Naples:life,death & Miraclecontact: Jeff Matthews


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Number 49 in this series. Link to all items here.

Dog Sitting

Sorrento is sublime. What follows is Sorrento, the ridiculous. What happened to me shouldn't happen to a dog, except that it did, and he didn't seem to mind—or, really, even be aware that anything untoward had happened at all. 

Only those who are not dog owners—as I am not—are in a position to know the truth about the little darlings. There are things that dog owners—such as my dear friends in Sorrento—never learn. For example, when they tell you, "Oh, he understands everything you say," they really believe that nonsense. Now, in spite of the debate over the language abilities of certain other mammals, most dogs—and especially my friend's dog, Phaideaux (not his real name)—haven't got the language centers in the brain known as Broca's area and Wernicke's area. In fact, they have no areas at all, and in super fact, in the case of my friend's dog, no brain at all—maybe just a doggie dendrite or two dangling around at the top of the spine that causes tail and tongue to go into warp drive at the merest hint of life's two greatest pleasures, food and elimination. The latter will, for purposes of this genteel discussion, be referred to as "going walkies". In short, Phaideax wouldn't know a verb if one started conjugating itself in public. 

Oh, Phai knows when it's time for "walkies," all right. The mere sight of his leash in a human paw is a signal to go orbital. First, however, comes the overture to orbital, generally termed "barking". These are not pwayful widdle woofs, mind you—this is "Dogzilla Triumphant," a great staccato carnivore of sound ripping chunks out of your central nervous system. Then come the gymnastics: running around in circles, then back and forth over the sofa a few times, and finally an impressive series of vertical leaps calculated to sway that judge on the end who has been giving the best scores all day to that German Shepherd. Impressive, indeed, if one is in the mood for true hot-dogs. 

But I wasn't. I just agreed to dog-sit. I got the long list of instructions regarding feeding time, "walkies" time, etc. etc. Well, actually, not etc. etc., for as I said, Phaideaux does just two things. For you Aristotelians who wish a more formal statement in the terms of symbolic logic (remembering, of course, that hypothetical and disjunctive premises may combine to yield a categorical conclusion): Let Phai represent that class of dogs and only those dogs who do nothing but eat and go "walkies"; thus if p then r, and if q then r, but either p or q; therefore…hold on…it occurs to me that I don't know what I'm talking about. That's ok, that stinking mutt knows enough about Aristotle for all of us.) 

Anyway, on the morning of the disaster I am still in charge—top dog, as it were. I wield absolute power over this mutt. When I say jump, he jumps. Of course, even if I don't say jump, he jumps, but that is neither here nor there, although, possibly, it may be somewhere else. 

Now, however, the dog thickens. Somehow, in the course of a few days, Phai has taught himself to go "over the wall". There is a gate across the stairway leading to the wide open spaces. It is of the kind that foils even intelligent human children. Even four-year old Leonardo da Vinci was stymied by one just like it. Not Phai. He approaches the gate, where he usually stops and gives a kind of forlorn doggie sigh before heading back in for a rematch with the supper dish. This time, however, he nudges the gate hard enough against the restraining strap to create a small gap between wall and gate and is off like Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz. (I later notice that in my friend's video collection, that film is no longer in the proper alphabetical order. I told you the dog was stupid!) Anyway, I finally chase him down in the lovely public gardens of Sorrento, where he is introducing a park bench to the joys of symbolic logic. 

Later in the day, after he is back in stir—with his video privileges revoked for the duration—I keep an eye on him. Again, he doggie-saunters out into the hall, heading for the gate. I, however, have now reinforced same so that no creature without opposable thumbs could possibly bust outta dis joint. So, why do I follow him out into the hall, forgetting to block the only door of the flat open—just letting it idle there for a few seconds in the breeze before it slams shut behind me?! 

Good question. Here I am, smarted out of my house by a bastardino, as they say in Italian—roughly translatable as "mutt" and more precisely as "little bastard". I am caught in a real life shaggy dog story—in my underwear—and the keys are inside. (The flat, not my underwear.) Cleverly, I have left spare keys with a friend who has just left town for the day. 

There is no real ending to this. I spend the next nine hours wrapped in a towel sheepishly grinning while I try to convince neighbors that I am normal. Phaideaux grins doggedly, for he is trapped outside with me. This is serious down time for him, since his food dish is inside. But he makes the best of it. After all, 9 hours is only 1 hour and 18 minutes in doggie-years. 

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