My two dogs sit comfortably in the living room. Jake sits on the seat of a wingback chair. He has a thick coat of mostly black fur, Border Collie bones, and a wolfish head. Zoey, a mutt, also has mostly black fur, graying in the face. She has kind eyes. Both are about 60 pounds and carry their weight well.
Me: So what’s it like being my dog?
Jake: It takes patience. I would like more food and more freedom. But I stay here in case you die. Then I will eat you.
Zoey: That’s terrible, Jake. I’m honored to be your dog. You are not a dog, so one must make allowances. You are very slow.
Me: Would you protect me to the death?
Zoey: Yes. It is what a good dog does. I’m glad it has not come to that, but I have lived long and know my duty.
Jake: Possibly. If you’re attacked by a dog that I didn’t like, such as an Airedale, it might happen. If you’re attacked by another human, I may wait to see which way the wind blows before committing. If you die, I will eat you.
Me: I’ve always been curious. You are both fairly large strong dogs. Why do you let me order you around?
Zoey: It’s our duty. Sometimes I wish it were otherwise. Many years ago, before I was born, humans and dogs made a pact based on common interest and mutual respect. I honor this pact, as long as your orders bring no harm.
Jake: I hope for treats. Sometimes I get them, sometimes not, but I find myself compulsively obeying, at least while you are watching. When you are not watching, I break all of your rules.
Zoey: He talks big, but he obeys. I am the alpha female. If I disapprove, I growl and he behaves.
Jake (looking away): I don’t like it when you growl. It reminds me of my mother.
Me: You both could leave and have your own life. Our fence is short. Why do you stay?
Jake: I hope for treats.
Zoey: It is our duty to guard this property. But if truth be told, sometimes we cross the barrier to chase squirrels, and then return.
Me: I didn’t know that.
Jake: May I say something. You are quite ugly, on those spindly legs and that hairlessness. Are you an insect?
Me: No. We are all mammals.
Zoey: Long ago, before I was born, humans and dogs were the same. But we were feeble. Dogs developed speed, strength, intelligence, keen senses, strong teeth, and critical thinking skills to ensure the survival of our weaker cousins. It has been that way since.
Me: Neither of you seems to care much about cats. Why is that?
Jake: If they run, I will chase. I have spoken.
Zoey: I will not protect a cat, even if it should share our household. It cannot be in our pack. But it has the right to live, like all things that know their duty and know their place.
Me: You don’t seem to watch TV.
Zoey: Do you know that it is not real?
Me: I do, but I watch only shows that are educational.
Jake: You are nearly dead when you watch, but I have not eaten you.
Me: Thank you.
Jake: You’re welcome.
Zoey: Let’s take a walk. After all this talk, I need air and sun.
Me: Thank you for your time.