Tall and Content

Nicole Zeug, “The Tired Labrador”

Long story short, I am a middle-aged expat dog. A well-trained snow-white American Labrador. Call me a WASP dog and I take it in. At an early stage I was taught good manners, basic manners of come, sit, stay, wait, kennel, down and so forth. The idea behind that, you know the codes, you get along fine wherever you end up living. Anyways, you may already know that we Labs are calm and trainable and basically pleasant to be around and trainers can rely on our quick and analytical mindset. So here am I, your family guy, expat version.

Since my owners (or my breeder?) picked me up amid my siblings, I have lived in a number of places and been through an unending gallery of humans. As they walked me along the streets of New York, Turin, Milan, Moscow and Kyiv I have smelled life and its whims to the fullest. Dogs are no poets so I have nothing more to say and that will do.

Actually one thing: I still miss them, my siblings and my caring mom. How many times I have been on the point of believing it was one of their endearing silhouettes that was passing by on the other side of the street. I have ended up adapting, which is no complaining but sheer reckoning. I am quite easy going and respect humans. I play fetch, swim, go on a walk, or keep my owners’ feet warm. If ever, it is in ball games that I get really crazy and slightly out of control. If ever. With peers too I get along fine, I just cannot see the point in challenging any of them. I keep to myself, tall and content just like my image mirrored inside the neat elevator ascending to our share of paradise, up at the fifteenth floor. For sure, all the affable strokes I have been bestowed upon by unknown hands as I was walked here and there, satisfy my long for rewarding. If any.

Now, don’t ask me why, either my breeder or my owners named me after a human language dictionary. By now I have got used to my bookish self,  kind of an omen nomen thing, if you get what I mean. More. Fishing the sound of that exotic word amid the thousand others that gush out from my owners’ mouths gives me a sense of belonging – even of purpose, a confirmation anyway, that I belong to their daily rites, just as much as they do to mine. What else to long for, I wonder as I lay down on the soft king-size mat they bought me at that oligarchs’ pet shop back in Moscow days. 

Surely, humans seem obsessed with words, urine definitely not being an option for them to mark their territory. It is words that they rely upon to make the trick. Not only my owners – all of them. Floods of words are being exchanged by the minute, and the more they flow others with them, the more they are expected to be in control of anything. Almost. Barking is a harsh fallback to them. They have an instinct for playing with words just like we do with sticks and balls. Their apprenticeship with them, though, actually takes their whole lifetime.  Truth is, to catch up with them, all you need is to pick out a few salient words out of their unending stream of blah-blah-blah. We are straighforward and lucky, wired as we are. Take our sense of smell. I just need to take a whiff of my folks’ smell, especially of HER scent, and I am the happiest old pup on earth. 

Can we say the same for them? How can they expect to reach out to one another through all the layers of words that keep on growing on their skin? Still, that is in their blood and there is no point in criticizing. Take it or leave it. Aren’t we called their best friends? Give us a whiff of this and a whiff of that and we figure out the whole world and rarely feel that miserable, anyway. Take expat dogs: every now and then our owners are expected to  decamp and we are asked to adapt into new spots, get exposed to unsmelled scents, put up with misleading new street layouts. That’s nothing compared to their ordeal, including their taming of whole new sets of words – foreign languages they call them – and related new social skills.

Good thing is, I am only expected to understand my owners’ words, which is an endearing blend of American English and Italian. And how much do I love the sound of that latin language (am I surprising you? Not only am I acquainted with the existence of Latin but I am also rather attracted by its rich smell), the singing way she summons me for a walk, “sei pronto, WEBSTER, andiamo?”, my tail wagging from side to side,  to reach for the entrance door never takes me longer than a second. I am there, I am HERS, ready to smell the world all over again.  Long story short, no matter if you are a working dog, a service one or just an expat family guy, you end up seeing them exactly as they are, beneath their invisible coats of useless words.