Call me Ishmael. At least, that’s what my master calls me. He found the name in a book somewhere; he’s always reading books, never has much time for me, other than to throw me a mostly-eaten leg of mutton or some scraps from the table. What kind of name is that for a dog? I’m a pedigree English Sheepdog, (though plagued with a lean and hungry look)! I have papers, dammit! He could have called me Spot, it would have been more appropriate.
Let’s start over. Call me Spot! I don’t care what Will and his sister call me, I’m a dog, I have pride and they can’t treat me that way. So call me Spot. Or Rover. Whatever. Maybe some dog in the future can be called Ishmael. Or some other mammal. A proper dog name is all I ask. And a doghouse. But more on that later.
Why do I have to live on the end of this tether? I can’t go anywhere, I have to stay here in the yard, and sleep under the porch when it rains. He gets to sit up there in the room, and all he does is read and write, all day long. Or he leaves me here with his sister while he does whatever he does down at that theater. He spends no time with me. Does he let me off this rope and take me to the park, throw a stick or a ball so I can chase it and get some exercise? No. I need my exercise. My muscles are beginning to atrophy, and all I can do to keep some semblance of health is to walk in a circle around this firkin’ tree. I wish Will would build me a doghouse.
His sister is a piece of work. Oh, she’s lovely, and all, very kind to me, industrious, quick to pat my head or scratch behind my ears (and I do so love that; it makes my hind leg go all aquiver), all the attributes you’d want in a master. Only she’s not my master. Her name is Judith. When I say that she’s a piece of work, think basket case. She makes those too, but that’s not why I use that term. She seems…upset. All of the time. Well, not all of the time, there are some times when she seems content, but most of those are when Will’s at the theater and she gets to use his desk and his writing utensils. When she’s up there, I can hear her singing the most melodious tunes. Sometimes she’ll come down to the back porch and read me things she’s written. Stuff about the moon. (Why she’d want to write about that, I don’t know. I can usually make it go away if I bark long enough. Out, damned moon!) Or stuff about something called love. She calls them sonnets. But then she’d hear Will walking up the path from the river Avon, and she’d stuff what she’d written behind the water jug, or down her blouse, or she’d burn it, but when she burned it she looked so sad, so morose, it was all I could do to stop from licking her face in sympathy.
Once, she didn’t hear him coming, she was so immersed in reading what she wrote to me, and he caught her, asked her what she was doing. She had tried to embarrassedly hide it behind her skirts, but he reached around her and took it from her. He became very upset, livid, with the veins in his neck creating little ridges, and he told her that what she did was wrong, that women don’t write, that HE was a writer, but she was just his sister, a girl, a wench. She didn’t have time to write, he said, with all the responsibilities of maintaining the household. Besides, he said, what she wrote was no good. I thought to myself, Will, you protest too much. What she wrote was wonderful. But who was I? I couldn’t even speak, so I snarled at him, and he kicked me. Sometimes he can be such a blinking idiot.
Will and Judith’s neighbor, Chris Marlowe, has a dog also. I know this because we talk to each other, even though I can’t see her. She lives on the other side of a thick hedge, and sometimes we bark at the moon together. She tells me that she is a bulldog, and that she has a doghouse of her own. She doesn’t have to sleep under the porch. In fact, she gets to sleep in the house with her master, in his bed if she chooses, which she usually does. He feeds her cooked meat and meal, and changes her water bowl often. I’m lucky if it rains so I can get mine refilled. She thinks Ishmael’s a dumb name too. She likes Spot, even though she knows I have no spots. I strive mightily to envision her life, but it’s hard.
So here I lie under this god forsaken porch, a god forsaken pooch with no real roof over his head. I know I could be a proper dog to my owners, if only I had a doghouse that I could call my own. A doghouse, and a food bowl. What a piece of work is a dog, how noble in loyalty, how infinite in senses! So much potential! I feel I have so much to offer not only to Will and his sister, but the world, if I was only unfettered from my slavery to this yard. If I could collect up my bones, my chews, my balls and move into a decent home, in one fell swoop I could become a true canine companion, man’s best friend.
In my mind’s eye, I see me waking Will in the morning with a lick to the face, then pulling the sash so that the morning light streams into his room. He gets up, writes for a hour, while Judith prepares our breakfast. After we eat, Will goes off to his theater, and Judith and I sit down under the oak tree, while she reads me some of her recent poetry. A feline interloper tries to enter the yard, and I chase it away. Another squirrelly looking rodent creature scurries up a tree when it sees me defending my mistress, a veritable dog of war. Will comes home full of the milk of human kindness, pats my head, feeds me a treat, and writes some more, with assistance from his sister. Content, I meander out to my doghouse for a nap. Oh, what a life I could have! The world would be my oyster. A brave new world, it would be.
If I only had a doghouse of my own.