My Casey, who fancies himself a rodent slayer, is not what you could call a dog of letters. I can count all the words he understands without using all my fingers. If he could tell a story, it would be about smells, from the pee pentimento on a tree trunk to the rank allure of a squashed pigeon, not to mention the galaxy of scents beyond my paltry human receptors.
But imagining is what writers do, and as one who loves her dog I like to picture the writer he’d be. All enthusiasm, no talent. Been chasing bylines since he was a pup (fitfully, mind you: a fellow has to sleep and he shines at that). Equates volume with voice. You should hear him howl but where’s the nuance? The editor who gets him doesn’t exist, and he’s not getting any younger. He’d have better luck with a geezer’s pursuit. Shuffleboard, maybe. Building model trains in the basement. His name is Casey Jones. How perfect is that for a basement engineer?
The community paper declined his pitch for a yard sale report (no pay but think of the exposure). Still, his pals don’t have the heart to tell him the truth. “You’re a fun guy, Casey. We love you, honest, we do. But if this writer thing was meant to be, don’t you think it would have happened by now?”
The canine Casey, a raffish beagle mix, is almost 10, well into the senior zone. Still leaps at squirrels, oblivious to the leash. We shouldn’t let him jump, says our vet. Bad for his arthritis. You know what they say about old dogs and tricks. Casey has one trick, catching a banana chunk in mid-air. If this hunter thing was meant to be, you’d think it would have happened by now.
He’s had his share of chances, after all. So what if home is an eighth-floor condo in the heart of downtown Toronto? When we can’t take him with us on our travels, we send him to his favorite place on earth, a farm where he runs free, chasing critters. Visit after visit passed without a kill.
The last time his pal Whitney brought him back from her farm, he made his usual attempt to jump back in her van. So it goes, a dog intent on his destiny. Except this time there was news. Said Whitney with a mentor’s pride in a slow but eager learner, “Casey killed a mole.”
O me of little faith.
On the literary scale of canine kills, a squirrel equates to a byline in The New Yorker. A mole is a one-graf note in the community paper. Moles do not dart and can barely see. All a murderous dog has to do is pry one out of its burrow. But hunters, like writers, have to start somewhere. Maybe Casey will work his way up to a possum.
As Whitney tells it, success baffled Casey, but only for a minute. Then he did the doggish thing and ate the mole. Good boy, Casey. You did it!
I feel an imaginative leap coming on. If I were writing like Casey on patrol (we humans call it a walk), what joy I’d bring to every word. I wouldn’t ask, “Where is the editor who’ll get me?” Wouldn’t think for a second, “Nobody cares about this.” My own caring would thrum in every cell of my being. Higher and higher I’ll jump on the leash known as mortality. It might as well not exist.