#3 – The Strategic Shrub

While pulling the weeds and tufts of grass that have sprouted up on Fleegle’s grave, Franny ambles up behind me and says, “Let me help you with that.”

She chomps down on some grass and starts chewing. As she glances up at me, she smiles and says, “I like how helping you involves eating.”

I chuckle. “It’s funny how that is so often the case.”

“ I know, right?” She takes another mouthful of grass. “Do you still miss him?”

“Fleegle? I do, but a strange thing happened a while back that helped. I was out here on my own, sitting next to his grave and quietly crying and missing him, when a voice inside my head told me it was time to stop grieving and to spend that energy on you, Huck and Hamish.”

“Whose voice?” she asks.

“I don’t know, but it wasn’t mine.”

Hearing his name, Hamish emerges from the nearest clump of bamboo, lifts his leg on a struggling shrub that is a favorite of the boys for scent marking. Somehow in dog logic, scent marking this particular shrub leads to controlling this half of the yard. When he finishes, he sits down and tilts his head at me.

“What is it?” I ask him.

He jerks his chin at Huckleberry across the yard sniffing his way through a pile of leaves in search of his ball. “Was Fleegle chocolate like the ball junkie over there?”

“Did someone ask about my ball?” Huckleberry shouts, his head popping out from the leaf pile. “Yep, found it!” He trots over with it and tosses it onto the grave.

“Yes,” I answer Hamish. “They look a lot alike.”

“That explains it,” Hamish says. “Sometimes I see Huckleberry outside peeing on my shrubs, but when I get up to reclaim the shrubs, I realize he’s lying there right next to me.”

Franny looks at Hamish and Huckleberry, then through a mouthful of grass, she says, “That’s just Saint Fleegle doing the rounds. He was here before you two and was already here when I got here. A better friend you couldn’t have, but you two are getting there.“ She finishes her grass, then quickly darts toward Huckleberry, snatches up his ball and runs off.

Huck’s eyes go wide. “Hey, that’s mine,” he says and chases after her.

Hamish is right beside him, trying to grab his flank in his mouth. “Boy, I love it when he runs. No one runs like Ball Breath Huck.”

The three of them disappear into the bamboo, their play barks and growls filling the air. I return to pulling the weeds on the grave, when out of the corner of my eye, I see Saint Fleegle lift his leg on the struggling shrub that was Hamish’s most recent scent buoy. He gives an upward nod of his chin at me and vanishes until his next visit.

#2 – Sniffles and Sighs

I’m sitting outside on the patio in the sun. It’s not officially spring, but it’s beginning to feel like it. The sun’s warmth melts my legs like butter. I look up at the pale blue sky, taking it all in, then close my eyes, feeling the brightness through my lids. I wonder if I had double lidded eyelids like a dog if it would block out the brightness. I’ve wondered this since I was a child and first learned of the double lidded eyelid. It would explain a lot of the daytime napping.

The rest of my body melts, joining the pool of butter around my chair, as I let out a long sigh. The birds chirp away as they hang out in the bamboo that runs along the border of the backyard, blocking out the neighbors and the outside world. In the background of my mellow mood, four-legged footfalls approach from inside the house and join me outside on the patio.

“Raud?” Hamish’s soft voice says.

“Yes?” I say, opening my eyes and looking at his soft brown eyes surrounded in reddish brown fur.

“I thought I heard you sniffle so I brought you a tissue.”

In his mouth is the leading edge of a roll of toilet paper that unspools behind him, across the patio into the kitchen, and probably all the way back through the house to the toilet paper holder mounted in the bathroom wall.

“That’s very kind of you, Hamish. Thank you.”

#1 – My Three Best Friends

“No, Huckleberry, I don’t want to play ball right now,” I say to my chocolate Lab as he drops his tennis ball at my feet for the fifth time. He picks up the ball and tosses it at my feet again.

“But why not?” he asks. “We’re outside and it’s not raining and I found a ball to play with.”

“Because I’m trying to write.”

“You can write with one hand and throw the ball with the other. I thought you wobbly ones prided yourselves on your ability to multitask.” He picks up the ball in his mouth and tosses it in my lap. It rolls across my notepad, leaving a slug trail of dog spit that I’ll have to write around like driving around an oily spot on the road. He backs up a few feet, his stare oscillating between me and the ball as his Jedi mind powers kick in.

I give in, pick up the ball with my left hand, while still holding my pen in my right, and toss it across the yard, doing just what he told me to do.

Huckleberry bolts after it. “Oh, boy! Oh, boy!” he slobbers as he chases.

Franny, my yellow Lab, ambles over to my patio chair for a back scratch, debris from a chewed stick stuck to her lips. “You’re lucky he’s the only one of us with the ball obsession.”

Without thinking, my hand goes to the spot on her back just forward of her tail and begins scratching.

“A little to the left, please,” she says and shifts her back to accommodate.

As I run my fingers through her thick fur, Hamish appears on the other side of my chair and presses his cheek against my chest. “Can I have a hug, Raud? I could really use a hug.”

