- Dogs I Have Known
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1. The Dog I Have Never Owned
It is said that dogs are good. People with dogs live longer, are happier and are less likely to have their homes burglarized.
I have never owned a dog. This is in part because I am afraid of them but also because I do not want to take care of them. My daughter would love a dog, but I will never buy her one.
So I guess you know what kind of person I am. [End Page 9]
2. One Dog’s Neighborhood
The dog has his memories, a street where trees don’t grow very tall. South Milwaukee. Small houses with complicated roof lines: dormers, additions, awnings and porches; an air conditioner punched out a window like a Pez in mid-dispense.
Gutters sag, downspouts dangle, shingles grow moss. Inside, staircases with hairpin curves, dining rooms with old built-ins, upstairs bedrooms with slanted ceilings, tiny closets shaped like mathematics problems.
One scrubbed kitchen smells from years of meat, a century of congealed gravy, coffee grounds, pill canisters. A candy thermometer has fallen between the stove and the cupboard, visible with a flashlight but essentially lost forever. The backyard, exactly one-tenth the size of a football field, with the white Virgin Mary statue on a pile of stones at the twenty-yard line. The dog lived and barked and dished here, between white picket fences, his own classic wooden doghouse back-to-back with the garage.
Next door, a corner tavern, also like a house, with the bar on the first floor and a family—my family—upstairs. Big square Pabst Blue Ribbon sign lit from within. A block over the parish school, made of the same rusty bricks as the foundry four streets away. Wedged into the complex like a gymnasium is a church whose beauty will surprise you. Then there’s the gymnasium itself, with its accordion bleachers and retractable basketball hoops.
The dog was a nipper, yet loved by all. At first communions he was always invited into the picture, sitting on his haunches by the girl in her white dress or the boy in his little suit. The closeness of the pair gave the impression of a wedding couple on planet Child. I have such a Polaroid of Max, the dog, with Ginnie Lee, my first love.
Outside, the marquee reads: Divine Mercy Catholic Parish. Excellence in Academics. Den of the Wildcats.
3. Mike and Peggy’s Dog
The closest I have come to being mauled and killed by a dog was at a Thanksgiving party thrown by my brother-in-law and his new wife.
It was a strange time for me. I had been experiencing a high level of conflict in the workplace. Even among other lawyers, my conversational style was deemed “excessively argumentative.” The firm had been making more of an effort to retain female attorneys, and it was felt that we needed to keep it down [End Page 10] and respect each other and save our relentlessness for the courtroom and other venues where verbal sparring was the mode and expectation.
There was a particular set-to I had in a break room with a female colleague who was advocating, to my view, a manifestly losing strategy in a case she and I were on together. The problem occurred when she did not see something I felt was obviously apparent and true—and still think is obviously apparent and true. But she would not see it, and my voice rose and rose, and neither of us could stop. The managing partner personally escorted me to a conference room in HR, where I was debriefed about my behavior, which was apparently part of a pattern. I was found at fault and put on probation, and the decision about whether I would be a partner was postponed.
My wife, Beth, did not appreciate this development, as she had convinced herself that my finally making partner would work a miraculous change for the better in the harried life we were leading in our three-story...