The office insurance is coming up for the World Corporate Headquarters of Scared o’ Bears Ranch & Publishing. When I moved into my expansive new digs a couple of years ago, my agent was filling out paperwork and asked if I had a dog.
We were on the phone. It struck me as an odd question.
“Why?” I asked. “Do I need to get one?”
She chuckled uncomfortably and said no, clarifying they couldn’t insure my office belongings if I owned a distant cousin to the wolf.
“What if I’m blind?” I asked.
She fell all over herself on that one, apologizing profusely and quoting fine print from the Federal Disabled Heterosexual Act that allows dispensation in the form of a seeing eye dog.
“I don’t mean to intrude, but ARE you blind?”
“The poets say that love is blind,” I pointed out. “I wear contact lenses. And, I’m slightly hard of hearing. Is there such a thing as a hearing ear dog?” We sat, miles away from one another, silent. I wondered. How would that work? I mean, a seeing eye dog, in theory, helps the unsighted not walk into telephone poles or Jehovah’s Witnesses. But what would be the job description of a hearing ear pooch? It’s not like a trusty chocolate Lab could pull you aside in a conspiratorial huddle and whisper:
“I can’t believe what those people over there were saying about you…”
“I had a friend who had a Toodle,” I told the nice insurance lady.
Half toy fox terrier. Half poodle.
“The darn thing was always — lurking. Like a Nazi spy eavesdropping. I mean, it would do dog things, but you could tell it was just an act because it really wasn’t into napping or barking at cars and you certainly couldn’t play fetch because it wanted to be out of earshot.”
The insurance lady was uncomfortable, yet curious. I explained that because of the breed’s low metabolism, they can live to be 113, in human years. “That’s like taking care of a miniature and hairy, panting version of your parents, for more than a century.”
The woman cleared her throat. She had snoopy, IRS-esque questions for the form, like what I had in my office and how much was it worth.
“It’d probably be a good idea for you to take photographs of your valuable possessions, just in case, heaven forbid, an earthquake or flood should…”
Laconically, I interrupted her.
“If I had an office dog,” I said, “and I’m not saying I do, and instead of actually leasing an office, it was actually a kennel, I wouldn’t own a Flatulent Norwegian Giant Goon Hound.”
I mean. You just can’t leave it at that. I had to explain that Flatulent Norwegian Giant Goon Hounds eschew normal dog food. They live entirely on Costco chili. In the 512-ounce cans. The males can weigh more than 370 pounds and besides the beans, subsist on a diet of carrion, children, the elderly and postal carriers, when they are in supply. They also eat dog trainers dumb enough to be alone in the same room, cage, enclosure or leased office space. I made a slight and distant guttural sound into the receiver.
“I don’t mean to be pushy,” said the nice insurance lady. “But in a roundabout way, are you trying to tell me that you have a dog in your office?”
“I hate to be picayune, but would my confession to have one or more dogs in my office be in some way a violation of my First Amendment rights?”
“How about a simple yes, or — no?”
“Goodness. Who, in their right mind, would buy a dog with the disclaimer, ‘Flatulent’ right in the middle of their name?”
We chatted for a while. Well, I did. Being the alleged local historian, I pointed out that in the early 20th century, a local gas station had a trained bear chained to the pump and asked if corporate might want to expand their coverage from “dogs” to “animals.” I asked her if she ever heard of the breed called the Alabama Fatweiller.
“They just come into the litter, well, morbidly obese,” I said. “Selective breeding. They’re about 2% Rottweiler and the rest, well. You know. Cheeseburgers.” Perhaps it was rude of me. She asked something about putting a year’s worth of insurance on a card or did I want to make payments, which were about $4 a month.
“If only Alabama Fatweillers could talk,” I pondered. “The stories they would tell. Like: ‘I dropped my car keys. Could someone pick them up for me please?’ Or: ‘You kids go ahead and chase the neighbor’s cat. I’ll just sit here.’ Or: ‘I shouldn’t have had that last dog Slurpee. My poor little dog heart. I think it just stopped.’”
I know the insurance lady hadn’t asked, but I felt it was important for her to know that in a perfect, non-lethargic canine world, an Alabama Fatweiller would make a perfect coon hound, except that raccoons really don’t like coming to hunting dogs and that in the upside world in which we live, it’s usually the other way around.
“I don’t think I’d like to sit around the office for 12 or 14 hours every day, staring at an obese, miserable mutt who needs a freight elevator and veterinarian internist just to complete its hourly constitutionals.” I leaned back in the chair and sighed. Just like a Fatweiller might do. I wondered if this breed from Alabama could be trained to cool itself with one of those paper fans they hand out in Palmdale churches and funeral parlors.
I had kept the insurance lady on the phone for far too long.
“I don’t have a dog,” I told her. “But if I did, we’d both have to go now.”
John Boston is a local writer and may, or may not, own a rare purebred Polish Spotted Groin-High Wampire Retriever named Vlad. Ah-blah…