouTube cottage industry of dogs peeing on myriad targets: cats, new shoes, sunbathers, etc. Teddy once peed on chair at the dog park. An occupied chair.
So, on a smartass-ian lark, I asked the simple question 271 others would not: “Is it urine-proof?”
I expected that the seller would not even post the joke. At best, I would get a similarly snarky response, like “No, but it is fecal-resistant.”
Instead, I immediately received a spate of replies. “No, it’s plastic but still an electrical device;” “Perhaps — I would elevate it to the height of a treat jar,” etc. Apparently, the question raised a real issue — one not mentioned in the entire ad for Furbo.
But there was one reply in particular that caught my eye, from Lisa S. I knew it would have the inevitable, anonymous air of the internet era, which has ushered mankind into the Iron(y) Age. The primary advancement of the period: veiled asshole-nish. The letter began with “I don’t know,” which begs another question: Then why reply in ‘Answers?’ It also was clearly her chance to brag on her pets.
“I don’t know,” she wrote. “Mine sits on the counter and my dogs are housebroken.”
Esme and I have been enjoying the Westminster Dog Show, and were thrilled that a Teddy-sized hound finally took Best in Show, though, as Esme points out, none proved they could fetch.
Much less train their humans to.
For years, despite scores of dogs attempting to teach me, I couldn’t master the throw-and-return maneuver. With Ted, for instance, he’d just bring the ball back to engage in a game of tug-of-war or, even better, Chase-the-Retriever-with-the-ball.
Esme, though, trained me in a day. Maybe less. She even taught me how to play from the jacuzzi: Throw it toward the south fence, and she’ll teeter it on the tub ledge. Really. Here she is, trying to teach my aunt Lessie to fetch. (Says Esme, Keep goin, champ! You’re almost there!)
Now she’s got me working with another fetchable: a foot-long stuffed squirrel that eerily resembles roadkill. Except this treasure squeaks, from squeezable head to its whoopee-cushion tail.
For the purposes of this story, we’ll call the toy Chew-Barka — for story purposes only. I mean, what 51-year-old adult man would name his dog’s stupid stuffed animal? That’s crazy. You’re crazy. So drop it, ok? Jerk.
Anyway, Esme loves Chewy. Carries it everywhere. When friends visit, she invariably brings them her slobbered precious.
She even uses it to nag me. All dogs have an inherent sense of time, particularly when it’s marked with food. And it was hard to miss my dogs’ hunger pangs; Teddy would begin to pace in front of the TV everyday at 5 p.m.
Now, I get a squeak tone when it’s dinner time.
But I can never get angry, so deft is her touch with it. Linus would be impressed with Esme’s fondness for a security blanket.
One chilly night, as we were turning in (Esme always brings Chewy to bed), she burrowed close to borrow my body heat. I put some spare blanket over her — it’s gotten so that I can’t fall asleep without her — and put a hand on Esme’s belly to warm her.
Then I felt her fur, which was matted and moist, the way Teddy’s coat would turn after an epileptic seizure.
Panicked, I sat bolt upright, reached for the light switch. And realized I was petting Chewy.
For a moment, I may have angered. I can’t remember, because it fades whenever Ezzie gives me that look: Hey dummy, you’re petting a stuffed animal. But don’t worry. We’ll play in the morning. Yes we will. Yes we will! Who’s a good human?? Who’s a good boy??