Photo by Stuart Warner

“Aussie, I want you to stop growling at Otto.”

“Otto’s a big dog, he can take care of himself. Besides, all he does all day is  sniff me.”

“That’s how you dogs meet each other and get all that information, Aussie: your gender, your age, whether you’re a potential mama, whether you’re healthy, what you ate for dinner last night. Who you vote for.”

“I sure love watching the Republican Convention. Can hardly wait for Big Boss to show up and tell you what’s what.”

“I thought I was Boss, Aussie.”

“He’s Big Boss, Boss. The greatest of Bosses. Otto wouldn’t dare sniff him. Trouble with Otto is, he doesn’t get the message. He wants another meeting, and another meeting, and another meeting, all with my butt. So I growl and he doesn’t listen. I growl and he doesn’t listen. So I curl my lip, and then I jump him.”

“You shouldn’t take things so personally, Aussie. This is all about miscommunication.”

“I communicate plenty.”

“You think you do, Auss. Let me tell you a story. When I flew home to be with you again—”

“You should have left me with Tim!”

“—I sat near a beautiful Nigerian doctor. She was tall and strong, I was awestruck by her. But she seemed reserved to me and hardly made eye contact, so I thought she didn’t want to talk. An hour before we landed, I complimented her on her elegant red shoes, and she smiled like the sun. We started talking easily and naturally, like we were best friends. At the end she said she wished we’d started to talk earlier—we’d spent a long night together on that plane—so I told her that the way I read her, it looked to me as if she wanted to be left alone. And she said: ‘Really? I thought the same about you. You’re an old woman so I have respect, I didn’t want to bother you.’ Isn’t that interesting, Aussie?”

“What, pray tell, has this got to do with Otto and me?”

“We’re all so different from each other, Aussie, so when we read each other’s body language it’s easy to make mistakes. And of course, she called me an old woman.”

“You are an old woman! You’re ancient.”

“I’m 70, Auss. The point is, in her culture, calling a woman like me old woman is a mark of respect. Here in the West, if somebody calls me an old woman, I belt him”.

“You shouldn’t take things so personally, Boss. It’s miscommunication. Speaking of which, just look at Ziggy, Remy, Martha, and the rest of these young dogs. I arrive and they come in a mob to greet me, giving me no space. They surround me, ram into me, jump me, and chase each other around me like a bunch of hoodlums. And they sniff, and they sniff, and they sniff even though I tell them as nicely as I can to get the fuck outta here. But do they listen? No. They sniff and they sniff and they—”

“So you growl–”

“You bet I growl!”

“–and I have to intervene, warn you not to curl your lips before throwing Walker or Ziggy on the ground, causing shame on our entire household. You know, Aussie, when Harry used to run into that kind of situation, he would just walk away. He never growled, he never jumped anybody, never got into trouble, he’d just walk away.”

“Not me, Boss, I teach them a lesson. How are they going to learn if nobody teaches them anything?”

“Oh Aussie, teaching is actually a humbling business. What you think you know you really don’t know.”

“Stop bragging. By now you know something.”

“Like what, Aussie?”

“You know not to bug me if I’m sleeping. When you come downstairs in the morning you peer into the office to check up on me sleeping on the futon. If I shake my tail you know it’s okay to come and stroke me, otherwise—”

“Stay away. You’re right, I know that. I’m lonely sometimes, Aussie, especially in the mornings.”

“What’s lonely?”

“I think, Aussie, that you felt a little lonely after Harry left.”

“I loved it.”

“You know what the poet David Whyte says about loneliness, Auss? ‘Loneliness is the very state that births the courage to continue calling . . . the far horizon that answers back.’ What do you think of that?”

“What’s a poet, Boss?”