ROBERT WALLACE PAOLINELLI
I am a dog. Not an ordinary dog, a common pet one sees at the end of a leash being walked about; not one of those small poodles or dachshunds or Chiuahuahuas accompanying old women in the park, nor am I a giant mastiff with a spiked collar or a sleek borzoi or a furry malmute. Au contraire, my consciousness is uniquely human, created through a scientific process known only by two people, one of whom is now mad and the other, alas, dead.
This is not an easy tale for me, but one that must be told.
The idea for me was first conceived (so I was told later on) after a certain person made a mean–spirited attempt at humor at a cocktail party. This person said to my creator to be:––
"Well, if your experiments are so conclusive, Professor,and you are trying to make a dog who can sniff out gold and silver deposits, you might as well make one who can talk, read and do sums. Ho!"
Everyone who heard the snide remark had a good laugh at my creator's expense––it had been intended, derisively so, by the speaker, whom you shall hear more about. My dear, late creator, being a very gentle man took the snide remark to heart; but being a serious scientist, he started to give this remark serious consideration. And in the middle of the night the ideas started to flow, which ideas lead to my ultimate creation.
My creator was a kind soul; he was a gentle man who hadn't an enemy in the world––or so it would seem––but I'll get to that in this history at its appropriate place. Nonetheless, he was a good man, well–loved and respected by his friends, colleagues and his students, who admired him not only for the knowledge he gave them, but for the manner in which he taught. He was, as I've said, a gentle man, soft spoken and, most of all (and most importantly) a patient and understanding teacher who never harangued his students, never was cross when errors were made, and he never denied any student time to finish an assignment.
His teaching philosophy was simple: It had taken Western science many centuries to develop and no amount of cramming or cajoling or intimidation could make students learn in a semester or two what it had taken centuries to perfect. Because of this attitude, his students (more than any others at the college) worked harder and learned more.
His name: Albert Lucius D'Augusta, M.D., Ph. D., geneticist, physiologist, chemist, humanist, biologist, teacher extraordinary, scientist par excellence, my dearest friend, my creator, and, without stretching the point, my father.
His passing, which I shall relate by and by, left me so heartbroken that I ate not for over a week and drank but a little water. I moped, I ignored my books and my interests, my language studies and other similar interests. Father's passing was a turning point in my life, but that is part of the story, too.
Father's original experiments with dogs dealt with their ability to sniff out things. As we all know, dogs, over the centuries, have been used to find things through smell––especially people–– and in more recent times illicit drugs and explosives of subtle odor. He began thinking about using a dog's highly sensitive sense of smell to find gold, silver and other precious metal ores. After some initial work, he buried small gold ingots, but his subject could not yet detect them. Father was the first to admit failure; but he kept on working until one day he was thrilled when his subject, a surgically enhanced bloodhound selected for his project, was able to find an ingot of copper he had buried six inches underground. In a later trial, with the same bloodhound, the dog was able to sniff out an ingot of iron, one of tin and titanium. Unfortunately, this poor hound got the sniffles, which turned into pneumonia. Every effort was made to save him. Father stayed up nights on end. All his ministrations and gentleness failed and the bloodhound died.
Father's grief was so profound that his spirits plummeted. And for almost a year he hadn't the heart to pursue the study further, convinced that his having altered the bloodhound's olfactory lobe and olfactory nerve to heights of sensitivity heretofore unknown in any beast was the cause of its death. His personal diary and his scientific journals at the time reflect his misgivings, most cogently, about altering the natural order of things. The early diary and lab notes are in my files.
His diary also shows that during that year he dedicated his free time to things other than his science: The reading of histories of early science and thinkers of the ancient, classical world. This reading lead him to continue reading through to the Renaissance; and from that he began to read old Italian texts which gave him the impetus to write a long letter to his cousin (about whom you shall hear more of later) telling him about his experiment gone awry. With tears running the ink, Father poured out his heart. His cousin responded. I have the letter: "It is not so much that your science was a failure and that you, too, are a failure. No. You misunderstand the depth of your genius. Don't confound yourself. It is that you missed a step or two in the process. It might be said that you have understood 1 and 5, but have missed 2,3, and 4 in the process. That's good, but not good enough. Albert, take heart and examine the gaps between 1 and 5. Therein lie the rungs you missed this time.
"I'm so glad to read you've been indulging in the classics. Good for you. They were always our favorites in our youth. But you turned to science and I remained among the classics and our lives have taken different courses, yet we remain intimate friends––in spite of our separate paths..." This letter encouraged Father to continue, and, gave him solace. But he did not continue his study.
Father, instead, went for long rides and walks in the woods around the campus where he lived, in Pennsylvania, in a small college town. He wore rough tweeds, went fishing and went to concerts and plays. His life was superficially normal, but underneath there was a concept of profound scientific theory forming.
Amid his bucolic walk–about and internal delvings, Father fell in love.
Her name was Sylvia Titus, a handsome, statuesque, amber–haired doctor of physiology and, oddly enough, mycology. She was a new teacher who became Father's office mate. It was not love at first sight for either of them and probably for the following reasons: Sylvia was much taller than Father, who stood only five foot six or so and she was almost five foot eleven. Furthermore, she was something of the nervous type and he was not. She liked dancing and Father had never danced in his life; she was a loquacious person and he was not. He had a rather quiet, reflective demeanor. Sylvia, on the other hand was dynamic and filled with a seemingly boundless source of energy.
They were pleasant enough colleagues and office mates. But he being of a quieter mien, they only spoke about things pertaining to their respective work and faculty matters, the weather and the like. One day, Professor Titus had arranged to be taken to a distant part of the large campus where an oak forest of vast proportions grew, where Sylvia was certain she would find several species of delicious mushrooms. However, at the last minute, her guide was called away for family reasons. Sylvia, being new to the area, didn't know how to get to the oak forest and she was most disappointed. Father being the kind man he was, volunteered, therefore, to be her guide, for he was familiar with that wilder area of the campus and its unmapped roads because of his recent walks. Moreover, he liked the idea of foraging, it fitted well his present state of mind, and, he was looking forward to learning something about mycology himself. His curiosity was ever active. Being the determined woman she was, Sylvia immediately accepted Father's offer.
Using his small truck, more suitable to the terrain than her sedan, they drove off. She was eager to begin this mushroom hunt because it had been raining off and on for about three days, interspersed with warm, sunny days, the exact conditions for mushroom growth.
Needless to say the mushrooming was a great success. Dr. Titus was a methodical huntress and their three or so hours of meandering under the oaks had filled their baskets with a variety of scrumptious mushrooms of all sizes. They were deep in the oak forest, far from the truck when the sun disappeared; but both of them, being caught up in the abundance of fungi, gave no thought to the darkening sky.
The rain came down on them suddenly, catching them both off guard; and being far from the truck, they sought shelter in a giant oak which years before had been struck by lightning and the ensuing fire had burned a large cavity in the trunk large enough for two refugees from the storm––the likes of which had not been seen in several seasons. Father's journal entry of this event is most detailed and made excellent reading. At first they thought the rain a squall and would pass. But it was a storm and it endured. They were more than an hour's walk from the truck. Both were dressed lightly, and the rain was running in rivulets on the forest floor making it impossible to walk safely, and night was falling. The only thing they could do was remain in the tree's cavity and wait out the storm. They made the best of it and even managed to sing "Shenandoah" in rough harmony to while away the storm.
When at last the storm abated, the forest was pitch black, the wind was up and they were both cold, wet and hungry. Father, who had a good sense of direction, suggested they hold hands (because of the darkness) and make their way through the mud and the cold dripping trees back to the truck. It took them quite some time of bumping into branches and trees, stumbling over roots and being soaked and bespattered with mud before they got out of the forest, not too far from the truck. Sylvia's comment was: "It is uncanny that you were able to get us so near the truck." Indeed, Father was an extraordinary man. Here his journal states that in spite of Sylvia's limp and soaking hair, her mud–streaked eyeglasses and face and the squish her waterlogged socks and shoes made, he felt some stirring in him about her. He quite plainly states: "She was like a Great Mother figure or a Diana. She stood proud and wild––and it was to her archetypal wildness that I was drawn, and as the evening drew on, I was attracted more and more to her."
Sylvia lived far from the campus, on the other side of town, and Father lived in one of the faculty cottages which was so much closer than Sylvia's abode; therefore, he suggested they repair to his digs, get warm, drink hot tea and brandy, wash up, then cook the mushrooms. She being in the state she was in did not refuse.
When they got to his cottage, where the light was better, they were able to see their true condition and they couldn't help being aghast––but, also, couldn't help laughing at their wet and muddied clothes and hair. He sent her to the bath first. There was, however, a problem with a change of clothes, for as it has been noted, she was tall and Father short and none of his clothes would have fitted her comfortably. But he was quick–witted and told her not to worry. While she was in the bath he took an old flannel sheet he rarely used, folded it and cut a hole in the middle of the fold; he got a tie he never wore to use as a belt. He left this for her to wear until her clothes could be washed and dried in his appliances.
While he was in the shower, Sylvia busied herself in the kitchen sorting and cleaning the wild mushrooms. And dressed in her improvised mumu, which she found rather odd, but, nonetheless, proper, considering the circumstances, she made herself at home in the kitchen, and with what she could find, cooked a fine dinner for both of them.
They had a jolly time that evening. Their adventure and shared suffering had brought them just a little closer. The mushrooms were delectable. He opened a bottle of wine and she suggested candles. And it was during their casual, candlelit dinner that these two seemingly disparate people came to know one another better, and they drank many toasts and exchanged many smiles.
Fully, it goes without saying, that after the events of that adventure, Sylvia Titus began to see Father in a different light. And he, who heretofore had never given much thought to romance (himself a life–long bachelor) found himself utterly enchanted by Sylvia, whom before he had seen only as a colleague and a polite office mate, but who had now opened a window of his heart he never realized he had; and it was because of this new–found love that his spirits, which had lain long in a funk over the death of the bloodhound, soared.
I apologize if I make much of this, but I must make it understood it was this incipient love which was the cause of Father's rekindled interest in his private study of canine olfactories, which ultimately was the cause of the arising of my most unusual being.
Father often reminisced about that mushroom hunt and their amusing predicament and, of course, the tasty mushrooms. And as long as Sylvia was with us there were always tasty wild mushrooms in the house which, incidentally, I became fond of and did my share of finding them when they would take me afield. For Father, their first mushroom hunt was a significant point in his life, for it was during the first blush of their growing affection that Sylvia convinced Father to accompany her to a faculty cocktail party (a social event Father would never have attended on his own); but because he was in love, he went. It was at that cocktail party where, after he had shared with some of the guests his work with the late bloodhound, that the derisive (previously mentioned) joke was made by none other than the Chairman of the Animal Psychology Department, Professor Herman Blauteufel, who had been trying to teach chimpanzees and other apes to speak, and was a little sweet on Sylvia. But she would have nothing to do with him. I learned of this tidbit in passing from Sylvia herself whom I'd asked to tell me how she and Father had met.
Blauteufel had had little success in his undertaking in spite of big grants of money, a team of assistants and many supporters around the country waiting for the day Professor Blauteufel would announce to the world that he had taught Jezebel (his prized subject chimp) to recite the Gettysburg Address, the Preamble to the U.S.Constitution and the Lord's Prayer both in English and Esperanto. This was his supreme goal. He had an aggressive drive to bring to fruition his dream of being the first ever to give the world this cogent demonstration of his scientific brilliance.
He was to become my Father's worst enemy and the man who tried to kill me. I still carry the memory of that vicious assault. But I get ahead of myself.
Professor Blauteufel, being in his cups (as was related to me and also noted in Father's journal), made several other nasty remarks to Father that night, for Blauteufel did not like anyone to outshine him and the olfactory experiment, in spite of the hound's demise, was admirable––if not remarkable––and was also a threat to Blauteufel's ego––even if their respective fields, goals and methods were different. Blauteufel was jealous Father had achieved some success and Blauteufel very little, and (I believe) because his advances had been rebuffed by Sylvia––but this is only ex post facto speculation on my part.
. As I have already mentioned, Father was of gentle demeanor, but that night he took umbrage at the continued mockery of Herman Blauteufel; and, unlike him, he exchanged a few heated words with Herman which became the talk of the campus. Father never understood why the animal psychologist had acted so against him.
Father, who was always very honest with me about his personal life, told me that for days afterwards he was upset by the insults, and it was that very night after the cocktail party that he began in earnest to bring together the ideas that would lead to my creation. It was also that very week when he asked Sylvia to marry him and to be not only his dearly beloved wife, but, further, to help him carry out his plan, to wit: Create a dog with superintelligence, one who could speak, read, write and do sums and have a great sense of smell.
She laughed. Not at his marriage proposal, for by this time she was admittedly smitten by Father, too, and they were both very much in love and were known by all who knew them as steadfast lovers. No; she laughed at (what she said) was the preposterousness of his plans, and added: "Anyway, I've an amino acid I need to concentrate on. I couldn't possibly pursue such a project. I shall be your wife, my love, but not your collaborator. I could act as your assistant from time to time––I'll volunteer that much. Why don't you recruit one of Blauteufel's group," she said ingenuously.
The very mention of his name made Father uneasy, for somehow (and in spite of Father's loveable, unaggressive, uncompetitive nature) he had taken an intense disliking to Herman and his mockery––had taken it to heart; but, as he said, he would show that "nincompoop," (Father's mildest epithet) that he would surpass him. It was so unlike him to be thus. Apparently Blauteufel's comments had touched off something in Father and now he would show that "ass," (Father's strongest epithet) up for what he was. He made no bones about this dislike and his journal is quite clear on that.
A date was set for their marriage. In the meanwhile, Father wasted no time, for he began a correspondence with the leading experts in DNA research around the country and in Europe. This was the path to success: DNA. I have all that correspondence in my files. I consider those letters as a kind of pre–birth certificate.
Some time before, Father had applied for his sabbatical. His request had gone through the normal channels and by the year's end it came back to him approved. He had saved his money and had been awarded a modest research grant. Now he and Sylvia (who did not have a year off) made plans for their wedding, which would take place during the regular summer vacation, which they would spend together as man and wife. Father's concomitant plans were to travel during the honeymoon and talk with several of his DNA correspondents. Sylvia was delighted. And so on the Twenty–first of June, exactly one week after the close of the semester, they flew to Hawaii and were married that day. They spent two weeks in Hawaii in nuptial bliss, then flew to Cambridge, England. While Sylvia, on her own, visited the several colleges, museums, churches and socialized with people whom she got to know through Father's correspondents, he was in deep discussion with his peers and taking copious notes.
They visited Uppsala, Copenhagen, Paris, Vienna and Rome, taking in the sights and, for Father, adding to his knowledge. Then came Athens and a side trip to Canea and Knossos, thence to Cairo and the pyramids. They saw and visited them all in the complete happiness of their wandering honeymoon.
But the summer holidays were ending. Sylvia had to return to her teaching. After a tearful goodbye at the Cairo airport, Sylvia flew back to the United States and Father flew to Berlin to consult with a famous scientist who had achieved remarkable results in a DNA experiment with cats.
I have had to treat of my Father's personal life prior to my birth so that you, dear reader, will have a clearer and better understanding of him, the people around him and what happend afterwards.
While Father was in Berlin and Sylvia back in Pennsylvania, she went to the school's faculty housing office, showed their Hawaiin marriage certificate and just managed to get a large, charming, two story house for married faculty. With still two weeks remaining before the fall semester, and with her usual zeal, she was able to move out of her small apartment, move Father's things from his bachelor's cottage, and set up their own love nest in a beautiful part of the campus: The house where I was born, my first home.