I set my notepad down on the little side table, my pen on top of the pad, and gave him a hug with one arm while scratching Franny’s rump with the other, then I feel the ball land on my foot.

“Look, Raud, I brought you the ball. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?”

“It sure is, big guy,” I say, and then remember a bag of chew toys arrived in the mail yesterday. Everyone loves a good chew toy, and I love it when they love it, especially when they love it enough to let me get some writing done.

The Dog That Talked – Episode One – Mayonnaise & Tuna

It’s Monday. I sit on a park bench across from the restaurant where the guy I’m following has gone inside for lunch. I sink my teeth into my sandwich, a foot-long Italian I got at the corner deli, when a mellow, slightly slurred voice says from behind me, “That sure is a big sandwich, one of the biggest I’ve seen yet.”

Portland has a transient problem. Following my guy through the Southwest Park Blocks was a begathon of the homeless asking for spare change, but not my dimes and quarters. One got snarky when I offered him that. He wanted nothing less than a fiver.

I don’t normally spend my afternoons following people, but I got a call last night from an old girlfriend I hadn’t spoken to since I shot the photos for her wedding. As Eva and I small-talked on the phone, I did the math. It had been seven years since their wedding and the title of that old Billy Wilder movie, The Seven Year Itch, popped into my head.

I’ve never been very good at the long-term relationship thing. I must have ADD when it comes to relationships. How do people do it? How do they keep it interesting? After years together don’t they wonder what it would be like to be with someone else? Or considering how much we base our identity on who we are with, do they ever daydream of being someone else? Seven years seems to be as good a time for that as any. But for me and my attention span, seven years would be poison ivy from hell.

Eva was calling about her husband, Stan. She was worried about him. “Call it what you will, women’s intuition, but I know something is up with him. He’s acting odd. He’s not himself. I think he’s up to something.” She still had that soft voice I remembered from our time together that sounded kind even when she was voicing her suspicions, a trait I don’t remember her having. I guess people change.

“And you think he’s stepping out on you?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I appreciate the chance to catch up, Eva, but why call me with this? Isn’t this what you talk about with a girlfriend?”

“Actually, I’ve hashed it out a lot.” She cleared her throat, paused for a moment, then rushed on. “It’s like this. I could ask Stan to his face and he’d deny anything and everything. You never got to know him but that’s how he is, at least that’s how he is now, not so much back when we married. I need proof that he’s stepping out. Hard proof. That or to know what’s making him act weird. And then I thought of you. You’re handy with a camera, you can get me that proof. I can put it in his face and say, hey, what’s up with this?”

I had learned to keep my nose out of other people’s business. “It sounds cheesy but wouldn’t a private investigator be better suited for this? Someone with experience?”

“A stranger? Ugh.” She pauses and I picture her scrunching up her face in distaste. “Look, Dixon, you and I haven’t kept in touch but we remained friends after we dated and I always respected your honesty.”

I laughed. “Not everyone feels that way.”

“That’s their loss. I’m not asking you for a freebie. I can pay you. Come on, what else do you have going during the week? It’s not like a lot of people get married on a Monday or Tuesday and need a photographer.”

She had a point; business had been slow. Not a lot of Millennials were getting married so they could start a family in their parents’ basement. Besides, being asked to look into someone’s personal business was different than just sticking my nose in it. “What do you want me to do exactly?”

“Just follow him around and take some photos if gets up to anything, especially during and after lunch. If he’s up to anything it’s then.”

“Why do you say that?”

“His phone habits. He’s hard to reach during that time, he never picks up, and it’s a while before he calls back. Plus, he’s around someone with a cat. I’ve seen the hair on his clothes. I know lots of women with cats but very few men.”

My imagination ran with the intimate details of their failing marriage. We settled on a daily rate, she gave me the pertinent info on where they lived and where Stan worked, and I told her I’d get back to her.

*   *   *

I can see Stan through the restaurant window as I chew my sandwich.

“That mayonnaise sure does smell good,” the guy behind me slurs.

I don’t turn around to look. Acknowledging him will just encourage him to hang around. His slurred speech paints enough of a mental picture of who is behind me and where this is going. I don’t want to see him and endanger my appetite. Though it’s curious the drunk has asked about my sandwich because they usually just want cash to buy more fortified wine. Who eats when they can get juiced?

The drunk slurps as he smacks his lips. “Are you going to eat all of it? That’s a lot of sandwich, even for a big guy like you.” Continue reading “The Dog That Talked – Episode One – Mayonnaise & Tuna”

Feeding Hollywood

While on the couch watching a Battlestar Galactica rerun, Fleegle asks, “So the people on television are not who they say they are?”

“No, they’re actors,” I say. “They’re reading lines they’ve memorized that were made up by the writers about imaginary people.”

“Does that mean if I become an actor I’ll get to fly a spaceship? I want to fly a spaceship.”

“No, they’re sitting in front of a green screen when this is shot. Someone else puts the spaceship around them later.”

