This is Catapult’s literary pet of the month column. Stay tuned each month for new bookish animal friends!
Recently, I’ve been paying close attention to how I interact with other dog walkers on the street. For the most part we stare at our dogs in mutual silence. Sometimes, someone will ask how old the dog is, what kind. Grizz is a mutt, so there is never a firm answer. If the other dog has a brindle pattern, like Grizz does, I say something like, “oh look, brindle twins.” There is one man I chat with regularly, the owner of a small, feathery dog. Last time I saw him, he was smoking a cigar in the rain and his dog was wearing a new, candy-striped sweater. Grizz was wearing a bright neon raincoat. We talked about the weather and our dogs’ clothes.
This past weekend, I met two women with a large, black-and-white mutt. As our dogs greeted each other, one of them asked, “What do you think it is they smell? What do they find out?” This is fairly common small talk among dog owners; and yet, I’ve never heard or given an exact answer. I don’t know the scientific reason and making any human comparisons feels weirdly intimate.
If I had to guess what this other dog learned from my dog’s rear end, I’d say diet (kibble plus table scraps), recent activity (dog park, where we spend most Saturday mornings), and age (a little over a year, but maybe the dog’s nose is able to discern a more precise number).
I don’t know much about Grizz’s life before we met. I found him online. His profile said he was a mature six years; in fact, he was only six months. I was deceived, but didn’t hesitate to adopt.
Grizz loves hunting squirrels, rats, and cockroaches on the street. He is less interested in pests once they’re inside. He is fascinated by birds, and sometimes I catch him staring out the bedroom window at airplanes passing overhead. He is friendly with cats—he kissed my downstair neighbor’s cat on the head, and now pauses at their door every time we pass. Grizz wants to meet anyone and everyone. If he sees a dog coming up the sidewalk behind us, he will often sit and wait until the dog approaches.
Alicia Kroell is an Associate Editor at Catapult.