It was not in too long a time that word of their June marriage spread. Naturally everyone was surprised––if not a little shocked––at the strange union of Albert D'Augusta and Sylvia Titus. Of course, everyone offered his congratulations and the faculty wives and female teachers even gave her a belated wedding shower. Among the presents she received was an Amish quilt which was my very first bed.
Father returned; and after a few days rest from his trip, he plunged into his work, going at it night and day. Sylvia had fixed up one of the many downstairs rooms in the house as his study. He stayed there hour after hour, sometimes missing meals. But his determination was great and, spite of his wife's urging to go slowly and to eat regularly and get ample rest, he took little heed and continued his readings, his cogitations and his plans for me.
It was his intention to create a dog with a quasi–human nervous system and with a brain of superior intelligence, to be created with human DNA: His own.
Father made it a point never to discuss again in public his research. He kept very quiet, worked privately, secretively. He swore Sylvia, also, to secrecy and she stood with him on that until the end. He was determined to do his work without funding. Because his work was a private study, he was beholden to no one and could work with complete freedom to examine areas others were either too timid or too scientifically conservative to approach. I came to like the spirit of his creative drive. He would sink or swim on his own. It was a strong trait and I'm sure I inherited it, too.
His work, being a private project, he used his own money. But the undertaking of my special creation proved to be more expensive than he had anticipated. In the eighth month of his sabbatical, he realized that if he did not receive some financial assistance, he would soon deplete his savings and would have to discontinue his project for lack of ready funds.
Much as he disliked the idea of soliciting funds, he approached certain people of means he knew, asking for small sums to see him through the end of his sabbatical; and because he was so well–liked, he received enough to continue.
By the end of his sabbatical year of profound study, thinking and rethinking, he was ready to begin the laboratory stage of his great undertaking.
With his new funds, he bought equipment and turned his study into a well–equipped laboratory and small surgery and went to work. According to his early notes he had no success and felt at times that perhaps he had taken on something greater than his abilities. But Father, frustrations and early failures notwithstanding, persevered. After about a year or so of experimentation, he managed to create and to teach his first subject, a dalmatian (whom I've always considered my first cousin) to recite the English alphabet and, repeat the multiplication tables up to the fours. But in spite of this breakthrough, the dalmatian could not speak independently, but only recite by rote and could not solve simple multiplication problems. Yet this was progress and his experimentation went on.
What happend to my cousin is a rather sad tale which I shall relate briefly: One day Father and Sylvia went to the oak forest to gather mushrooms. By this time Father had learned to identify a few edible fungi; but somehow he had picked some poisonous ones which Sylvia failed to check. They used the wild mushrooms in a beef stew, which they also shared with my cousin. During the night both Father and Sylvia got sick. It did not take Sylvia long to figure out why they were vomiting. An ambulance took them to the hospital. They recovered. When they got home, Father remembered that the dalmatian had also eaten the stew! Alas, they found him dead. Both Father and Sylvia were devastated. It was as if some kin of theirs had passed away. Cousin dalmatian was buried with all due respect in the back yard and an apple tree planted over his grave.
Needless to say Father was in a funk for several weeks. He went to his classes, he lectured, guided his students in their labs; but his private project he avoided for the longest time.
Sylvia, although her contribution to the project was limited, did what she could to cheer Father up and encourage him to return to his work and not let the death of the dalmatian curtail the possibilities of his project.
His spirits revived, and once again he plunged into his work. His next project was also a success and went beyond his own expectations. The subject of this second experiment, which started out as an in vitrio spaniel, could not only recite the alphabet and do sums and solve simple arithmetical problems, he could be taught vocabulary, and, by the time the spaniel was three years old, it had a vocabulary of approximately three thousand words, including a few foreign phrases, e.g. Non sum qualis eram, meaning, I am not what I used to be, which I thought very appropriate. This second cousin of mine could even recite nursery rhymes and seemed to be making great progress and exhibited even greater potential yet untapped.
This second relative of mine, whom Sylvia named Rodin, because she said the spaniel was a piece of living sculpture, was the apple of Father's eye, and, as I understand all too well, Rodin loved Father as only a dog can love a man. One day, however, Rodin stopped talking––simply stopped and no amount of coaxing or allurements with good things to eat, games, toys and the like, could induce him to speak. What Father found out (with some tests) was that Rodin had a sudden and profound lapse of memory, or, perhaps more appropriately, linguistic amnesia. Rodin could still respond to simple commands, "come," "sit," "stay," the usual commands a dog understands; but he could not carry on a simple conversation as before, do sums or recite nursery rhymes any longer. In short, Rodin had reverted to being an ordinary dog, a friendly family pet with no particular talents beyond those of a spaniel. Rodin was a great disappointment to my dear creator. But his disappointment only fired him to greater efforts.
Then the unexpected happend:––
Rodin and Sylvia were in the parking lot of the local supermarket; a bag boy was helping her load the groceries into the bed of Father's small truck. Rodin was in the bed of the truck. A stray dog came trotting by. Rodin jumped from the truck and the two dogs started sniffing each other as dogs are wont to do. The stray was a female. Rodin tried to mount her; the stray refused him, he tried again. The stray ran off––with Rodin in hot pursuit.
Sylvia ran after him calling for him to return. But he was after the female and ignored her command. She ran back to the truck and tried to follow. By the time she drove in the direction she had last seen them going, they were not to be seen. She drove everywhere, even down back alleys. After more than an hour of fruitless search, she gave up and went home, hoping Rodin, after he had spent himself on his paramour, would be home. But he'd not returned. Father, too, went looking for him. He drove all over town and all over the campus; but Rodin was not found. They asked around, they made and put up flyers. They waited. However, Rodin was gone and he was never seen again.
Rodin's loss was a blow to Father's progress, for in the interim he had re–examined his original work and believed he had discovered the reason for Rodin's memory lapse and would have corrected the error. So he had to start all over again. Poor Father, he worked so hard.
As I look back now I can almost feel his frustration, for three years is a long time. And, further, his funds were almost gone and he would be forced to use an investment he had put aside for his old age. Sylvia protested. This was the first time in their (thus far) happy marriage, that they disagreed, for she wanted them to use that investment to buy a piece of land near Gettysburg and build on it and use it as a summer retreat and, eventually to live there when they retired. She was adamantly against encumbering their retirement and their existing capital. He acquiesced––reluctantly so––but he could see her point.
It was then that Father, more determined than ever, decided to make public his work and wrote a proposal to the Foundation for the Advancement of Animal Research, F.A.A.R., the very same foundation from which Blauteufel received much of his research money.
Blauteufel got wind of Father's query letter to F.A.A.R. and stormed into Father's office one day stating Father was invading the territory of the Animal Psychology Department and he wanted no "amateur" to siphon off funds. (It must be noted here that in spite of the many thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours spent trying to teach the chimp, Jezebel, to recite, all Blauteufel and his team of assistants had managed to do was get the chimp to utter a few sounds which he, et alia, considered a great step forward).
Sylvia, who recounted this rude intrusion to me, said Father was calm all the time Herman was attacking him; and when Herman ran out of things to say, Father rose from his chair, turned, and, facing Professor Blauteufel, bared his teeth and growled––nay––roared as would some beast about to attack a threatening enemy!
Blauteufel was stunned, never expecting such a response from a man known throughout the college as mild of manner and speech. When Father roared a second time, Herman turned white with fear, spun with alacrity and literally fled from the office. Father then turned to Sylvia who was equally as shocked at his most uncharacteristic response and asked her, in a calm, natural voice, "Would you care to have lunch in the faculty dinning room or go home for lunch?" I always liked that story and admired Father for his spur of the moment action and his suave, cool comportment afterwards. I believe I take after him.
That roar, if I may stretch a metaphor, was the first roar of cannon fired in what was to become an ugly war of wills between my dear creator and the malicious Herman Blauteufel, who used all the inside influence he could to stop F.A.A.R. from considering Father's initial letter of inquiry for funding. Blauteufel won that skirmish; but the gods were smiling favorably on Father, and my future: Father bought a lottery ticket and won!
And that changed everything. I would be born with a silver spoon in my mouth, favored and spoiled like a first born son. How he had come to buy the ticket was rather mundane: He had purchased some last minute items at a local convenience store. His change was exactly one dollar. He had seen the customer before him buy a chance and he thought, "Why not?" So he told the clerk to sell him a quick–pick ticket on the Pennsylvania lottery. Father always said it had been the hand of Providence that had guided him in the unusual transaction, for he never gambled
Never before had Father had so much money. He told me later that for days he had walked around as if in a daze; Sylvia, too. It took some time for the realization of their having so much money to take hold. Afterwards, however, when the shock of having won abated, Father did not think twice about how he would use the money. First off, he donated several thousands of dollars to the school and started buying scientific equipment. Sylvia got hold of a real estate agent and soon had a farm near Gettysburg. Both, however, did not let the money go to their heads and they continued to teach, which I always thought commendable of them.
Blauteufel, however, was enraged with jealousy; and from the day Father's winning was made public, he went out of his way to be rude to him and to deride him to anyone who would listen to his slanders. Father ignored the slurs with noble dignity.
The knowledge from cousin Rodin's creation (with subsequent, recalculated refinements) was put to good use and my genius Father–creator proceeded in earnest to chart, then combine the DNA of my being: I would have all the known aspects of a dog: Speed, stamina, loyalty and devotion, courage and strength. Inside I would be an intellectual giant, the likes of which the world had never known. Outwardly I would be a Vizsla, otherwise known as a Hungarian pointer. My purity of breed had been preserved through the years and I was later to take great pride in the purity of my pedigree. My ancestors were known for their innate hunting ability. They were swift of foot––as I would be. They had superior noses––which I would have in spades. I would be powerfully built, lithe, well–balanced and would have a graceful gait. I would be a dog of power and drive, affectionate and a good companion. I would be brilliantly intelligent, especially in arts and letters, languages, poetics and translation. I would have a short coat, rusty gold. I would be all of that through the pure genius of my Father–creator whom I loved as no other dog in the history of the canidae family ever loved: With the natural love a dog has, combined with the natural love and compassion of a human being.
Father's genius knew no bounds. From Father himself I received the genetic seeds of his genius. His scientific genius notwithstanding, I was drawn, in the main, to the Humanities and was never much interested in the sciences except in a general way. I have since concluded that scientific curiosity is not inherited.
From Father's fantastic assemblage of subtlely spliced and combined DNA (by his still guarded secret formula), I was created. Father used ovum and semen from pedigreed Vizslas. I was first created in a Petri dish, then put back into the womb of my biological mother, my beautiful Vizsla mother, at whose breasts I suckled for the first six or so weeks of my extraordinary life.
My gestation was that of any ordinary dog; however, Father noted that my biological mother had a voracious appetite during her pregnancy, quite beyond the norm for a bitch carrying but one pup. Her partuition was normal, however, and I came into the world, co–incidentally, on the Twenty–first of June (their wedding anniversary), at noon, in dear Father's lab, attended by him and Sylvia, who videotaped my entrance into this world. I still have the videotape in my files and occasionally watch my birthing tape.
Of my birth I have no recollection, although I have tried to recall it, but in spite of my mental prowess, I have not been able to call it up. However, it was when I was about three months old (and I have Father's scientific journal to confirm this), having been subjected to hundreds of hours of tape recorded repetitions of the sounds of all the languages I now have at my command, that I let out my first "bark." I put bark in quotes because it wasn't exactly a pup's bark, but a clear recitation of "a,e,i,o,u," holding the "u" as would a singer holding the final vowel at the end of a song. Up until that first utterance I had been mute, and that did worry Father, so he told me later.
As to my biological mother I have to admit I had very little natural affection for her, having always felt closer to humans than to canines; but she loved me as would any other mother dog. True, I suckled at her teats and she played and romped with me and I followed her around for my first few months, but gradually, and without any coaxing from Father or Sylvia, I naturally gravitated to him and had less and less to do with my Vizsla mother until one day I simply walked away from her and even though she often came to sniff me, lick me, I ignored her. One day she ran in front of a truck and a week later died in the local pet hospital. I missed her a little, but no more than that.
In retrospect, I know I abandoned her because of what I am. My nervous system was different, my psyche was different and the natural instincts a dog normally has were not predominant. My peculiar combining had all but obliterated the classic behavior of a dog. I was cano–humano, a new, unique species.
I must say one thing about Father and Sylvia which, the older I become, the more I appreciate: In spite of the extraordinariness of my being, they treated me not as some scientific phenomenon, but as an equal, a colleague and as a member of the family. And as I became more and more aware of my uniqueness, I valued and admired their democratic treatment of me. Sylvia, however, whom I tried calling Mother, forbade me to call her so. I felt hurt, but that was how she wanted it.
My schooling was unlike that of any dog. Of course I was not a dog in the purest sense of the word. Outwardly, of course, I was no different than any of the other dogs one saw around the campus or in town. (However, had you looked into my eyes you would have seen my intelligence). Dog I was, but my consciousness was most certainly not that of a dog. While others were taught to respond to "sit," "stay," "jump," and so on, I was taught languages, music appreciation, philosophy and mathematics, and I was treated with the utmost respect. I was spoken to as one would a child prodigy––if you will allow me the term. Father and Sylvia never used baby talk with me. In my early days I spoke with a slight lisp, but this was corrected through my mentor's patient coaching and eventually, the lisp vanished as my lips, tongue and vocal chords grew stronger and accustomed to the speech of humans. As I grew older, my voice matured into a mellow baritone's, and I loved to sing and became especially fond of Italian and German opera, Provencal lays and Chines folk songs.
My capacity for learning languages was prodigious and far exceeded Father's expectations; it had been completely unforeseen, almost gratuitous; and being the wise man he was, Father saw to it that this precocious talent was nurtured and put to good use. By the time I was a year old, my command of English was vast and I could read anything put in front of me. I did have, however, a hard time turning pages. My paws often wrinkled pages or tore them. I tried using my nose, but it got sore so Father fashioned rubber turning devices which I might describe as resembling cylindrical hands with but one finger, which I could easily slip over my paws and turn pages with ease. I used these artificial fingers not only for turning pages, but, also, to input on the computer and to push the buttons of the radio and cassette recorder and other electronic equipment at my disposal. I am completely ambidextrous.
In his wisdom, Father invited, then engaged his cousin, the professor of languages and linguistics whom I've mentioned, who was the only person outside my immediate family who knew the secret of my exceptional abilities, a man I came to love and admire and respect as much as I did my creator. He was originally from Bologna; he was suave, cosmopolitan and wise; he had taught himself German and French by the time he was eight and his fantastic ability, being recognized by his parents, was guided, and he became well–known in linguistic circles at an early age. His name: Corrado Graziotti. Because he was Father's relative, I called him Uncle, instead of cousin, which is the Italian custom of address for older cousins. Uncle Corrado was also a fine painter and I learned to appreciate painting through his superb guidance. He lived with us. Because we were a rich family, Father was able to pay Uncle a handsome sum to be my teacher. He, therefore, quit his position in New England, and came to us to be my mentor in foreign languages, linguistics, history, art, literature and poetics. He gave me a thorough grounding in the Humanities of both the East and the West, and I loved his teaching and loved learning and became enamored of music, writers and poets.
