Published: Saturday, October 17, 2020, 8:58 pm | Author: Joe Campbell
My friend Fernsby has new neighbours, a dog and his people. Several months ago, they moved into the house next door to his. The people, a married couple without children, rise early and set off for separate jobs to earn money to support the dog. Some days the dog sleeps in. Other days he lounges around the back yard, eating, drinking, urinating and defecating. When the people return home, they clean up after him and serve him more food and drink, with predictable results. They also regularly bathe him, clean his teeth and manicure his nails, and from time to time they chauffeur him across town for hairdos and veterinary medical check-ups.
Fernsby says the dog is in great shape. His people, though, are overextended, over worked and overdrawn at the bank. When they take the dog for his daily walk, they can barely keep up with him.
They call him Rex. He calls them whenever he’s hungry, thirsty, bored, or frustrated. He seems to get that way late at night and early in the morning.
Fernsby says they wanted a watchdog and they certainly got their wish. “He’s very good at watching,” my friend told me. “He’s so good at it that when strangers approach him they don’t even know he’s doing it. They think he’s asleep. Shortly after he and his people moved here someone tried to break into their house. He watched the whole thing. When a couple of the other neighbours intervened to prevent the crime, Rex attacked them.”
Rex, of course, is Latin for king. Fernsby says the title suits him. He lives like a king, while his people live like subjects, and he looks like a king. That is to say, he looks arrogant and insolent, especially when his subjects enthrone him in the back seat of their aging convertible and parade him around town.
“Although His Highness doesn’t deign to visit me,” Fernby said, “I’m convinced that he surreptitiously visits my property. The fecal evidence on my driveway is compelling. In winter, so is the gilding on the snow bank in my front yard. When I take this up with him, he sniffs indignantly and trots off. It’s as if I were questioning a royal prerogative.”
Fernsby doesn’t know what breed of dog Rex is.
“When I ask his people,” he said, “they change the subject. They no doubt suspect that I’m prejudiced against certain breeds and they want to shield him from discrimination. But they completely misjudge me. I’m not prejudiced against certain breeds. I’m prejudiced against all dogs.”
Rex was adopted as a puppy from an animal shelter. Someone from the shelter stops by periodically to see how he is doing. No one stops by to see how his people are doing.
“When he’s allowed a run in the park,” Fernsby said, “he sometimes takes off for a night on the town and breaks several municipal bylaws. The authorities fine his people. Rex gets off without as much as a reprimand.”
He told me that one of his people injured a knee while trying to discourage the dog from leaving the park.
“She’s been on a waiting list for surgery for the last several weeks. Rex hurt his foot the other morning and was operated on that afternoon. Of course, his people had to pay for the surgery he got. The surgery they can’t get is free.
“But what can you expect of a society in which animals have rights and their people have duties?” he asked. “Although we call the people ‘masters’, they look like servants to me. The dogs go to obedience school; it’s the people who obey. Not only do they obey their dogs. They comply with regulations the authorities impose for the dogs’ safety and comfort.”
He noted that in some parts of the world, cows are considered sacred and untouchable. “In our part of the world,” he said, “dogs are approaching that coveted state. Rex is leading the way. Some nights when I can’t sleep because of his barking, I hope that before they sanctify him he takes a bite out of a passerby and has to be put down. I’m desperate enough to volunteer as the passerby.”
When feeling less vindictive, Fernsby takes comfort in the thought that dogs have a relatively short life span and with any luck Rex will go before he does.
“Although I don’t attend canine funerals,” he said, “I would happily make an exception for Rex. I wouldn’t go alone, though. I’d take along two strong companions to prevent me from gilding his grave.”