After such a long and stressful week, I think we all need a good fluff piece. No, not in the porno fluffer sense, but rather like news stories about Doris turning 100 years old, the blind boy who paints beautiful pictures, or the cat fashion show covered by Veronica Corningstone. So, if you came looking for something scathing, disgusting, or somewhat incendiary, turn away now unless you happen to be incensed by the sweetest dog in the entire world.
This is Fergus.
Fergus first came into my life about nine years ago when my dad was working for a German shepherd rescue. He was a young stray that they had found in the woods between Kenosha and the Illinois border. Unlike most of the dogs that we took in and fostered, Fergus would not terrorize my sock and underwear drawer or try to knock me over. Something felt special about him, so I went and appealed to my mom and stepfather, hoping that they would want to adopt Fergus, changing their canine-less home. Meeting him, Mom felt it, too. Steppy the Step Dad resisted, but eventually yielded. Thus, Fergus was adopted into our family.
Perhaps Fergus sensed Steppy’s reluctance or maybe he just didn’t like tall men. Either way, Fergus demonstrated equal reluctance to give Steppy his affections or attention. This didn’t last long. One cold day, right after we got him, Steppy took Fergus out onto the frozen lake where other dogs were playing. Oblivious, our Fergus walked too close to the mouth of the river where he fell through thin ice. The more he scrambled, the more wet the surrounding ice became, making it harder to pull himself up without slipping. Heroically, Steppy crawled on his belly to the open water where he pulled Fergus up. Icicles forming on his fur, Fergus leaned against Steppy for the entire walk home. They’ve been best friends ever since.
I once got in an argument with my anthropology professor about anthropomorphism (projecting human characteristics onto something non-human). He said that we anthropomorphize our pets. I told him that my dog IS a person. Here was my evidence.
1. Fergus hates the chicken dance. Just humming the tune makes him go nuts. God forbid that you flap your wings. This demonstrates that he has good tastes and is not tacky.
2. He is easily slighted.
A. Once when the fur on his back legs was shedding, my parents called him “sheep butt.” Fergus stood up, left their room, and wouldn’t come back no matter how many times they called him (he is normally very obedient).
B. Accidentally, my mother had locked him in the back hall. Coming home after running our errands, we had no idea where he was until we heard his rare bark emitting from the back door. Opening it, Fergus rushed in and, not only would he not go anywhere near my mother, but he tried to make her jealous by happily nuzzling Steppy and I.
3. Whenever he sees my dad, he gets so excited and howls in gratitude. He remembers how my dad saved him.
4. He has a full HUMAN name. It is Fergus Bocephus O’Shanahan. He used to be a news reporter and spoke like a film noir character. For example, he might say, “I don’t know who you think that you can bully, cause I’m Fergus O’Shanahan, see!”
Then the professor told me that I was REALLY projecting.
My Fergus is getting long in the tooth. Physically, he’s in great shape, but mentally he’s starting to behave like that old lady in The Notebook, only he is actually interesting. He gets neurotic about smoke detectors, will whine looking at the air, and will sniff the same spot for ages. Last weekend, something in the house was beeping and he pressed against my leg, his entire body shaking. I thought that he was dying and responded in the way I do everything these days, by starting to cry. When I realized that he was just scared, I cried more… and out of frustration.
If you ever get a chance, set up a meeting with Mr. Fergus. He can tell you about his old reporting days and “the cruelest dame” he’s ever met. He will also want to sing with you, as howling is his favorite activity. He may be convinced that you want his toy ball more than anything in the world. You probably do.
Back to you in the newsroom, Ron.