Acquisition of vocabulary and grammar came easily to me. In just a couple of years, under the brilliant tutelage of Uncle, I mastered all the languages he knew. My interests grew and I studied other languages on my own, later. My accents were perfect, although I must admit I still have trouble with the four tones of the Beijing dialect––but my Chinese is fluent and idiomatically correct. I can say without boasting that my accent is perfect in my French, German, Spanish, Russian and Italian, which Uncle Corrado took extra pains to perfect in me.
I would like to backtrack a moment and say something about my first birthday. By the end of my first year I had grown in my intellect and understood the importance of names and I wanted my own name. On the first anniversary of my birth, Sylvia baked me a lovely chocolate cake and cooked a special dinner in my honor. When, however, it came time to write on the birthday cake, she suddenly realized that I had no proper name; that in the excitement of my birth and the concern for my care and learning, no name had been given me. I had always been called by the sweet endearment, "Honey Pup," which I had answered to and which name Father had written in his scientific log––which log is buried deep in a place only I know.
So we sat around the kitchen table discussing names. Father was terribly embarrassed at his having neglected giving me a proper name. But I really didn't hold it against him. How could I? Nonetheless, I was anxious for a name. Father said:––
"Well, Honey Pup, what name would you like?' I was thrilled that I had been asked. I grew serious, for I knew that a name is very important and would stay with me the rest of my life. As they waited patiently, as they always did, I was thinking. And then I said, rather solemnly, "I shall call myself Anthony Albert Corrado Silvanus (after Sylvia, of course), D'Augusta."
They were duly impressed that I had taken not only their first names, but had also taken the patronimic, D'Augusta, which I always carried with such pride––even if I was not a true son of the family––at least according to the human tradition, that is. I took Anthony because Uncle Corrado often recounted to me the lives of the saints and the life of St. Anthony of Padua had impressed me.
So on that first birthday cake Sylvia wrote: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANTHONY," which she surrounded with small icing roses. And then they sang the Happy Birthday Song and I was so very happy on that first birthday and was moved to shed a tear or two. Later, Sylvia, on her own, penned my names and date of birth onto the pages of the old family Bible and added in parenthesis, "(Dog)."
My intellect was a secret known only to Father, Sylvia and Uncle Corrado. And they were good at keeping me secret. Of course, I was taken out for walks and rode in the bed of the little pick–up truck with my face to the wind (which I loved) like any other dog, and I always went mushrooming with them, an activity I came to enjoy and I got to be pretty good at identification, for I have a superb memory and a superlative sense of smell––thanks to my ancestors and the foresight of Father. I could smell certain kinds of mushrooms which grew underground or were hidden under piles of leaves or grew under bushes. However, from the very beginning, when I was becoming aware of my rather unusual status, I was instructed never, never to let on that I was a genius who could talk, but, when in public, I was to act as would any common canine, which was very hard for me. It must be understood that for the longest time I was under the impression that all dogs could talk, for that matter all animals. Living and being raised as I was, I had no conception of life outside of what I was exposed and accustomed to: Living in the sole company of the humans who were rearing me. I was living in a rarified ambience, cut off from the outside world. But gradually, as my consciousness grew, I began to get an inkling that I was not a normal dog.
I wanted to participate in the human condition. I wanted to talk to lots of people. I've always had a great curiosity and I am by nature a friendly entity. I found people most interesting, and there were things I would have liked to discuss with them. The circumstances, however, did not permit this and left me sad, confused and frustrated.
Frankly, I hadn't a clue as to how a dog acted in public. After all, I was being raised and treated as if human; moreover, my dog's instincts had been diminished through my extraordinary creation. I had to watch videos of how dogs acted when they met, sniffing and all the rest. In short, I had to be taught how to act like a dog. Most ironic, that. I never liked any of it––especially the smell of another dog, which I found repugnant, so I held my breath and did a lot of pretending. I even had to learn how to bark!––which was a strain on my delicate vocal chords. I told Father one day that I would rather stay home than to suffer the humiliation of acting like a common dog, to which he replied:––
"But you are a dog, Tony." I protested most vehemently when he said that. It was one of the rare moments when I lost my deference toward him.
"Father," I said, "it may be true that my outward appearances are canine, but––as you well know––my psyche, my intellect, my spirit are just as human as yours."
It was that outburst of mine which truly brought home to my Father–creator just what it was that he had created and I saw how utterly helpless and embarrassed he looked when I said my intelligence, psyche and spirit were just as human as his. Father hung his head and sat down; for a long time he was silent. His eyes were closed. I watched his face intently, for I could sense great turmoil going on behind those closed eyes. And then from the corners of his eyes tears appeared and he burst into heart rending sobs and buried his face in his hands. His whole body trembled. I didn't know what to say. Nonetheless, I tried to console him; but nothing I said seemed to calm him. Seeing I could do nothing, I went to the phone and called Sylvia, who, thank God, was in her office. Briefly I explained what had happend. She came home immediately and, taking him in her arms and cradling him, she whispered sincere encouragements to him. She kissed him and wiped his eyes and nose. I was deeply touched by her tenderness and compassion. Eventually he calmed down.
"Anthony Albert, I have made a great error in causing your creation," he said. "I have tampered with nature and now I have a dog who is more like a son to me, yet I must show him to the world as a dog––yet he should be entitled to greater respect. Oh what a fool, what a supreme and arrogant fool I am––just to show up that ass, Blauteufel." He looked at me directly in my own tear–filled eyes, "Anthony Albert," (he always doubled my name when he was about to impart something of import or wanted to stress or impress something one me), "I most humbly apologize to you for having been the cause of your creation. You should never have been born. I am worse than a Doctor Frankenstein, and I am truly sorry for any and all suffering I have caused you. I'm sorry, so sorry...can you find it in your heart to forgive me? I'm so ashamed, so ashamed..."
At first I was taken aback at his humble apology, for I'd not expected him to take what I'd said so much to heart. I clearly remember my response:––
"Father, I appreciate and love you very much. There is no need for you to apologize. You are a scientist and you used your science to prove your theories. You have demonstrated through my creation the possibility of creating entities heretofore unknown in the history of life. Is that not in itself a great achievement? It is, it is, and I laud you for your scientific genius. You've done nothing to be ashamed of. Also, I do not hold you responsible for my inability to mingle socially. I'm well aware of the limitations of my social mobility. It is not you, per se, Father, who causes my suffering, it is my rather peculiar status and how society would perceive me. You've created me, but you didn't create society. I accept who and what I am unequivocally. I don't have much choice in the matter––considering my odd place in the scheme of things––to say the least. After all, isn't it a common expression of complaint among humans to say 'It's a dog's life?'" He smiled.
"Of course I can't go about as if I were a human––at least not yet; and I know I am not human, in spite of my superintellect. And if I am humiliated when I am forced by the conventions of society to act the dog, well, naturally, I don't like it, but I do it out of love for you, and, considering the circumstances, there's not much that can be done about it. Wouldn't you agree, Father?" I spoke truthfully, innocently. There was no guile or ulterior purpose in my words. However, I did not know my ingenue's honestly would cause further pain.
Sylvia turned to hide her face and weep. And Father, seeing his dear wife going through the paroxysms he'd just suffered, went to her and it was he who now held her in his arms as she wept.
All of this emotion had a great effect on me. I am a being of deep feeling myself. But I felt positively helpless to mitigate the emotional drama before me. Not knowing what to do, I excused myself and went to my room and played the Brahms Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, which Uncle had given me. I tried to lose myself in the music while I simultaneously read Le Voyage et Navigation Facit par les Espaignols, by Antonio Pigafetta, an account of his travels with Magellen, which was fascinating reading under the proper conditions. But neither the music nor the tale of adventure could calm my spirit, and I could not concentrate. I was most upset––even if I tried to mask it. I shut the music off and pushed the book away and fell to brooding which led me to believe that I no longer wanted to continue living as I did. I would run away from home, fend for myself and live as I could. My hasty, immature decision, however, turned out to be more than I'd bargained for.
Nevertheless, I felt rejected, and although I was proud of what I was, I felt both my "parents" were now sorry I had come into the world––and maybe Uncle felt the same way. Hurt and determined to leave, I wrote a note, holding the pen between my teeth, and, putting it on the kitchen table, I slipped out through the dog door on the back porch. I jumped over the back fence. My ability to jump made the six foot fence surrounding the back yard mere child's play for me. I ran and ran until I was exhausted. I never bothered to see where I was going but I had unconsciously gone to the oak forest where we often went mushrooming, and it was there that I rested.
I don't remember falling asleep, but when I awoke it was dark and I was hungry and lonely––most of all lonely. I walked around sniffing, hoping to find some edible fungi; but the growing season was long past. My hunger was great. I wanted to eat. I soon discovered, however, that I was completely unprepared––dog wise––to fend for myself. I was aware of nocturnal creatures about me and I could have captured a few to assuage my gnawing belly; but I could not bring myself to kill, much less eat raw meat. The very idea made me shudder.
I found my way out of the forest and trotted along in no particular direction. Eventually, however, I found myself near a fraternity house. Some students were sitting out on the front porch eating. From a distance I could smell food and boldly I walked up to them and was about to ask for food when I remembered I was just a dog to them and had to act like one, so I nuzzled the hand of a young man who was holding a slice of pizza. That was the best I could do. Little incidents like this made me realize how bizarre was my life. Here I was, perfectly capable of social intercourse with humans, yet my form alone, and what it conjured up in the minds of those about me was what determined how I would be perceived and treated and how I would, in turn, act. I was a very good actor, too, but a puzzled and confused one,
How silly, how stupid it all was. What a shame. I felt an ass at times having to act out this charade. I did not have, then, however, the level of life experience or wisdom I have now. I was but a babe in the woods––in spite of my brilliance. I was like a young Mozart without music.
The student with the pizza was very kind to me; so were the others. They petted me, rubbed my neck and said I was a "good boy." I wanted to scream! But I maintained my reserve. Nonetheless, I liked the attention and their innocent affection.
They fed me, first one slice of pizza (with anchovies) then another with sausage and mushrooms. I ate everything they offered me until one of the students said, "Hey, what about me? I've only had one slice. Save the rest for me." No more pizza was offered me, although I could have eaten more. Momentarily I was satisfied, but now I was thirsty and wanted something to drink. It must have been the anchovies. The students were all drinking sodas out of cans, so I lay down and they accepted my presence and went on eating, drinking and talking until one of them said, "I need some water." I followed him at a discrete distance to the kitchen and when he drank I lifted my head and made little pleading sounds. He immediately understood. He filled a bowl and I drank, slaking my thirst. As I drank he watched me and said: "How in the hell did you know I was coming in here to get water? You are one smart dog." I pretended not to hear him and drank more water even though I didn't need anymore.
Their kindness to me was appreciated and I stayed with them a while longer; but I was missing the family and my comfortable and familiar surroundings. I realized that my place was home. I nuzzled all those who had fed me and the one who had given me water. I even licked his hand and, with a mighty bound, I leaped from the porch and lost myself in the darkness.
It was obvious to me how helpless I was away from home. How could I get along without Father, Sylvia and Uncle? I had no driving instincts for the hunt. How could I feed myself? Resolved, therefore, to return home as quickly as possible, I took a short cut. But my quick return was barred some blocks from the refuge of hearth and home by a large, most unfriendly dog who was incensed when I did not adhere to the prescribed protocols of canine convention.
I discerned that his body language communicated dominance and he was exhibiting a most unwholesome aggressiveness which I found abominable. Nevertheless, I had nothing against the beast; for I understood (intellectually, at least) his territorial nature and with a few chosen words I tried to calm him down, mimicking the sincere tone a human might use trying to defuse an angry pet. But he would have none of it. He wrinkled his nose and curled back his lips slightly. His hair was up, his tail tucked, his body lowered, ready for attack. In a flash he was on me! I am no coward; my ancestors walked with the Magyars across many a bloody field. However, this poor beast was neither aware of my ancestry nor my genetically engineered physical prowess, and, not wanting to hurt him, I tried to run away; but he clamped onto my ear and only let go to make a grab for my throat. Out of necessity, I counterattacked. It was a brutal, bloody spectacle. I shall spare you the details of my combat. The noise of our duel brought people out of their houses; porch lights went on.
By that time, however, I had bested him and the poor cur lay waiting for me, in complete surrender, to deliver the coup de grace: Its stomach and throat were ready for my teeth. The brutality of it all sickened me. I fled as fast as my four legs would let me, leaving a trail of blood behind me. When I saw our back fence, I hurled myself over it and ran straight through the dog door. Sitting at the kitchen table were Father, Sylvia and Uncle, who had gone out earlier and was now home. They jumped from their chairs when they saw me.
I was covered with blood. Sylvia screamed and went into a panic. I was startled by her sudden change in personality. She exhibited such odd behavior that I couldn't help taking note of it, the circumstances notwithstanding. I was able, at long last, to calm her down and to convince her I was not bleeding to death. Gradually I explained what had happend. The ear wound, however, was serious.
Father took me to his surgery, and while Uncle held me and soothed me with kind words, Father cleaned my wound, put some stitches in it and gave me an antibiotic. Otherwise I had only superficial scratches and bites. I was washed and Sylvia gave me a bowl of chicken broth and other things to eat, for my appetite was great.
Father sat next to me on the floor and patted me affectionately. Uncle sat nearby and I was happy for his presence. I felt loved and wanted once again. When I felt relaxed enough to bare my soul to them, I explained how rejected I'd felt, thus my impetuous running away. And they told me that they had driven around in both vehicles until way after dark looking for me and that Uncle had stayed at home in case I returned. We all cried in reconciliation; and it was the events of that episode that brought us closer together as a family, for after that reunion and reconciliation, the natural affection of all four of us came to the surface full strength, which brought home to me the words I had read in Dr. Schweitzer's autobiography: "The ethic of Reverence for life, therefore, comprehends within itself everything that can be described as love, devotion and sympathy in suffering, joy and effort."
Nonetheless, that first fight with a dog brought home to me the baser nature of my ancestry, its brutality and violence and I was thankful I had not been born a common brute dog. My delicate nervous system, my education and the sophisticated world view I had developed had no place in the world of dogs, and, as I was to learn, had no place, either, in the human world,. But I get ahead of myself.
Some weeks later, sporting a scar like a veteran of the streets, Father and I were strolling across the campus on the way to the library when we ran into Herman Blauteufel. It was my first encounter with the man––but not my last, either. Even before he opened his mouth I didn't like him, for when Father slowed to return Blauteufel's insincere greeting, I growled––something I rarely did, if ever. The man had touched off in me ancestral alarums of caution I never knew I had. I remember Father looking down at me in surprise saying, "Easy boy; it's all right," the way one would speak to an ordinary pet. But we had to keep up pretenses.
"Taking the dog for a walk, I see," said Blauteufel. "Is he one of your subjects? He looks ordinary enough." Oh, I wanted to shout at him in all the languages I knew, especially Russian, which is loaded with vindictives just for the likes of Blauteufel. But I kept my composure and sat on my hind legs waiting for them to finish their brief chat. When at last the cretin was out of earshot, I said to Father, sotto voce:––
"Father, be careful of that man. He is your enemy."
"How do you know that, Tony? You've only just met him for the first time. He is rather an ass, but an enemy?"
"You forget that you have created a most perspicacious entity. Trust my powers of discernment. There are some things I understand better than you, if you will forgive my audacity."
"Nothing to forgive, Tony. I trust you. But do you really mean enemy in its accepted sense?"
