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DOGS' LIVES / Michael Bishop All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog. —Franz Kafka, "Investigations of a Dog" I AM TWENTY-SEVEN: Three weeks ago a black Great Dane stalked into my classroom as I was passing out theme topics. My students turned about to look. One of the freshman wits made an inane remark, which I immediately topped: "That may be the biggest dog I've ever seen." Memorable retort. Two of my students sniggered. I ushered the Great Dane into the hall. As I held its collar and maneuvered it out of English 102 (surely it was looking for the foreign language department), the dog's power and aloofness somehow coursed up my arm. Nevertheless, it permitted me to release it onto the north campus. Sinews, flanks, head. What a magnificent animal. It loped up the winter hillock outside Park Hall without looking back. Thinking on its beauty and self-possession, I returned to my classroom. And closed the door. TWENTY-SEVEN, AND HOLDING: AU of this is true. The incident of the Great Dane has not been out of my thoughts since it happened. There is no door in my mind to close on the image of that enigmatic animal. It stalks into and out of my head whenever it wishes. As a result, I have begun to remember some painful things about dogs and my relationships with them. The memories are accompanied by premonitions. In fact, sometimes /—my secret self—go inside the Great Dane's head and look through its eyes at tomorrow, or yesterday. Every bit of what I remember, every bit of what I foresee, throws light on my ties with both humankind and dogdom. Along with my wife, my fifteen-month-old son, and a ragged miniature poodle, I live in Athens, Georgia, in a rented house that was built before World War I. We have lived here seven months. In the summer we had bats. Twice I knocked the invaders out of the air with a broom and bludgeoned them to death against the dining-room floor. Now that it is winter the bats hibernate in the eaves, warmer than we are in our beds. The furnace runs all day and all night because, I suppose, no one had heard of insulation in 1910 and our fireplaces are all blocked up to keep out the bats. At night I dream about flying into the center of the sun on the back of a winged Great Dane. The Missouri Review · 33 I AM EIGHT: Van Luna, Kansas. It is winter. At four o'clock in the morning a hand leads me down the cold concrete steps in the darkness of our garage. Against the wall, between a stack of automobile tires and a dismantled Ping-Pong table, a pallet of rags on which the new puppies lie. Everything smells of dogflesh and gasoline. Outside the wind whips about frenetically, rattling the garage door. In robe and slippers I bend down to look at the furred-over lumps that huddle against one another on their rag pile. Frisky, their mother, regards me with suspicion. Adult hands have pulled her aside. Adult hands hold her back. "Pick one up," a disembodied adult voice commands me. I comply. The puppy, almost shapeless, shivers in my hands, threatens to slide out of them onto the concrete. I press my cheek against the lump of fur and let its warm, faintly fecal odor slip into my memory. I have smelled this smell before. "Where are its eyes?" "Don't worry, punkin," the adult voice says. "It has eyes. They just haven't opened yet." The voice belongs to my mother. My parents have been divorced for three years. I AM FIVE: Our ship docks while it is snowing. We live in Tokyo, Japan: Mommy, Daddy, and I. Daddy comes home in a uniform that scratches my face when I grab his trouser leg. Government housing is where we live. On the lawn in the big yard between the houses I grab Daddy and ride his leg up to our front door. I am wearing a cowboy hat and empty holsters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 33-48
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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