Thursday, May 18, 2006

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

I was replenishing the household supply of beer this afternoon ... I don't know if you've ever had beer, but it's quite refreshing on days such as these--that take place between the hours of twelve and twelve; that are good, bad, or indifferent, wherein, at any rate, an exhausting amount of breathing has taken place ... Anyways, there I was in the beer store making my purchase, and I noticed near me--patiently cooling his graying keister upon the linoleum floor--a dog of advanced years, middle size, and (in spite of his ambiguous lineage) a distinct nobility of bearing. He had an air of quiet resignation about him, but that could not, I observed, entirely disguise something of the soldier's roguish glint in his great black eyes (that were running only a little, though the air in Toronto is still treacherously pollinated). His master was nearby and, you got the impression, could never be more than seven or eight yards from him at any time. So he was a fine fellow if ever I saw one and, I fancy, I wasn't the only person present to suggest to him with a wink that: "There's a boy! O-ho-ho!"

And, indeed, I wasn't the only one--though not in so many words. Seized by inspiration (or recollection I guess it would have to have been--but he was definitely seized by it as it was preceded by a distractingly shrill "Oh!") one of the cash men dodged into the bottle-room--I thought, at first, to fetch my consignment-- reappearing moments later with a big, I admit, delicious looking milkbone, but that wasn't for me. All smiles, he proffered it to the pooch.

But the dog was non-plussed. Indeed, he found the cashier's wrist a great deal more interesting, and snuffled it with the expert passes of a police drug-sniffing dog. (What the hell did the boy have on his wrists?) He barely acknowledged the treat; certainly did not eat it. I remarked to the youth that this was the first time I'd ever seen such a thing: a dog turning his nose up at the offer of free eats. We stared perplexedly at him, and he back at us.

But master was soon by--fresh from selecting his week's supply from the big board of beer brands that adorns the wall of any self-respecting beer store--to clarify matters by way of demonstration. He took the milkbone from the cashier, grunted familiarly at the dog (who blinked back at him in recognition), then chucked the biscuit to the other side of the store. Sure enough, Spot rocketed after the thing and made as short work of it as his aging teeth would allow. Indeed, such was his commitment to the thing now that, as I was on my way out, he snapped jealously at me--mid-mouthful--as I attempted chummily to stroke his head.

I must admit that I'm of a wildly different temperament from such as Spot. He's one of those journey-over-destination types-- whereas for me, the journey can go hang so long as I still get a large, beef-flavoured milkbone out of it (and if you've got the box in the back heft it out because, likely, I'm still hungry). Many, of course, accuse me of not having the proper adventurous or romantic spirit. But, I think, my attitude is the product of a properly adjusted philosophical temperament--and one, then, that is correct. For it is too often the case these days that men (and dogs) are in the habit of confusing ends with means. Indeed, this dog's apparent dependency on a "journey"--not just so that he could appreciate the reward, but that he could actually recognize it as such--strikes me as rather a dangerous one; one imagines that should his master ever suffer some sort of arm injury the dog would die of starvation not having anyone to fling his dinner across the room first.

A.H. Clough, as ever, rises to my occasion:

As I sat at the café, I said to myself,
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
They may sneer as they like about eating and drinking,
But help it I cannot, I cannot help thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.

I sit at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I have done, throw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one's self, of good living,
But also the pleasure of now and then giving.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money ...