"I do. Do not trust him. Beware of him." Just then some students were approaching and I had to stop talking.
While I waited outside of the library I felt uneasy. I couldn't say why, but I knew it came from our unexpected meeting with Blauteufel. He had an apt name: Bluedevil––and there was something devilish and evil about that man which had affected my nervous system.
The reason we were at the library was to get some books and tapes to further my education. I was such a fast learner that I even surprised myself at times. My mind was like an inexhaustable sponge: I could "soak up," as it were, an entire textbook in a matter of hours; I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I could read very quickly and retained everything I read. My memory was prodigious and my thinking original.
In a retrospective examination of my education, I realized I knew no Latin and, at that same time, there were some original Latin texts cited in some footnotes I had read and I wanted to consult them. I asked Father for a grammar and a Latin–English dictionary. I would teach myself Latin, which I did––in two weeks. Frankly, I found it rather tedious, that's why it took me two weeks to memorize the grammar and vocabulary. But it was worth the tedium, for I was then able to read Cicero and Livy, Sallust and Aulus Caecina and Suetonius in the original.
But even as I waited outside in great anticipation of the Latin texts, I could not shake the foreboding I was feeling. However, when I saw Father walking out of the library with the canvas book bag bulging with books, I forgot all about my presentiments and happily followed him back to the parking lot anxious to get home and start my study of Latin, ancient Roman history and literature.
Christmas was nearing and I was looking forward to a quiet time at our Gettysburg farm and our cozy house which Sylvia had decorated in a quasi–colonial style which I found elegantly rustic––if one can imagine such a scheme. But we were rich and could afford to decorate as we wished.
Uncle Corrado was off to Italy for Christmas and we were scheduled to leave ourselves the next day but one when, of all things, Father slipped on an icy sidewalk, hurting his back, laying him up for quite a while––most of it painful for him. Our departure and trip were canceled immediately. Needless to say, I was disappointed, for I'd come to love the Gettysburg farm.
On previous visits there Father and I often visited the battlegrounds. Those visits aroused my interests in the Civil War in particular, and war generally. You must understand that all of my learning came through books or conversations. I understood war only on an intellectual level and I understood violence (having been in a fight myself, which I have mentioned in its proper place), but I'd never met a war veteran, obviously, nor a civilian who had experienced war, so I had not a clear understanding of what it meant for lines of massed armies to stand some yards apart and actually shoot rifles at one another! Nevertheless, I found it absolutely incredible that men would perform such an insane, absurd, murderous ritual. At times, when Father and I strolled through the former killing fields and the cemetery, an eerie, sixth sense crept over me: I felt as if I could hear voices, distant voices, some plaintively calling, some screaming, some shouting in anger. I won't say I saw anything––but sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I would see things (or perhaps I imagined) I saw whispers of forms and shadows of unsettled spirits. I believe that sixth sense gave me an understanding of what war, a battlefield is: A great sadness. Yet for all its somber memorial, Gettysburg was beautiful and I loved going there.
We passed our Christmas, therefore, at home and every day I would sit at Father's bedside and read to him or declaim poetry I had committed to memory. Sylvia had hired a domestic to help Father and to cook, for she decided to spend some time in the library getting a bibliography together for the coming semester.
I was in the middle of a humorous recitation of "Rex the Wonder Dog," an amusing poem about a dog named Rex, who piddled on every pillar and post. Father found it hilarious, and I was glad for that. Because I was reciting in a strong voice, neither of us heard the domestic walk in. Suddenly there came a scream and the sound of something crashing: It was the domestic bringing a late morning broth for Father, per Sylvia's instructions. For a moment she stood, mouth agape, in absolute horror. When I started to walk towards her, she screamed again, turned and fled down the stairs. I followed her downstairs. She kept looking over her shoulder. Grabbing her coat and purse, she ran out of the house screaming, never bothering to close the door to the cold, Pennsylvania winter. I pushed it shut with my paw.
I reported back to Father immediately, who called the library and had Sylvia paged; but she was not found. In the time it took Father to call the library and hang up, there came a pounding on the front door. Father could not easily get up and, obviously I could not answer the door, so I went to the window and looked out: A campus police car was in the driveway; an officer was pounding on the door. I explained the situation to Father.
"What are we going to do, Father?" I asked.
"Help me," he said. With one hand on his cane and another clamped onto the back of my neck, Father, with great effort, got up from bed, went to the window and opened it. "Why are you pounding on my door, officer?" asked Father of the policeman.
"Sorry to bother you, Professor D'Augusta, but we had a report of a woman screaming and running from this house. Is everything all right?"
"Yes, yes. It was only the maid, whom I think was a little upset about something. She ran out just a few minutes ago. I do hope she's all right."
"I'm going to have to make a report and I'll need her name. Do you think you could come down and open the door, sir?"
"I've hurt my back and was in bed, and it's hard for me to walk. Do you think we could do this when my wife gets back?" And no sooner had he said that when Sylvia's car hove into view.
When I saw Sylvia alight from her sedan, my heart sank. She saw the officer at the door; she looked up and saw Father and me at the window; she gave us a quizzical look as if to say "What's going on?" She spoke to the officer; she knew him by sight; he was friendly and when she asked him why he was at the door he told her. We could hear his voice carry up to us at the open window.
"Then by all means we need to get to the bottom of this," said Sylvia. "Won't you come in, please," she said, as she opened the front door.
She invited Officer Bruner upstairs. I could sense he felt a bit awkward. I lay down on the other side of the bed being as inconspicuous as possible. Father gave his account of the incident, saying that for no apparent reason, the maid, after she had entered the room, had been frightened by me, and, dropping the cup, ran out. Father pointed to the broken broth cup lying in situ on the floor. Officer Bruner wrote the facts down in his notebook, along with the name and address of the domestic, Adelaide Welch, whom he would interview. He apologized for any inconvenience he may have caused, gave a smart salute and left. We were all relieved when we heard his car drive off.
I could tell Father felt a little put out. "At least she could have knocked before entering," he said, a little grumpily. "You know how word gets around and the first thing you know rumors will spread about a talking dog––or a looney professor––or both. Hrmmf."
"Now, now, Albert, don't create scenarios. No matter what rumors might go around, we have nothing to hide. Anyway, don't you think it's time for Tony to be introduced to the scientific community––to the world? You are a genius and your work should be known. Why you might even get a Nobel Prize. Wouldn't that be grand?" she said, a bit dreamily. Father frowned.
"I'm not ready and neither is Tony. I haven't finished with his education; moreover, I wanted to wait until after I mated him to see what his offsprings would be like."
Offsprings? Mated? My ears perked up. This was the first time I'd heard of such a project. I felt my person was being intruded upon; that my sexual naivete was not taken into account, that it was presumptuous to want to mate me without considering my feelings. Now it was my turn to feel put out. Anyway, what did I know about mating? I didn't like this at all and said so. Father looked at me with a look that said, "I'll tell you all about it later."
"Well, no matter what future plans you may have, the reality Albert," said Sylvia, "is that if Mrs. Welch talks long enough, someone on this campus is bound to hear about Tony––and I don't think I need to mention whom."
Of course she didn't, for she meant Blauteufel and who knew what mischief he would cause.
Sylvia busied herself with cleaning up the mess on the floor and I went back to my room and lost myself in my reading of the Tao Te Ching, in Chinese, and for the rest of the afternoon I gave myself up to weightier, philosophic considerations and lent no importance as to whether or not a silly woman was scared out of her wits because she heard a dog speak. How absurd.`
The president of the college invited Father and Sylvia to his new year's party. Having been cooped up in the house and in bed since before Christmas, Father readily accepted the invitation and Sylvia was pleased because there would be a small dance band at the party and she liked to dance.
Naturally, I couldn't go. How could I? But even if I had gone, what would I do at a new year's party? I don't dance, obviously, nor do I drink and I am not one for social chitchat and banter. Sylvia made me a new year's eve dinner, nevertheless, of deboned game hen which she roasted with some dried, wild mushrooms we had collected in season. I had come to like sweet potatoes, too, so Sylvia baked a couple for me. Before they left, we all hugged––or at least I tried to hug as best as I can and exchanged new year's wishes, etc.
At the party several people approached Sylvia and Father asking them about their talking dog. "What ever are you talking about?" was Sylvia's response. The story, as she and Father heard it from faculty and other guests known to them, was that when Officer Bruner finally got a statement from Adelaide Welch, she said that she'd heard me talking which scared her half to death; moreover, that I had approached her in a menacing way and that is why she fled, posthaste. That was what they had gleaned from the gossip.
Officer Bruner's report duly filed, the rumor of a screaming woman, frightened by a talking dog, fleeing the house of a well–known professor, spread easily enough, and,as Father was told by an inside (and most reliable source) the chief of the campus police shook his head at the unbelievable statement Mrs. Welch had made and told his officer to forget the matter.
President Ardath, an old friend of Father's, asked to speak to him, privately, at his home, the next day. On new year's day, a rather dull–gray day with snow threatening, we all three of us drove to President Ardath's house at noon. His grandchildren were visiting; they were sweet kids, one aged six and twins, eight. That visit was an eye opener for me because it was the first time I had ever seen twins, although I had seen pictures and knew much about twins from my readings. While Father and Sylvia were in Dr. Ardath's study talking, which talk I shall relate to you shortly, I played with the children and I must say I had a delightful time with them. We did silly things and I loved it. This play made me start thinking about being mated. I'd never given much thought to the opposite sex; as I've said, I didn't care to be around other dogs. Father used to chide me for being an elitist snob; but my favorite retort was: "But, sir, you made me thus," and even if he would chuckle, he was always red–faced afterwards.
That afternoon with the children is also memorable because it made me think about a mate and offsprings. During a break from our play, I lay in front of the Ardath's cozy fireplace daydreaming about little Anthonies running about and me teaching them Italian and French and reading out loud to them from my collected library. What splendid little intellectuals they would make. I went into a deep, romantic fantasy of puppies and guiding them through life. And what Father had said about mating me began to appeal to me, and, I started to mull over what kind of female would I like to have––if you will allow me––for a wife.
Once back home I was told of the private conversation with Dr. Ardath. The report about Mrs. Welch's screaming had reached him, officially, and he wanted to hear Father's side of the story. Of course Father told him what he'd told Officer Bruner; but Dr. Ardath further stated that the police report alleged Mrs. Welch had distinctly heard the dog talking.
"Preposterous," said Father, "she was only imagining it."
"But then, who was talking? She claims she saw you very clearly in your bed and your eyes were closed and your lips were not moving. I've read the report, Albert. We've been friends for a long time; I know you've been working privately on animal experiments. Be honest with me:
Have you trained your dog to speak?"
Father was a man of great integrity and he could not lie; it was not in his nature to do so; and when President Ardath flat out asked him he said:––
"In the spring I shall be making a great announcement which will bring fame to this school, Edward. And science shall have been advanced beyond anyone's imagination."
Edward Ardath's face, so Father told me, turned pale and his lips started to quiver and though he tried to speak he could not. After some moments of silence Dr. Ardath burst out: "Do you mean to tell me, Albert, that Tony speaks?"
"I am not now at liberty to say anymore than I've already said––suffice it to say come spring you should be ready to greet the press and scientists of the world who will undoubtedly come in droves to this campus. Do not ask me more, please." Father had a commanding adamancy which Dr. Ardath respected and the matter was dropped.
"And that's what happend, Tony. I have decided to introduce you to the world; but first I want to mate you and study your offsprings."
I was so proud. Now the world would know of my existence, my genius, my command of languages and my other talents. I would be famous! It was then that I told Father of my daydreaming in front of the fireplace, and said I hoped he would find me a compatible mate I could woo. And, I apologized for my initial reluctance to be mated.
"My, my, you are truly an incurable romantic. I hadn't given much thought to courtship. I was thinking more along the lines of artificial insemination; but if you'd like to try the natural way, then, by all means, do so. I have no objections," he said, matter–of–factly.
I was elated beyond measure. Deep inside me I was stirred. I was to have a mate and she, eventually, my puppies! That very night, in my room, I put on my artificial fingers and input some poems into my cyberspace journal on my forthcoming nuptials.
Uncle had given me a book about dogs and I went through it looking at all the pictures and reading about the characteristics of the dogs therein. After an intense perusal I kept turning back to the same page, gazing upon the same picture. And it was then and there that I finally decided on a real beauty, a Pharoah Hound. My attraction was irresistible and I went to Father and told him.
"Very well, Tony, a Pharoah Hound it will be––the very best money can buy."
And so it was that he and Sylvia went shopping for a wife for me. Uncle Corrado came back from his Italian vacation and was with me while Father and Sylvia went to Maryland where Father had spoken long–distance with an exceptional breeder of Pharoah Hounds.
I always liked to pass time with Uncle Corrado; we got along famously because we could speak to each other in several languages and make puns and double entendres and literary allusions few could understand. Moreover, Uncle being a highly spiritual man, always told me stories of the lives of saints, gurus, kamis and lamas. (I have already related how I chose my name). We would sit for hours by the fireplace and he would fill my curious mind with the strange histories of extraordinary human beings, which seemed never to satisfy my exotic and voracious curiosity.
It was during this time while Father was off getting me a wife that Uncle said that he truly regretted I was not human because he would have stood godfather for me at my baptism.
"But why can't I be baptized, Uncle?" I asked. I was, at that time very naive about orthodox religions and theologies. I've since made a thorough study of them and find them remarkably obtuse, if not downright contradictory and amusing. Nevertheless, his answer was:––
"Because you are not a human, Antonio," he always called me Antonio, which I liked, "and dogs, so it is said, do not have immortal souls."
"But are humans the only form of life that have souls?"
"According to certain faiths and theologians."
"But what animates animals if it is not their soul? After all, didn't you tell me that God created all things? And if He created humans with souls, it must also follow that He created animals with immortal souls, too."
"I'm not a theologian, Antonio, and, frankly, I've no gusto to argue such a point. In fact, I agree with you. Animals have souls. To think otherwise is preposterous and arrogant. However, the reason for human baptism, as I understand it, is to wash away original sin; and since animals are not born with original sin, there is no reason for their baptism."
"That does make some sense. So I can conclude, dear Uncle, that animals, being born without original sin must, therefore, be purer spiritually than humans."
"Without a doubt, Antonio, without a doubt. Humans are so corrupt, so filled with deceits and jealousy and greed. No saint and no savior exemplar has ever been able to change them. True, some people can be guided, but, by and large, people will do whatever is in their own self–interest, in spite of noble sermons and baptisms. That's the tragedy of the human condition. It's an old story," and he let out an audible sigh which made me just a little sad that this dear and gracious man saw no possible way to change humankind.
"Father could create people with gentle dispositions. Look at me: I'm not at all like a dog––except my body. If Father could create a human with benign characteristics, just think of an entire generation of kind, decent human beings." Momentarily I was carried away by my fervor and an instantaneous mind's eye picture of a nation of benign souls, all, more or less, living peacefully, harmoniously, came to me with the utmost of clarity––and all because of my beloved Father–creator's genius.
Uncle Corrado looked at me a long time, then he shook his head. "Antonio, Antonio, you are one of the most brilliant students I have ever had and I have come to love you as a nephew. However, you are naive––but that is no fault of yours. Your education is yet incomplete. In time you will absorb more and draw your own conclusions, but don't think for one moment that Albert's genius would be able to save the world from itself. It's been tried many times, in many ages past and all attempts ended in failure."
And I responded: "But surely we can change that through genetic engineering? We can create any kind of being we want."
