Gustav is my 110-pound Tamaskan, a relatively new breed, a mix of Husky,
Eskimo Dog, and German Shepherd bred to look like wolves.
Convincing, don't you think?
He has a fine disposition, Gustav.
Just the right mix of goofy friendliness with family, aloofness with strangers,
and ferocity when such a demeanor is helpful.
But he is not generous in spirit with other creatures.
He fails entirely to see the point of cats.
Wildlife hasn't much of a chance with him.
Isn't this raccoon who visited our feeders cute?
Over the winter, not one but two raccoons -- and a skunk --
made the mistake of crossing paths with Gustav.
Poor raccoons. Poor skunk.
Lately Gustav has taken to climbing up on this Victorian settee and peering out the window.
Occasionally, he naps there or just sits, as if waiting for tea to be served.
Gustav spends much of his mornings as my personal writing coach,
working exclusively on plot innovation.
"What should Charlene do now?" I ask.
Almost any scene can be improved by barking, growling, romping,
and the occasional shredding of dish towels.
He helps as he can, but deep down I fear he finds
my literary pursuits derivative and pretentious
and wishes he were Margaret Atwood's dog instead.
This is Gustav's little brother, Hugo, who was lost the day after Christmas, 2011.
The story is too sad to relate here.
For weeks and weeks, Gustav searched the house and yard,
and howled through the night for Hugo.
Eventually, our hearts healed.
Hugo, I'm convinced, is busy having adventures, solving mysteries,
and chasing bad guys with his great friend, Tatiana.
He will live on in books for children.
Now Gustav only howls when the train lumbers by.
Quite something to hear, though it can be difficult to explain
when you're in the middle of a conversation on the phone.
As you might have guessed, English is not Gustav's native tongue.
Even so, he has does have a useful vocabulary at his command:
As you can see, certain expected words and phrases
-- such as sit; stay; come; here, boy: heel; and please do not eat my favorite stilettos --
are absent from Gustav's word cloud.
Suffice it to say Rosetta Stone is not for him.
Gustav is his own dog.
He votes his conscience, buys local and organic when possible, and invests responsibly.
He exercises and watches his weight, though last winter he did pack on a few.
Still, his self-esteem was not diminished.
He didn't ask, "Does this fur make me look fat?"
Now that I think about it, not once has he turned down a glazed donut
or a second helping of pasta carbonara.
Nor has he suggested that I need to do so.
This makes up for never offering to do the dishes.