“So they’re just sitting there in a couple of vinyl recliners like you and me while someone else does all of the imagining for them?”

“Well, they do read the lines,” I say.

“And they make facial expressions,” Franny says from her end of the couch. “Those two look really skinny, I bet they’re super hungry. Maybe the writers should’ve written something into the script about binging on space food. It might be the only way to get the actors to eat. I bet the writers do all of their writing in their kitchen within an arm’s length of their fridge.”

“Why do you think that?” Fleegle asks.

“Well, are you thinking about sharing when you have a mouthful of food? I don’t think so. I think these writers just don’t want to share any of their food with their characters so they starve them.”

Fleegle gets off the couch and sniffs the actors on the television screen. “They don’t smell so good. Raud, I think they need our help. Why don’t we move the television into the kitchen and try to feed them.”

Franny wags her tail. “Yeah, you could put the television on top of the refrigerator and you could throw food at their mouths when they’re talking. Some of it is bound to get in.”

I shake my head. “The couch goes wherever the TV goes and it won’t fit in the kitchen.”

“Ah yes,” Fleegle says, “but the fridge will fit in the living room.”

“Yeah, right next to the couch. And you’d only have to move one thing that way instead of two,” Franny says and jerks her chin at the screen. “Look at her skinny arms. Do you think she ate at all last week? At the rate she’s wasting away, she may not be around for next week’s episode.”

Fleegle struts in front of the couch. “We need to move on this fast, Raud, and start throwing food at her. She’s my favorite character.”

“Is that so. Then what’s her name?”

“Um… The hungry one?”

I get up from the couch. “Okay, but she’s only getting popcorn. We don’t want to overfeed her. She might go into shock from too many calories.”

Fleegle tilts his head at me. “But that’s popcorn with melted butter, right?”

“And salt,” Franny adds.

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Therapy

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy


Out in the yard while doing waste cleanup, I spot Fleegle chomping on something. “Fleegle, what are you eating?”

He looks up at me and continues to chew. “Well, a few days ago it was Franny’s kibble with a few biscuits mixed in for tricks well done.”

“What do you mean ‘a few days ago’?”

“Raud, you’re usually quicker than this. What I mean by ‘a few days ago’ is that now, today, sitting on the lawn, duh, it’s poop.”

“Fleegle, don’t you eat that.”

“Just because it doesn’t look like kibble and biscuits anymore doesn’t mean it isn’t. It still is, but with Franny’s personal stamp on it. I could say that about half the things you eat.”

“I don’t eat poop.”

“How would you know you? You haven’t smelled your food like I have. Remember that my nose is so sensitive I can smell a mouse fart under the house. It’s not like Snickers or whoever are going to be honest about the ingredients in your candy bar and actually put rat droppings on the ingredient list.”

*   *   *

Fleegle and I get in the car.

“Why isn’t Franny coming with us?” Fleegle asks.

“Because she doesn’t need therapy.”

“You’re getting therapy? That’s good, Raud. I’ve thought you could use some of that for a long time. What kind of therapy are you getting? My favorite is massage therapy.”

“Not me, you.”

“I’m getting massage therapy? Oh goody.”

“No, you’re getting psychological therapy.”

“They have those kind of therapists for dogs?”

“Well, sort of. I found the next closest thing.”

“Why do I need therapy and not you and Franny? If anyone needs therapy it’s the two of you. Maybe this is a case of displacement and you’re taking me to therapy because deep down you know you’re the one who needs it most?”

“I’m not the one eating poop.”

“You’re taking me to a poop therapist?”

“No, I’m taking you to a therapist for eating poop.”

“Why? Does the therapist like to eat poop too?”

*   *   *

We pull into the mini-mall parking lot and find a space close to the building, a single story affair with a row of office fronts.

When I open my door, Fleegle says, “This place smells wonderful. Are you sure this isn’t a poop therapist? That sign in the window is offering two for one coffee enemas until inauguration day.”

There is indeed a sign offering that in the window next to a door labeled, Colon Hydrotherapy. Only in Portland, I think and point to the door next to it. “We’re going in that one. The one that reads animal psychic.”

“The one with the neon tarot card in the window?”

Feeling ridiculous as I get out of the car, I say, “Yes.”

“So the poop therapist, with a freshly caffeinated colon, is a psychic who’s going to predict my future?”

“I want to know if you’re acting out your mommy issues by eating poop.”

“You mean I eat poop because of something in a past life?”

I turn and look at Fleegle. “This is pretty stupid, eh?”

“Maybe you should consult your higher self, but I predict the psychic will forecast poop in the future.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because there is poop in everyone’s future, even the psychic’s. Poop is the backside of life, it’s what gives the universe balance to that burrito joint we passed down the street on the way here. You know, they have a two for one burrito special going on too. Maybe after this we could stop there for lunch on the way home.” He jumps out of the car. “And get one to go for Franny so I can have burritos again in a few days.”

Next Bartering with Biscuits – Feeding Hollywood

Previous Bartering with Biscuits – Pickled

First Bartering with Biscuits – The Puppy