"Unfortunately, that's not so far–fetched; and I can guarantee you, dear Nephew, that if Albert's secret ever got into the wrong hands, then in one generation some fiend would create an army of monsters capable of the most heinous acts. No, no my sweet idealist, you are brilliant academically, and I love you and your spirit, but you do not yet understand human nature."
How could I argue about human nature? After all, my brilliance notwithstanding, I was a dog––even if I didn't think like one. All I had was a deep mind, lots of book learning and no human experience, and all of a sudden I didn't like being what I was.
I fell into one of my sudden melancholies. That often happend to me. Some might even call me to highly strung––as it is said––but I would often become depressed when I clearly realized I could never participate in certain events or experiences which I was perfectly capable of intellectually because I was a dog. Certain pursuits and experiences were strictly for the human condition and my dogness precluded my participation. I was so much a part of the human condition and, paradoxically, at the same time, an outcast from it. Had I been of lesser stuff, and had I not been the great lover of life I have always been, most likely I would have tried to commit suicide. And although I yearned for acceptance and a chance to be an ordinary entity in a world that would consider me abnormal, I had to remember my place, so to speak. I went deeper into a funk which finally came to a head; and being the sensitive individual I am, I cried.
Uncle tried to console me with kind words; but his efforts did not convince me nor lift my spirits. I excused myself and went to my room, and while I lay on my Amish quilt, I concluded that I wanted no scions. I would call off the engagement and live out my years dying puppyless. After all, what was my purpose in life? Why was I given so much if what I had could not be put to good purpose, and, through selfless service to the world, help make it a better place for humans––as well as for dogs––to live in?
These were the thoughts that kept me awake half the night. In the morning, after we came back from our walk, I asked Uncle to write a letter for me which I would dictate. The letter began:––
I have always supported your scientific pursuits. You know this. Further, I have been an exemplary subject vis–a–vis your program of education for me. Moreover, our friendship has meant more to me than I can ever express. You have been like a father to me, and my affection for you has always been like that of a son,, and I do not wish to offend you and do not wish you to think less of me now that I have had a change of heart and wish to withdraw from further participation in your scientific pursuits. Therefore, I refuse to be mated with the female you have procured for this purpose. I wish to withdraw and go into seclusion. I only ask that you continue to feed me and care for me inasmuch as I am incapable of doing so myself.
When Uncle finished writing, he wiped his eyes. "You will break his heart, you know that, Antonio," he said, his voice cracking.
And I responded bitterly, but not vindictively, "So be it," and I retired to my room as would a monk to his reclusive cell.
They brought her home. Her name was Betty. She was a beautiful tan color with a white star on her chest, white toes and she stood about twenty–four inches high. She had a short glossy coat and hauntingly beautiful amber eyes. She had elegance, grace, and I could see in her face that she was intelligent, friendly and affectionate. She had noble bearing; and, scrutinizing her body, I could tell that she could move at great speed. The ancient Egyptians loved these hounds and Tutankhamen, when his own favorite died, had it mummified and buried as if it were of the royal blood. I had made a good choice, but the circumstances of the moment prevented me from truly appreciating the bride Father had bought for me. When she saw me she ran to me and started to sniff me. I sniffed her too, and surprised myself, for I found her scent not unpleasant; nonetheless, after a couple of sniffs, I tossed up my head in monkish indifference and told Uncle Corrado in Italian to present the letter while I went to my room and listened to some Bach keyboard music.
In the middle of a particularly stunning harpsichord passage came a knock on my door. I called out, "Come in." Father walked in, the letter in his hand. I pretended great concentration on the music, wagging my tail in time to the fughetta then being played. He sat and said nothing. Father was always patient and never one to be rude. I learned my good manners and politeness from him; but that night I was not particularly polite. I let him sit until the music was over.
I got up and went to my water bowl and drank, then went back to my quilt and, turning to him, I said:––
"I see you have read my letter," I said it in the most off–handed voice I could muster, as if my missive were of little importance and I saw him wince and shake his head.
"You have said some very serious things, Anthony Albert and I believe we need to talk."
I lifted my head and said: "Really, Father? There is nothing to discuss. I believe my letter was very clear."
"Oh, without a doubt, very clear. But why this sudden change of heart? When we left you were elated and now this," he said, lifting the letter and shaking it in my direction. "I do believe you owe me an explanation. I have always been open with you and I would like you to be open with me. That's all." He said this in a calm, soft voice, the voice he always used whether he was explaining the complexities of genetics or commenting about the beauty of cumulus clouds against a sharp–blue spring sky or the sound of cooing doves. I could not stay artificially indifferent to him when he spoke to me so gently and so lovingly.
I went to him, I put my front paws on his knees. "I'm sorry if my letter has upset you. I apologize and regret the haste of it. I'm sorry I had Uncle write it. But I felt I could not do otherwise. I am not an ingrate, Father..." My voice choked.
"Yes, yes, I know Tony. But what happend while we were gone? Corrado told me about your conversation; but I can't imagine that that would change you so––but it must have. Now tell me: Why have you decided to become a recluse and break off your engagement?"
"Because my life, my knowledge is worthless. I am of no service to anyone. Nothing I know can help anyone. Could I become a teacher? No. Could I become a lecturer on the history and etymology of Chinese characters? Absolutely not. I must forever live in this dog's body––even if I am brilliant––but cut off from normal human intercourse and contact. I am nothing more than a beast, a beast! And what will happen to me once you make my powers known publicly? I'll tell you: I shall become a freak, an object of whispers and finger pointing as I go by. Look, people will say, there goes the dog that can speak foreign languages, and they will laugh––never knowing I have a heart full of love and joy. True, I will be held up as a great scientific achievement; many will want to study me––I pray you will save me from that humiliation, Father.
"And what of my offsprings, if any? Suppose they are as talented as their father: What will become of them? I don't want any issue; it is just too painful to think that they will live in a world which will always consider them as inconsistent with their true natures and unfit to participate in the activities of the human condition. And what of me? I am of no use except as an object of scientific curiosity. Except for you, Uncle and Sylvia, who else will treat me, or my offsprings, with the decency and respect we rightly deserve because of our uniqueness? Not many, I'm sure." I was brutally honest and felt wretched as I emptied my pent up spleen. "Uncle told me animals don't need to be baptized because we are born without the stigma of original sin and that made me think animals, whether they are dumb or as brilliant as I am, are purer than any human––yet I can never be a model for others to follow. What is my life, then? Nothing more than a scientific experiment that worked, a mauvais quart d'heure." I dropped my paws from his knees and wept the bitterest tears ever (I'm convinced) by a conscious entity in the living condition. (I hesitate to say the human condition for obvious reasons).
Lost as I was in my own lamentation, I did not see the tears flooding Father's eyes; it was only when he fell on his own knees next to me and buried his face in my neck and wept as sorrowfully as I that I became aware of his suffering. He hugged me. "Tony, Tony, my son...I'm sorry."
It was the first time he ever called me "my son," and hearing those words rent my heart and my tears flowed even more and I even howled mournfully, much I imagine, as did my ancestors. My howls brought Sylvia and Uncle Corrado running into my room; and when they saw us thus, two pitiful creatures weeping, our state moved them. They kept asking what was wrong, but neither Father nor I were capable of speech. All four of us were on the floor. Uncle was wringing his hands and asking me in broken sentences of linked languages how he could help me. But I was so overcome with emotion I was speechless. But in that weeping I kept hearing Father's voice saying, "Tony, Tony, my son..." And every time I heard his voice my chest heaved and my howls went out even louder, which eventually brought Betty upstairs. I could hear a response to my howls, for she, poor unaware beast, howled back in commiseration just because she cold sense my pain and, I'm sure, Father's, too. I remember her licking me and giving me nudges with her muzzle. She would lick me, nudge me, then walk around in a circle as if confused, not knowing what to do, then come back and lick me. I was beginning, however, to quiet down. My tears ebbed.
Sylvia had Father in her arms and Uncle was rubbing my head and the back of my neck. Finally my body stopped trembling, but my heart was pounding so loudly I feared it would burst. What I needed was some fresh air. I struggled to get up on all fours; I felt light–headed and was certain I would fall; but I was determined to go outside. Somehow I managed to get through the door and was at the top of the stairs. I took one look at those steps, which I usually had no difficulty negotiating, as if they were a precipitous cliff. And as I stood on the landing I heard a bark behind me: It was Betty. She seemed to intuit my seeming helplessness, and, clamping her teeth on the back of my neck, she started walking down the stairs with me weakly in tow. In a round about way that was how our courtship started.
The air was cold and the moment I stepped through the dog door it was like a slap in the face and I started. I breathed deeply and my head cleared. I looked up into the sky which was clear with winter stars standing out sharply, sparkling, capturing my attention, and for a moment their sight helped me forget my deep sorrows. Standing there, my neck craned to the heavens, I thought how lovely it would be to be a distant, brilliant star instead of a brilliant dog with an uncertain future.
I lay down and Betty lay next to me. I turned to her:––
"Oh, you don't know about me. You think I'm like you, but I'm not. Do you know who Cicero was, or, El Greco? Of course not. Did you know that Seleiman the Magnificent had his son, Mustafa, killed because of the treachery of Kasseki Khurrem, his favorite wife? No, you don't know that, either––and I wish I didn't. You are just an ignorant dog and when I was a puppy I was almost like you. But I had the potential for genius in my DNA––oh, what am I saying? I apologize. I don't mean anything by saying you are an ignorant dog. No; you are an outstanding animal. Did you know we dogs are purer than humans because we are born without original sin? That should make us better than humans––but our unblemished souls don't mean anything to humans––except for my Uncle. He understands––and now maybe Father. And Sylvia? I don't know. Did you know I picked you out from an encyclopedia of dogs? Yes, I did. A picture bride, as humans would say. I even remember the page number––even the paragraph and the position of the picture on the upper right hand side of the page––oh, I have such a good memory. I wonder if I could remember how to be a real dog? Betty, do you think you could teach me? I don't even know how to court you. Can you imagine? I have a mate and don't know what to do. Don't misunderstand me, I've seen dogs in the neighborhood mount one another. But I'm a little shy. Would you like to hear a poem? Let me see...ah, yes: 'When as in silks my Julia goes/ Then, then me thinks how sweetly flowes/That liquefaction of her clothes...'––no, no, that's not for your kind––not for my kind, either. What kind am I? Who knows? I don't know myself. I'm saturated with human knowledge and notions and can't say truly I'm a dog. Oh, Betty, I've come to realize my life is a farce, a farce, I tell you. A scientific wonder which is meaningless. Does my creation help humanity? No. My creation––in spite of my genius––isn't worth tuppence. I can chase rabbits, but I wouldn't know what to do with one when I'd caught it. I couldn't bring myself to kill it and eat it. So even as a dog I'm useless. What good has my human education done me? And now the whole house is upset. Poor Father, I'll never get over his sorrow. But one good thing came of this, Betty: He called me son, yes, his son. Do you know I have his DNA? Why DNA is used in courts of law to establish paternity, which tells me most humans are irresponsible liars who won't even admit to fathering a child. No; they deny it until the DNA is matched and the evidence irrefutable. Humans...they are to be pitied, Betty. You are better off being a true dog. That's why I decided not to mate with you: One of me is enough, enough..."
I heard the back door open and close. I did not turn around. After a long pause, I heard footsteps; they were Uncle's. He approached me and squatted and rubbed my back, Betty's, too. I always liked that and he knew it.
"The stars are beautiful, Uncle."
"Yes, they are. I was looking at them from the porch. They remind me of all the blessings in life––infinite blessings. Why if we started enumerating our blessings in this life we would never finish counting."
"And what of the sorrows, Uncle?" I said in a low voice.
"Hmm, the sorrows? Well, dear one, they are there, too. But one should not dwell on them, for often what may seem to be a sorrow may well be a blessing in disguise."
"How can that be?" I asked.
"It just is. Everything in this life, Antonio, is a blessing––even the sorrows. You may think that's a contradiction––you have a sharp mind and in your present circumstances it would seem so. But I have lived a long time and I have seen much and experienced much and my life has been (as I see it) the expression of one continuous blessing–including the sorrows––starting even before I was born."
My curiosity was aroused. "How can you say that? Even before you were born. It's not logical."
"Oh, but it is."
"Explain yourself, Uncle."
"Why am I alive? Because of my parents? No; then because of my grandparents or my greatgrandparents and theirs? No. I am alive because of everyone of my ancestors, including the first ones––whoever they may have been––and beyond that, too. I am also alive because of mysterious forces which humans know little about, forces active before the creation––but let me return to ancestors. Had even one of my ancestors not had children, I would not have been born. That continuity is also a blessing. I think I can safely say the same thing about your ancestors, too. You, unfortunately, have failed to acknowledge or appreciate the many blessing you've received. The blessings of the ages are not only for humans, Antonio.
"So you see, life forces active before your birth (and mine) have caused all of us being born the entities we are. You've come this far, one blessing after the next, one sorrow after the next. But don't dwell on, or emphasize the sorrows. Once they are over, they are gone, but the blessing of life itself remains. Be free, dear Nephew, of sorrows. In your present situation the greatest blessing is that you are surrounded by people who love you, and your sorrow can never be greater than their love. Understand that. True, your position is rather an awkward one, to say the least. Nevertheless, no one has ever mistreated you and you have been given the best of everything. I don't have to tell you how much Albert loves you. I think it is self–evident; and I know how much you love him, and it is not good for people who love one another to be estranged. Go to him; he wants to see you and to be reconciled with you. He understands your heart. He's a great scientist, but, he is, also, a very warm, loving, humble man. This evening has been just as hard on him as it has been on you––and I might add––Sylvia and myself. Go. Your father is waiting for you; don't deny him, Antonio. He loves you."
My Father wanted me! And I was part of the cosmic process of creation, not just a scientific wonder! For the first time in my life I had an inkling of divine illumination. I jerked my head. I breathed the cold, salubrious air deeply into my lungs. I jumped up and in a trice I was away––with Betty right behind me.
Father and I stayed up all night talking. Even Betty eventually lay down in front of the fireplace and went to sleep. But we two stayed up talking and what was said made a deep impression on me. Father told me that he had decided not to announce me to the world; instead, he would resign from the college and retire to our farm in Gettysburg and write his memoirs. He was still young, only fifty–one and, he said, it would take him a long time to write his memoirs, so he would have plenty to do. He would also take up gardening and live a simple life, maybe even study a musical instrument. "After all, I am a very rich man; those lottery checks and interest from my investments keep coming in, so I can afford to retire."
As I listened I knew that his decision had been made to protect me; but in all fairness to him, to the grandeur of his scientific genius, I now had to make a decision myself. He was too valuable to rusticate himself on the farm and write memoirs and grow potatoes and cabbages. And I felt very selfish and realized that my pride had gotten in the way of the progress of science: That my very existence was purpose enough; that I was not a useless entity, but a vital participant in a great process stretching back to the cosmic origins of my ancestors, DNA and to the very first scientific thought––whatever that may have been. I told Father what Uncle Corrado had said to me about blessings, ancestors and eternal connections to the past and how I saw the deeper implications of Uncle's timeless philosophy in relation to my own life and how I could be of service to humanity by showing the world that the appropriate use of science and technology, e.g., my own creation, could be the first step to help humanity climb out of its morass of egoism and reach, yes, for those beautiful stars I had seen earlier and indeed make the world a better place.
