Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bert the Dog

“Bert, sit.” But Bert doesn’t sit. He doesn’t so much as blink.

“Bert! Sit.” He stares straight ahead, straight at my roast beef and turkey sandwich: lettuce, tomato, and a bit of Dijon. This sandwich is a creation. A majestic thing of beauty, this sandwich is important to me. At this particular point in time, the sandwich completes me. And Bert wants this sandwich even more than I. My admiration for this sandwich is eclipsed by Bert’s intense desire to consume the thing entirely, to assault the meat and bread and roughage. To put is simply, Bert wants my sammy’, badly.

I should introduce our players. I am Nick. I like to read, skateboard, snowboard, and when the weekend (and vodka) strikes me just right, I like to freestyle rap battle myself. Any time spent with Bert is always spent well. Bert is yellow. Bert is old and grumpy, and stubborn as a stump. Bert is my dog, one of two, and he does not do tricks. Occasionally, he will begrudgingly lower himself to entertain those that dispense the food. This willful disgrace is in the name of eating, as are most of Bert’s actions. Bert is seven years old, and beginning to gray sourly and boldly; think Jack Nicholson. Bert is usually quiet and distant, only exciting himself at the sound of a car parking in front of the house or the words walk, drive, or dog food.

Bert may seem a strange name for a dog, but anyone that knows him will you assure, he’s a Bert. His tags say Dyllan, but calling him Dyllan would be like going to the bar and asking for a cola with ice and a fine Tennessee mash whiskey. Jack and Coke isn’t just easier, that’s what it’s called. Bert is not only shorter than Dyllan, that’s just his name. The tags on our other dog, Stinky, say Jessy. Again, the name Jessy is merely a formality, reserved dinner conversations with extended family and Christmas cards. Bert and Stinky make a fine couple, separated by four years. The younger pesters the older, the older occasionally molests the younger, despite strict scolding from both recipient of and spectators to his dogged advances.

His entire life, Bert has been absolutely fixated with food. Food is to Bert as flight is to an ostrich: a constant itch, a ceaseless desire only occasionally and briefly satiated by intense, voracious bursts of feeding and flying, respectively. Nightly, Bert will watch each member of the family, for a few minutes at a time, one by one, eating dinner. When the food just smells too good (it must be torturous to have a nose so large, the sense of smell so maddeningly intense and powerful) and the dog food just didn’t quite do it for him, Bert will bark. Barking, for Bert, is not just making noise. His din is calculated and strategic. He particularly fancies a loud, booming bark just as one is about to eat a spoon or forkful. It has happened before that the sudden shock sent a piece of steak or sautéed chicken breast tumbling to the floor. These times are Bert’s best; but his hunger, imagined or real, overcomes his desire for taste satisfaction. He rarely chews any kind of food other than dog. If it’s small enough, Bert will tilt his head back open wide, and seemingly inhale large bites of food.

Bert is an excellent dog. He may not be particularly obedient or active. He may play an extremely slow and one-sided game of catch. He may even sometimes take shoes outside without any particularly obvious rationale. But Bert is a hell of a dog, and I love the old jerk.

“Bert sit.” The yellow beast lunges forward, teeth an inch long flying towards the bread, meat, salad, and hand. But I’m too fast for old Bert. I sit down for a nice meal and Bert watches and waits, patiently.

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