Dawn had overcome the night and we both became aware of the light outside. We walked to the east facing window and saw the sun peeking up over the hills. He put his arm on my neck and at that moment I felt closer to him than ever before, and it was then that I told him he should not resign, not retire and to proceed as planned: Announce my creation to the world, and, further, I would couple with Betty and together we would see if what he had wrought in me would pass over to the next generation.
There, it was out. He turned to me. "Tony, do you really mean it, or are you saying it just to make me feel good?"
"Father," I said, "I have never been more serious in my life." He embraced me and said something that touched me to the core:––
"Anthony Albert, if I could use my science to change you into a human being by changing myself into a dog to achieve your humanness, I would gladly trade places with you."
We were both emotionally exhausted. He went to his bed. I lingered for a while longer at the window. Never had the sunrise seemed more beautiful; never had any day in my life seemed so important as did that new dawn. I looked over to Betty still sleeping in front of the fireplace. I dropped down and joined her; and, closing my eyes and liking the warmth of her body next to mine, I fell fast asleep.
Now, however, as I write this, I realize that had I not changed my mind, life for all of us would have been different and I would not be writing this.
Betty and I spent a lot of time together. I rather liked her company. Having been raised among humans, my experience with dogs was rather limited and I was beginning to appreciate my own kind.
One day this happend:––
We were listening to some Chinese folk songs––or rather I was listening to them. As "The Old Fisherman," a favorite of mine, played, and its languid, lilting melody and delicately sung phrasing relaxed me, I stretched out my body; as I went into this relaxing stretch with my mouth open in a deep yawn, my spine started to tingle. Relaxed as I was, lying on my side, the sensation I had felt now worked its way to my organs of regeneration. All at once I started having fantasies about Betty.
I got up on all fours and shook myself. Without exaggeration, I felt like a lion. I went over to her and started licking her and sniffing her and whispering soft, poetic words of endearment in between my affectionate licks. She jumped up and I sniffed her and she sniffed me and we walked around in a little circle sniffing each other. With every sniff I became more and more aroused.
My reserve, dear reader, prevents me from becoming more graphic; nevertheless, I then proceeded to mount Betty. Not once, but several times in the course of several days, until one day she ran from me, avoiding me as much as possible.
I consulted one of my texts and read that what she was doing was common female dog behavior. But now that eros had been aroused in me, I was not satisfied; so on my own I went cherchez la femme, as it were. There were plenty about and all willing, to boot. I mounted as many as I could until I was sated and sexually exhausted.
After a couple of days of well–earned rest from this exhilarating adventure, I retired to my room and began a study of ancient Semitic languages (I wanted to teach myself ancient Punic) which I had been putting off for one reason or another. Weeks passed and my study of Punic was going well and the progress I was making influenced Uncle Corrado, who joined me in this study, too. Every day we would sit with our books and study together which made the study pleasant and brought back fond memories of my early lessons with Uncle. (Uncle and I still had "formal" sessions together to discuss his directed readings which at that time was an examination of Tomasso Campanella's "The City of the Sun," and Bacon's "The New Atlantis"). It was while we were thusly engaged in our Punic lessons and regular seminars that Father announced that Betty was gravid, and, by the vet's calculations, would deliver in the first part of April. I was a bit shy when they all lifted their glasses to me and my consort that very evening and offered up toasts to the success of our union.
Were I capable of blushing, I would have been red all over. Father was particularly pleased. I could tell when he was happy. I could almost feel his happiness with my body; he drank two glasses of champagne that night, something he rarely did.
Sylvia began to puzzle me. I'd been sensing something about her. She continued to be kind to me and always made sure my gustatorial preferences were met, but there was a change in her affection for me. I could feel it. I let it pass, however––after all, I was going to be a father.
The rumor, however, of Mrs. Welch having fled our house in fright because she had allegedly heard the family dog talking, had reached out to both campus and community; but because Mrs. Welch was also a well–known gossip herself, many scoffed at the rumor. But Herman Blauteufel finally got wind of the rumor and he did not dismiss it, for Father received a letter from "Bluedevil," saying since he had heard (he wrote) that "...your mutt" (as he referred to my noble personage) "can speak, it should be incumbent upon you to make public your work so that the world can judge whether you have accomplished what the rumor purports, or, that you are a ventriloquist who goes about frightening the hired help."
Father laughed; we all did at first; but after we had had our laugh we were all silent for a long time. I broke our silence with a humorous idea and said: "Why don't I call him up and pretend I'm one of his students and ask him a few questions, then bark a couple of times and hang up. Ha! That ought to shake him up."
No, no; that wouldn't be nice, Tony," said Father. "Even if he is an ass, we must never do anything so puerile. No; we shall bide our time. There's no hurry. Let him stew in uncertainty for a while longer and when you have been introduced, we can challenge his chimp, Jezebel, to a debate."
"Aha!" I exclaimed, "Maybe I should study Esperanto and add it to my storehouse of knowledge. I shouldn't have any trouble memorizing an Esperanto Gettysburg Address. Uncle, do you know any Esperanto?" I asked.
"No, I don't. I have seen a few sample paragraphs now and then and I understand what I'd read; it's a rather simple language and knowing you, Antonio, it might take you two or three days to master it. Shall I go to the library and check out some text books, Albert?"
"By all means," said Father, "I want Tony to be as fluent in Esperanto as he is in all his other languages. Dear me, I rather like what we're cooking up; we should have a lot of fun putting that nincompoop in his place."
"But aren't you being a little spiteful?" offered Sylvia.
Father turned to her: "Under normal circumstances I would agree with you, my dear; but since he is such an ass, he needs to be taught a lesson and I don't think this is spite. On the contrary, Herman Blauteufel is only going to get back all the arrogance, the ridicule, insults and pomposity he's been shoving down people's throats for far too long. What he needs, most of all, is a good lesson in humility."
"Here, here!"I concurred, but I saw Sylvia frown, which frown did not sit well with me and again I began having doubts about her.
Uncle and I put aside our Punic lessons for a few days and plunged into Esperanto. What fun! I was thrilled, for I was doing what I liked best: Learning living languages. Somewhere along the line of my mentations, I concluded that I pursued the study of foreign languages with the same passion a normal Vizsla would in finding game. So perhaps all those natural instincts I thought had been bred out of me had, after all, been transformed into intellectual pursuits. Nonetheless, Uncle's company and his equal enthusiasm for the study kept us going for hours at a time; and it was only Father's insisting we put our books down and eat that we stopped, otherwise, we would have gone without eating, for we were so engrossed in our Esperanto lessons that hunger escaped us.
When we had mastered the Esperanto grammar and a large vocabulary, we translated several short works for the folks and gave them a reading and recitation in the parlor. Betty, of course, being uneducated, could not appreciate what we had done; however, she was with us and I felt she appreciated just being part of the family.
It was on that particular evening that I realized I was (indeed) in love with Betty. But I could not tell her that with words and that frustrated me, for I felt she needed to know I had true affection for her and wanted, somehow, to make her understand she was more than an instrument of sexual gratification and scientific study: She was my wife, my mate, my companion for life. These are the sentiments my humanness gave me. And they, too, frustrated me. I became sad. Oh, I didn't mope about, I kept it pretty much to myself; however, I did approach Sylvia and told her of my frustration about not being able to tell Betty I loved her. Sylvia's reply was curt and rather unexpected: "Why do you ask me? You are the genius. Canine romance is something I know nothing about." Needless to say I was hurt.
I kept my own counsel on this matter, and continued being kind to Betty. I would bring her to my room and we would lie down and listen to music. There was a remarkable thing about Betty: She liked the Vivaldi choral work, "Dixit Dominus." After a few times of listening to it (whenever we were in my room) she would go to the cassettes and, somehow, would select it from the shelf and would carry it to me in her mouth and drop it in front of me. She was an intelligent beast, and she had good taste in music and I was thankful Father had selected a good mate for me.
I shall never forget the Sixth of April: Betty went into labor on my Amish quilt and soon delivered four healthy pups: Two males and two females. I was elated, ecstatic beyond all measure. The pups were born in the late afternoon and we stayed up until very late celebrating the births.
"Well," said Father, "let's not make the same error we did when you were born, Tony. Since you are the only one who should properly give your puppies names, I think it fitting you give some thought to naming them."
But I was well–prepared, for I had mulled over this same question myself and had prepared a mental list of names, both male and female that I liked. Without hesitation I began the naming:––
"To the male with the spot on its foot, I dub, Corrado, with your permission, Uncle," said I, turning to him.
"Of course. I'm honored," he said with a big grin.
"And to the second male, I give him the name of Jean Baptiste, because today is the feast of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle; and the females, the one with the white streak, because she is so beautiful, I shall call Nofretete, after the beautiful Egyptian queen; and the runt of the litter shall be called, Helvia, after the mother of Cicero, whom Plutarch says came from a good family and was a good woman."
"Fantastico! Ausgezeichnet!" exclaimed Uncle Corrado. "Most excellent choices. And Nofretete, ah, Antonio, you have a good eye, for truly, she was a great beauty. I saw a likeness of her in the Berlin museum when I was there last."
"Here, here," called out Sylvia, "let us drink to the new Corrado, Jean Baptiste, Nofretete and the good Helvia."
"Long life and happiness," joined in Father, who beamed as would any proud grandfather. (I, too, was beaming with the pride of a paterfamilias, or should I say paterfamilias canis?).
A few days later Father began writing his paper and I, staying close to the pups, spoke to them, waiting for them to speak their first words. Uncle spoke to them, Sylvia spoke to them. Since Betty, obviously, could not teach them a "mother tongue," we took that task upon ourselves. Father didn't want to use tape recorded repetitions as he had used after my birth, for if my intelligence had been carried over, their speech would come out without any rote repetitions.
President Ardath had not forgotten Father's promise of making an important announcement in the spring and he came calling one day as we were all outside enjoying one of the first warm days of late May. Betty and the pups were on the lawn; Uncle and I were engaged in a sport I had come to like: Catching a Frisbee. Father and Sylvia were on the porch having a late morning coffee. It was a pleasant, lazy sunny Sunday morning. Ardath drove up. When he stepped out of his car I was going after the descending Frisbee not far from him. His sudden and unexpected approach, however, made me lose speed and I missed catching the Frisbee and, forgetting myself, I said, "Damn!" But too late did I recover, for he said:––
"Well I'll be damned!" He hurried to get to the porch always looking back at me and, because he wasn't looking where he was going, he tripped over one of the pups who had waddled up to him and down he went. He wasn't hurt, but he'd fallen on his right knee and he was wearing a light–colored pair of pants which were now smudged with the green from the lawn. Father and Sylvia and Uncle all rushed to his aid; as they lent a hand in helping him up, Dr. Ardath exclaimed, "Dear me, my new pants," and a tiny voice echoed, "Dear me, my new pants." It was Helvia, who bounded up the stairs disappearing into the house.
Father looked at Sylvia; Sylvia stood stunned, her mouth agape; Uncle clapped a hand over his mouth and rolled his eyes. Dr. Ardath searched the heavens with his eyes as if to find some answer, and I sat a few feet away, the recovered Frisbee still in my mouth, not knowing what to do; but one thing was certain: I was the proudest father in the whole state of Pennsylvania.
The humans sat on the porch in a long, tense, silence and I stayed near Betty and the pups. I was tempted to speak to my "children," but I didn't want to upset Father. There was, however, no need for me to be cautious, because out of the house came Helvia, who stopped in front of Dr. Ardath and started nibbling on the cuff of his trousers and in between nibbles she kept saying, "Dear me, my new pants."
The cat, so to speak, was out of the bag.
"Would you like some coffee, Doctor?" asked Sylvia. And without hesitation he replied, "Yes, and a good stiff drink if you've got one," with which he scooped up Helvia and hugging her said: "I shall see to it that you get a scholarship." She squirmed and he let her go.
That seemed to break the tension, for Father and Uncle burst into laughter, They went to each other and embraced.
Sylvia came back with coffee, glasses and a decanter of brandy.
"I think we could all use one," she said.
Again there was a silence but it was now relaxed. Dr. Ardath poured his large brandy into his coffee and, raising his cup to Father said: "In my life I have experienced many things which have left deep impressions on me; but today I have experienced the greatest event in my entire life and you, Albert, are the genius behind this deepest of impressions. I salute you, sir, and your work; and, I am proud not only to have you as a member of our distinguished faculty, but, also, as my friend. To you, sir, and your phenomenal canines." He drank deeply, smacking his lips and drank again.
"Thank you, thank you, Edward; but I am not alone in the project. You should turn your cup to Tony. He is the true genius of the project and the sire of the little darlings you see about you. Tony, come here, please." Father was always so polite.
I approached very slowly and when I reached the porch I sat as erect as a soldier about to be decorated for valor. Dr. Ardath lifted his cup to me:––
"Tony, I drink to your genius and to the genius of your master," and he drank down the rest of his Cafe Royale.
"I'd rather you not refer to me as Tony's master," said Father, "we don't have that kind of relationship."
"Well, then creator, generator––hang it all man, who cares? This is the greatest advancement in science since..." he started to sputter. I could see his face turning red; the effects of the brandy were taking effect. "Come now, Sir Tony," he said to me, "speak up. Say something." For the first time in my life, however, I was lost for words––and for me that is truly something extraordinary.
"Don't be shy, Tony. Dr. Ardath will protect our confidentiality," said Father. Still I could not speak. Uncle Corrado saved me from further embarrassment.
"Dr. Ardath, I remember you once telling me you had won a prize in your student days in Latin. Ask Antonio something in Latin."
"Hmm, very well. He stroked his chin a couple of times then asked: "Habitne lingua Latina?" Do you speak Latin?
And I answered, "Habeo," that is to say, Yes, I speak Latin. Dr. Ardath, who was still holding the cup dropped it and it shattered.
I saw Sylvia make a face, for it was one of her favorite cups. He jumped up from his seat and grabbed his head with his hands and walking back and forth on the porch kept repeating:––
"Incredible! Incredible––but it's true, it's true. The dog understands. He speaks Latin! Maybe I'm dreaming this. Will I be able to remember this when I wake up? Will I be able to remember?" he said in a voice filled with great doubt.
I walked over to Dr. Ardath and said to him in Latin: "Annotationem tibi scribere debes," meaning, You ought to write yourself a note.
My idea of saying something amusing in response to his self–questioning words to demonstrate my ability had the opposite effect. He stopped in his tracks, let out a cry of pain, clutched at his heart and said, in Latin, "Lingua est acrior quam gladius," which I translate as, The tongue is sharper than the sword, then he passed out.
Luckily Father, who was also a physician, took charge of poor Ardath, whom he knew was suffering from the too large brandy and the shock of hearing me speak to him in Latin, a language, I might add, I never thought I would use in my every day conversation.
Dr. Ardath lay on the couch with a blanket over him and legs elevated; a cooling towel, also, on his brow. Father had taken his pulse and had listened to his heart with his stethoscope and said he would soon come around, which he did.
We spent the rest of Dr. Ardath's visit in quiet conversation. Ardath, now composed, asked me many questions and, with Uncle Corrado as my partner, we gave him a demonstration of my foreign language ability. Dr. Ardath also spoke passable French, and for a few minutes he spoke to me in French. His grammar was fair, but lacked the subjunctive. He had a wide vocabulary, but his sentences had no flavor and his accent was bad.
"Edward, you have been witness to a great event; but equally as great is the fact that Tony passed on his genius to his offsprings, and they have learned to speak, and rapidly so, the same way a child does. You can see where this might lead; so I cannot impress upon you enough the need for your co–operation in keeping this quiet until I am fully prepared to make this public."
"Yes, Albert, quite. You can count on me. Of course––mums the word. But when shall you announce this marvel? We must plan beforehand. There must be protocols and security. Once this gets out we will inundated, not only by the media, but by thousands of curiosity seekers. Why our campus will be trampled by millions of feet, and we can't have that."
"No, we can't, and I don't want that either. That is why we must control every aspect of the announcement, otherwise none of us will have a moment's peace. I am now writing my paper. When it is finished, I shall confer with you and then we shall send out press releases, but we must do everything to protect Tony, Betty and the pups. That is most important."
"Absolutely, without a doubt. Oh, Albert, I cannot tell you what this will mean for the college, why, why we'll be the most famous school in the world, and you will be its most famous teacher. My head reels with the honors you will receive. Oh, I can't believe this has happend, but it has, it has."
When Dr. Ardath made ready to leave he walked over to me and extended his hand. I put my paw in it. He held it in a firm grip. "Tony, it is a great and honored privilege for me to have been the very first person outside of this circle to have been introduced to you. You are a magnificent beast, absolutely magnificent. I shall remember this day as long as I live. Au revoir, Tony. I imagine we'll be seeing a lot of each other from now on."
We walked him to his car and he drove off. No sooner was he gone than Father rushed to Betty and the pups. He hugged her and called her a divine mother who would go down in history. He picked up all the puppies at once, hugging them warmly, planting little kisses on their noses. "I am the happiest man in the whole world." I could see tears welling up in his eyes. Oh, it was a too, too touching scene.
I had got into the habit of taking long, solitary walks in the morning. A few days after Dr. Ardath's visit, I happend to be on one of my matinal strolls when I chanced to pass the house of a faculty member, a certain Ernestine Gundersen, a professor of literature and an expert on the Old Norse Edda. I often regretted my status as a dog when I passed her house or saw her in the neighborhood because I would have liked to have studied Old Norse with her, with, of course, a concentration on the Edda itself. But how could I? Nevertheless, as I passed by her back yard I saw her collie, a beautiful golden creature. She was surrounded by three puppies, a common enough sight.
All of a sudden, however, I was jolted out of my morning reverie, for I recalled that in my first sexual outburst, when I had run about promiscuously, coupling with any female I found willing, Dr. Gundersen's collie had been one of the first females I had "seduced," after my initiation with my consort, Betty, the mother of my four darlings. There before me were (they had to be, for they looked a little like me) the manifestations of my indiscretions! Heaven help us! I stood there shocked beyond description. If I had impregnated the Gundersen collie, how many other females had I impregnated who had since given birth or about to give birth? Further, if my own had inherited my spectacular intellect, how many other of my progeny were romping about who would soon be aping the speech of their human caretakers? A shiver ran down my spine. I ran as fast as I could. When I was at the end of the block I slowed to give this problem some thought. I tried to recall as many of my indiscreet liaisons as I could. I clearly remembered at least two stray females I had encountered and there was no way of telling whether they had given birth, assuming, of course, my trysts had impregnated them, but I'm sure they had.
By the time I got back home I can say, without trying to be funny, that I literally had a hangdog expression on my face, which expression did not go unnoticed by Father, who asked me if I were not feeling well. "May I speak to you privately?" I asked.
"Very well, let's go to my study."
"Father, I have something to say which may upset you and change everything."
"Why do you say that, Tony? What happend?"
With complete candor , I proceeded to tell him about my several couplings and, if I was correct about the puppies in Dr. Gundersen's back yard, well... Father closed his eyes and shuddered.
"Oh, God, Tony––how could you?"
"How could I? How could I?" said I, with controlled indignation. "After all, I am a dog, Father, and is it not a dog's nature to do just as I have done? I am not a celibate monk. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Now, now, Tony, this is not the time for one of your quips. This is a very serious problem; and, for the life of me, I don't know what's to be done about it. I must talk to Corrado and Sylvia."
I was suddenly struck by his statement: "...one of your quips." Indeed. I have a very serious and noble character, and my thoughts and language reflect that serious and noble character. I do not quip. I was about to become indignant, but I stayed my indignation and returned to the problem at hand, pushed away my own feelings for the sake of the crisis and said:––
"Shouldn't you, also, tell President Ardath?"
"I'm afraid I'll have to. My, my, Tony, this is...it's...well, I'm flabbergasted. If, as you say, you can remember at least six females in the faculty housing area, and assuming they were all fertilized and had at least four puppies each, that means twenty–four––not counting the strays, and who knows how many others you can't remember; and if half of them are males, which means twelve, and in a couple of years they become sexually active, and assuming you have also transmitted your intellect to each puppy and assuming your male and female offsprings also pass on your talents..." Father gasped for air as one who has been underwater for a long time; and when he exhaled he shouted:––
"Sylvia, Corrado! For God's sake, come here!"
In a trice they were in the study. Father was pale and he was holding on to the arms of the chair so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Sylvia immediately thought the worst.
"Corrado, quickly, call nine–one–one!"
"No, no. I don't need an ambulance. Oh, what a calamity, what a blow to my work."
"What on earth has happend?" asked Sylvia excitedly.
"Sit down, sit down, both of you and get ready for a shock."
Father repeated what I had told him and he repeated his rough calculations which Sylvia heard with absolute horror on her face and, standing up and facing me, she screamed out at me in a terribly rebuking voice, "Tony, how could you!?"
Never, never had she ever raised her voice to me (or for that matter had anyone else) and I was shocked to my very marrow. For a moment I was so dazed by her unexpected outburst that I was frozen both in body and mind. My delicate nervous system was wounded by the force of her rebuke. (I guess Father hadn't realized just how sensitive a being he had created). I was unaccustomed to such treatment, especially by someone whom I loved, admired, respected; one whom I'd considered friend, teacher; one almost like a step–mother to me.
How could I they asked? What presumption! I was aghast. How could I? Well, I am a sentient, passionate being––even if I am a dog. My ancestors survived millennia because they had coupled. The same could be said of all species––including humans. So why was I being singled out? I used to hear the squeals and moans of love making coming from their bedroom. I have keen ears. However, I gainsay no one his or her sexual drives.
Being abused and castigated for my nature did not sit well with me. What about her own nature and what about the insatiable human sexual appetite? I said nothing, keeping my indignation in check like a dutiful, obedient son––ate this bitter crow for the sake of peace in the family.
In a flash of insight, however, I saw and understood an aspect of Sylvia, an hithertofore unseen darker, duplicitous side of her character which my unconditional love for her had failed, or, refused to see. Now my earlier suspicions about her having changed toward me were confirmed. It was not so much that she had changed. No; I was seeing her with a newly awakened awareness of what she had always been. I could not now trust her and that did not sit well with me, for it is my deeper nature to love unconditionally.
Sylvia's outburst brought Betty with the "children" right behind her. When Betty saw me sitting, frozen, statue–like, her natural affections and instincts told her something was wrong with me and she started to bark and her barking, surprisingly enough, was directed at Sylvia. Betty, too, felt the unspoken hostility emanating from Sylvia.
"How dare you!" screamed Sylvia at Betty. "Get out! she ordered sharply, "and take those little monsters with you!" Her face was red. She waved her arms as if to shoo Betty and the puppies out. Betty, being the ever–protective mother, crouched and growled, en garde, in front of the pups ready to fend off the presumed attacker.
Uncle Corrado saw what was happening and saved the day by taking Sylvia by the arm and almost dragged her out of the study, closing the door behind them.
Father was hiding his face in his hands and shaking his head. "Woe, woe, woe," is all he said.
As he sat there in his lamentations, I felt my indignation rising up again. How dare she refer to my darlings as "...little monsters..." I was now fighting mad and I wanted satisfaction.
"Father, I insist you open the door and let me out. I have something to say to Sylvia." He only took his hands away from his face, which revealed a look so alien, so unlike him that I could barely recognize him. He was in pain, for his face was contorted and his eyes wide open, but those eyes had lost their usual sparkle. I was puzzled and again checked my indignation, turning now to concern for my dear Father, for whom I feared.
"Father, are you not well?" I asked solicitously; but he seemed not to hear my voice. I called out:––
"Uncle Corrado, come quickly! Something is wrong with Father!" I had to shout several times, for apparently Uncle was not close by. My projective, baritone voice, however, finally reached him and he came as quickly as possible.
Betty, in the meanwhile, had gathered up the puppies and was protecting them with her body behind Father's large desk.
Uncle took one look at Father and called out to Sylvia who was not far away. When she espied Father's most unnatural pallor, she screamed and fainted on the spot. Uncle Corrado heard her fall and turned around with a perplexed look on his face, for he did not know whom to aid first.
"You see to Father, I'll take care of Sylvia," said I. I went to her and nudged her shoulder with my front paw. I put my ear to her mouth; at least she was breathing. Then I did something I had never done before: I licked her face. And I did it so naturally, not even giving a moment's thought to what I was doing. I concluded that my canine instincts had not been eradicated after all. I would have liked to have thought on that for a while, but the business at hand was most pressing.
After a few licks she opened her eyes just as I was about to give her another swipe. When she realized what I had done, she said in a low, raspy, menacing, clenched–teeth voice:––
"Get away from me. Stay away from me," with which she took her hand and wiped her cheek, moist from my saliva, as if to rub off something dirty, and she made a spitting noise, "Pfew," repeatedly, as if to spit something bitter out of her mouth––although I had not touched her mouth. I took no offense, however, for my conclusions abut her had already been confirmed: She was my enemy––the enemy, too, of my family.
I returned to Father, whom Uncle was helping out of his chair and gently guiding to the couch. I could hear Father mumbling, "I'm ruined. I'm ruined...all my work in vain, in vain...Tony, Tony...Anthony Albert...his offsprings...my God, what have I done..?"
My heart was broken by his words. "Is it unnatural for a dog to be a dog?" I asked myself. But I held my thought and stayed the urge to scream it out loudly. By now all I wanted to do was get out of that room and take my family with me.
We, the canine branch of the D'Augusta family, exited the dog door and assembled in the back yard.
"What is all the noise and fuss about, Father?" asked sweet Jean Baptiste.
"I'll explain later, Jean. Go and play," I responded. The puppies had learned how to speak at an accelerated pace; they were not only born with all of my superior abilities, but were able to use them sooner than I had. I was proud and protective of them––and their Pharoanic mother, Betty, but I was now beginning to feel threatened by forces just starting to come into focus. The threat against me, however, I knew, would also be directed to my kin and kind. I was beginning to feel like a character in the theater of the absurd.
We heard a siren. I tensed. Closer came the wail, and, simultaneously, I recalled the lesson on the Dopple effect which I'd learned from Father during my early days. I say this to show how my mind works: I can be in the most difficult circumstances and, at the same time, I can become highly curious about a phenomenon and want to "stop the action," so to speak, to further investigate or think upon some observation or confirmation of a law of physics or a demonstration of human behavior and consciousness, or some other tangential curiosity of the moment.
The siren stopped wailing in front of our house! Without hesitation, I vaulted the fence: An ambulance was in our driveway. I watched in trepidation as two paramedics unlimbered a gurney.
Uncle stood at the open door. I followed them in. When, however, I tried to enter the study, Sylvia shut the door in my face. Nevertheless, I stood sentinel–like outside.
A few minutes later the study door opened and I was able to see inside: Father had on an oxygen mask and he was being wheeled out on the gurney. When they opened the front door, I ran out to the ambulance. As they put the gurney into it, one of the paramedics said to me:––
"No, boy, stay. You can't come with us." I know he meant well; he thought he was just being kind to a dumb animal. Be that as it may, I was in no fit state of mind for patronization from anyone and I said to him, in as loud and as rude a voice as I could, "Drop dead, buddy!"
It was completely out of character for me to have been so rude and vulgar. Turning, I re–vaulted the fence to join my own kind. This outburst of mine was to have its consequences, which I shall treat of in proper order.
I had never been so rude to anyone and when I landed in the back yard I felt positively wretched for my rudeness. Under other circumstances I would have returned and apologized; the circumstances, however, were not normal. Moreover, how would a dog's apology have been received?
Moments later I heard the familiar sound of our family car starting and heard, also, my name being called. I jumped the fence. Uncle was at the wheel. When he saw me he rolled down the window all the way and said to me in Chinese:––
"He's being taken to the campus hospital. Stay by the phone. I'll call you when I hear something." For a moment I couldn't understand why he was speaking to me in Chinese; but it became clear to me when I saw Sylvia in the passenger's seat, and he did not want her to understand what he was saying to me.
I found myself in a most peculiar situation because of my status, and I didn't like it one bit. Why should I not be able to accompany my father to the hospital, too? I was an intimate, integral member of the family, but because of limiting, human, social conventions, I was excluded from participating as a family member. Again was it brought home to me just where I stood in the weave of the human web.
I sat by the phone for the longest time. I was both agitated and worried. When at last the phone rang, I was quick to pick up the receiver with my mouth and, putting it at mouth–ear level for me on the telephone table, I closed my ear to it.
"Antonio, are you there?" It was Uncle. "Yes. How's Father?" I asked.
"He's ok; don't worry. He's had a great shock. The doctor will keep him here under observation for a few days. Sylvia wants to stay with him so I'm coming back to pick up a few things for her, then, return and stay with you. Antonio, please, I understand your heart, and I beg of you: Don't do anything rash. Be patient. It's not the end of the world."
"That's easy for you to say. However, I am now persona non grata in my own home––and you know it." My bitterness did not go unnoticed by Uncle Corrado, who is a very perceptive man.
"Not exactly non grata. Sylvia was telling me how badly she feels she was unkind to you. Be the forgiving and gentle soul I know you to be. This situation will be resolved and things will be normal again."
"Normal? Things can never be normal because I'm not normal! I'm a freak and so are the puppies––all thirty or more of them! Normal? What's so normal about what I am?"
"You are very upset and you have a right to be; I counsel you to be prudent, that's all. I commiserate with your bitterness, but it will pass. Antonio, be patient; don't be angry. Now let me hang up. The sooner I deliver her things, the sooner I can be with you and we can talk at length. And, Antonio, if the phone rings, don't answer it. Goodbye."
When Uncle returned the first time to pick up Sylvia's things, he stayed a few minutes and tried to console me. (He was so good to me and I can never repay him for the gentle quality of his gracious solicitude). When he returned the second time, he threw himself into a chair and let out a whistled, "Whew, I didn't think I'd ever get back. There was a dreadful traffic jam near the hospital. But now that I'm back, we can talk."
"I'm not sure what there is to talk about. I'm unjustly maligned, my consort is abused, my puppies are screamed at––called monsters, and Sylvia shut the door in my face when the paramedics entered the study. She hates me, and I don't trust her. Moreover, Uncle, it occurred to me that I have no civil rights."
"No civil rights? What on earth are you talking about, Antonio?"
"Civil rights––clear and simple. I have no recourse to the law. My person is subject to verbal and physical abuse and there is nothing I can do about it."
"Why are you saying these things?"
"Because if anything happens to Father, I shall be blamed and Sylvia can do what she pleases with me––and the pups––and Betty. You forget, Uncle: We are like chattel."
"Stop being paranoid. You have nothing to fear. Albert is fine. A few days rest and he'll be fit as a fiddle. As to Sylvia, she's repentant. I told you. She's sorry she acted the way she did. We've all been under a strain. Don't create situations that don't exist."
I trusted Uncle. He was always deliberative and had a much better understanding of human relations than I. "Very well, I said, after some reflection, "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt; nonetheless, I need your protection, and I'd like to go over some contingency plans with you."
"For the preservation of my family and myself. I want you to promise me two things: One, if this situation worsens, you will take all of us away with you. I'd like to have us live with you, and, two, should anything happen to me, you will be guardian for my little darlings and Betty and see to it that they are well taken care of."
"Antonio, Antonio, nothing is going to happen."
"Promise me, Uncle. Just give me your word. I'm not asking for anything else."
"Very well, if you would have it so; but I don't think it necessary. Nonetheless, you have my word. Now, do you feel better?"
"About the puppies and Betty, yes; about myself, no. I've done a lot of growing up these past few hours, Uncle. I've been living in a fool's paradise. I have a superintellect, but I'm naive. I'm a dog, a Vizsla, I walk on four feet. Even if I trained myself to walk upright, wore pants and sported a hat and mingled in sophisticated circles, I'd still be a dog. Perhaps I would have been better off as a dog who barked when strangers passed and chased cats and lifted its leg at every pillar and post and fireplug. The last time I went through a crisis of identification, I talked myself into maintaining my status quo––but not anymore. The last time I said I wanted to withdraw from the world; this time I mean it. I just want to be left alone, and I don't want the pups to be educated. They already talk; I can't help that; but they don't have to learn how to read. They should be chasing butterflies and living the kind of life nature intended them to live and not in the artificial amalgam of half Homo sapiens and half Canis canis.
"There's going to be a big change around here and I will be adamant, and, I will not negotiate. It shall be my way or nothing. I would rather fight than have to continue being subjected to this roller coaster existence of living in two worlds and living in neither of them. It's unnatural."
On the outside I may have seemed a stalwart heart standing fast against fearsome odds; yet deep down inside I was grievously hurt by two people I loved; and even if Sylvia was sorry, I would not accept her apology. Yes, we were beasts, but we had had no hand in our genetic engineering, causing our human nervous system and consciousness––and to have called my darlings "monsters," well, it was not within my mixed ethos to be so forgiving. I was still smarting from Father and Sylvia's narrow, uncalled–for, moralistic, sexual criticism of my actions by raking me over the coals with their: 'How could you?' What odd, convoluted sentiments. It came home even clearer to me how humans tried to regulate feelings as if feelings were fixed, mechanical processes. I knew about lots of human hanky–panky. Unbeknowst to many, I was privy to the gossip and rumors of the faculty club and the college staff. I knew about their human promiscuity: Who was sleeping with whom in our rarified, ivory tower environment. I knew about the scandal involving the Chairman of the Music Department and a female student––which the adminstration had tried to cover up: He had impregnated her. But did anyone say to him: "How dare you?" No. I also knew about the liaisons of the young students who went behind the library at night to have sex behind the bushes and trees like animals in heat! But did I ever say anything, did I condemn or judge? No; because I understand the human sex urge (and that of dogs) and I am a tolerant, accepting entity who never passed judgement on the sexual behavior of humans. However, I was now ready to denounce the whole human race for its hypocrisy and artificial prudery. Beasts were far more honest about their sexual drive while humans tried to deny it. (No wonder there are so many neurotics and so much deviant behavior).
The night passed. I'd slept very little. In the morning, after Uncle had fed us, he called the hospital and spoke to Sylvia, who said Father was better; he was eating and walking around, and she stated, he was over his shock, but was still a bit disoriented and would take sick leave on the doctor's advice.
It was, nonetheless, a sad day for me in spite of the news of Father's improvement. I told Uncle I wanted to go for a walk by myself, so he let me out. I had it in mind not only to walk about but, also, to see what (if any) further evidence of my pullulations I could find. I remembered a large poodle at the end of the faculty housing area with whom I'd had a delightful encounter, and I took my walk in that direction.
The house was off by itself; the carport was empty; that was a good sign, and, a window had been left open. I put my front legs up on the sill and looked in. I saw nothing, heard nothing. Shortly, however, I heard a bark and the familiar sound of scratchy running on hardwood floors. In came the poodle followed by four puppies who, on first sight, looked a little like me! I groaned. The mother poodle barked at me a few times then came herself to the window and sniffed me. In her sniffing she must have remembered me and sensed I was no threat. She stood down from the window and lay down by her puppies.
I observed this homey scene for a few moments. If her pups, too, had inherited my intelligence surely they could understand speech and respond to it. I called out to them. "Hello. How are you?" They all looked up at once and came scampering up to under the window trying to jump up to it; but it was too high. The one who could jump the highest managed to get its paws on the sill and for a moment dangle, not for long, but long enough for him to open his mouth and say: "Buenas dias. Me llamo Martin. Como se llama?" (Good day. My name is Martin. What's your name?). Upon my word, little Martin was speaking Spanish! I responded: "Me llamo Antonio. Adios, hijito." (My name is Anthony. Goodbye, son).
That was all I needed to know. I went to the mailbox and saw the occupant's name on the box: Baltasar Marquez. I knew the name, for I had seen it in my perusal of the college catalogue. Senor Marquez was a professor in the World Literature Department.
My gene carry–over was powerful and I went away shaking my head, and, at the same time, marveling at my Father's genius. All at once I stopped. A tremendous feeling of profound admiration for Father came over me, followed by waves of affection and esteem for the great leap forward he had made with his science. I had always taken my existence for granted; but in those arrested moments, as I stood on the sidewalk, the realization of what I was, was crystal clear. I soared in a moment of epiphany, a zen insight into the nature of myself.
In an instant of realization I knew that what had happend in my personal life was insignificant and not so tragic after all, but only a side show, preparatory to regenerating the human race! I had to go beyond my little world; it was incumbent on me to transcend the insults I had received, for there was something in Father's work, a greater good: The possibility to create humans with universal love and compassion. Father could generate one hundred and one Buddhas and Christs, hundreds of varieties of unstained beings with superior intelligence, virtue and unending goodness. He could create hearts with peace, wholesomeness. There would be no more greed, hate or war! I was intoxicated as is a man with a revealed cause. I became (so to speak) a neo–genetic missionary, zealously so. It was so simple and good. I wanted to shout to the world that its tribulations were over. I wanted to tell the world it didn't have to be petty or aggressive, didn't have to be jealous, spiteful, afraid or covetous.
A new order was on its way, and my Father, my genius creator, would become the savior of humanity! Rushing home, I found Uncle tossing a small ball in the back yard with my darlings. I scared him half to death because I appeared so suddenly by leaping over the fence. I was flying!
I landed in front of him. When I caught my breath I told him of my revelation. At first his face was intent, and he listened with one hand cocked over his left ear. Then he smiled.
"Antonio, we had a similar talk once before on this subject. Have you forgotten what I said, then?"
"No, I've not forgotten. You said that 'some fiend would create an army of monsters capable of the most heinous acts...' Your very words, Uncle."
He smiled again. "Your memory is fantastic. Yes, yes, yes––that's what I said and I still stand by it."
"But not if Father started now, and in secret," I said, lowering my voice to a conspiratorial level. "Consider, if you will, my own talent, and I've sired many who now have my intellect––and, by the way, Professor Marquez's poodle has four puppies––mine. I met them this morning. I spoke to one, Martin; he speaks Spanish. So you see, Uncle, if I am able to pass on my brains, that same inheritance can be passed on to humans. Father needs to create humans,not dogs. His intentions are good, it is his direction and goals which need to be changed. His research and work are exquisite, his ends, a dog, are not. I might remind you what the poet said about the proper study of mankind: It is man, not dogkind, Uncle. Father could create two thousand ova in vitrio: One thousand males and one thousand females, and upon maturity they could have as many children as possible and in a few generations this new breed of human would be a great influence and the world would be different. We could buy a large tract of land out west, remote, and twenty years or so hence, integrate these sublime creations into the mass. Can't you see it, Uncle Corrado? The world would be renewed!"
Caught up as I was in my altruistic, utopian dream, I jumped up and down and ran around the yard shouting: "A new world order of peace and gentleness! No more war or aggression!" And I believed what I was saying.
Then I heard Uncle's voice:––
"Antonio, stop it!" His voice was commanding and carried authority. "Come here and listen to me."
Abruptly I stopped and went to him. He kneeled down to eye level, as he always tried to do when possible. (He was always most humble, discerning and tactful).
"You are a dreamer––that can't be helped––so am I, so is Albert. He dreamed you. But if he did as you've suggested, half the world would be against him. Right now he only has academic enemies. If he did what you propose, he would have enemies all over this planet! He would have to be surround by guards day and night. Ausgescholssen! Out of the question."
But why, Uncle, why? He would be trying to ameliorate the tragedy of the human condition. The whole world would be changed. Why would he have world enemies? It just doesn't make sense."
"In the first place, the world doesn't want to be changed; and believe me, it has had ample opportunity. In the second place, by the very act of inseminating so many, he would be accused of trying to take over the world. There would be groups of all kinds of crackpots, orthodoxies and fundamentalists waving their scriptures saying he was breaking the laws of God, or, trying to become a god himself. They would try to destroy him! And not only him, but all those he created and their babies. Let us suppose, for a moment, Antonio, that thousands of these glorious and immaculate births took place. I'm sure you remember the Slaughter of the Innocents; we read it together. It would happen again, dear Antonio. Your Father's creations would be as sheep surrounded by wolves and the wolves would not be satisfied until the last sheep was killed. You don't fully comprehend the treachery of human beings or their deceit. Do you think people––especially those in power––want goodness? No. Do you think bankers, militarists, industrialists and brokers want people with high intellects, people who are kind, gentle and non–competitive? Absolutely not. The markets and wars of the world thrive on competition and nothing else, and heads of state thrive on the ignorance of the masses so that they can be easily lied to and duped and manipulated through propaganda and the jingoism of nationalism or fanatical, religious self–righteousness. That, Antonio, is the ugly reality of the human condition. Your altruism is commendable, but impossible. In addition, there are cosmic factors to consider––and they may be so subtle that in the process of creating man–made humans something would be missed. Then what? Perhaps those subtle, cosmic factors are missing in you, but we shall never know. I don't like to take the wind out of your sails, but even if Albert created ten thousand Christs, then we would have ten thousand new crucifixions."
Uncle let out a sigh, closed his eyes and lowered his head. I felt defeated, for I had convinced myself humanity could be saved, and I thought I could, also, reunite our divided house. Once again I was learning a lesson about humans.
A few days later Father came home and went directly to bed. I was at the door eager to greet him when he and Sylvia walked in. Seeing me, he gave me a weak smile but said nothing. Sylvia, however, did speak to me saying that as soon as she had Father settled she wanted to talk to me and would I give her a few minutes of my time. She was too polite. Her politeness reeked of a sinister obsequiousness which put me even more on my guard. I could hardly refuse her, though. I'm not one to be rude. Anyway, I had a few things I wanted to say to her; however, I added, I wanted Uncle to be in attendance at the discussion. She raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips at this, but agreed, nonetheless.
I had a foreboding and I asked Uncle to shut up Betty and the pups in my room. He went along with me, but I sensed he thought I was being overly cautious. I am glad I had that premonition, for had Betty been at my side, I shudder at what she might have done––considering the events of that tragic afternoon, which events I shall soon relate.
I waited with Uncle in Father's study. I felt a certain sense of security therein, surrounded by his books, papers, his sweater draped over the back of his chair, all the things which reminded me of him from which I took strength.
Uncle sat with the tips of his fingers together tapping them in rhythm as he hummed an aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute." At the moment, however, I didn't want to hear it. But I knew he liked to hum when he was tense, so I said nothing. Instead, I jumped up onto Father's chair and stared down at his papers. I wasn't focused on any one paper in particular, when I saw my name jump out at me from one of the handwritten sheets, it being a draft, I discovered, in memo form, from Father to a K.L. Weaver, Esq., an attorney. Scrutinizing it I saw Father was asking for a codicil to his will and the penciled codicil read that upon Father's demise (or incapacitation) "...the dog called Anthony, his mate, Betty and their four puppies, Jean Baptiste, Helvia, Nofretete and Corrado, to receive the sum of $1,000,000.00 for their care so long as they shall live, said behest to be held in trust for them by my cousin, Corrado Graziotti, Ph. D., and physical custody to be given to Dr. Graziotti, and that my wife, Sylvia D'Augusta nee Titus, shall have no say in their custody nor in the money held in trust for them by Dr. Graziotti..." The handwritten codicil went on: "...and that all papers, notes, journals and other materials in sealed boxes marked CANIS MAJORIS, be handed over to Dr. Graziotti and to be used or disposed of as he sees fit." There were a few other entries about his personal affects which did not appertain to me or mine.
I literally had my breath taken away by this revelation, for I saw the date of this draft codicil which was just a few weeks old. So he had been thinking of our future. My heart melted. As a being of conscience, I felt terrible. Poor Father. I truly loved him; but I could also see that my existence was causing him a lot of trouble––it was even affecting his health. And I had my own cano–humano troubles, too. It was no picnic being a dog intimately attached to the human condition through consciousness, language, culture and DNA. Being a dog with human consciousness is not ideal. Time and much reflection on my own experiences in this matter have clearly shown me the absurdity of such a transformation. It knocks the natural order of things out of balance and misdirects talents and energies better suited toward other ends. Some would argue otherwise, putting forth all kinds of counterarguments about the benefits of science and progress; but since I am the one who has lived this cruel duality, no one can know a dog's life––except the dog.
Sylvia walked in without knocking, saying Father was napping and added he wanted to see me when he woke up. I could see that she was uneasy; she fidgeted in her seat and began to talk about how considerate the staff at the hospital had been. I knew she was only using this small talk as a conventional prelude to get her to the point and purpose of this meeting. At long last she came to her agenda:–
"Tony, first I want to apologize for having raised my voice and being mean to you; but, please, you must understand how confused I was when I came upon Albert after you called for help and then my fainting. I am embarrassed at my bemusement. Will you accept my apology?"
In spite of her well–acted ploy, I could detect the insincerity of her voice; but for the sake of peace, and against my better judgement, I accepted her apology with a nod of my head and a soft, "Very well," and waited for her to continue.
"Albert and I had a long talk while he was in the hospital and...and...well...we had a long talk after which we thought that perhaps it would be better for all of us if you and the puppies were...how shall we say it: Surgically modified. We have a behavior problem which has gotten out of hand. Already there has been a report to the police. And then there's the promiscuity issue––and we know all about that," (she said rather smugly). "And this proliferation of unwanted offsprings––well, we don't know where that will lead to. And what if you and Betty decide to have more puppies ? There, you see, we talked about this––and believe me, it was not an easy decision to come to. After all, we are just like a family in some ways." And then her face took on an eerie relief as she pronounced: "And since it is impossible to go on living this way, we have decided, in the best interests of all concerned that you, Tony, and the puppies, will be lobotomized. Surely, Tony, you can understand and appreciate our concerns and our need to terminate the conditions now existing. You will not suffer, I assure you."
My ears perked up, my hair stood on end, my heart began to pound and I saw Uncle jump out of his chair. "What did you say, Sylvia?"
"We thought it best if he and the puppies were surgically modified..."
She was going to continue, but she never got a chance to finish whatever else she was going to say, for Uncle screamed:––
"Vile! Blasphemy! Vile! Cowardly! How dare you! How dare Albert! I can't believe he would consent to such a thing. You must have taken advantage of his debilitation. Absolutely not! I won't stand by and let such a monstrous thing happen to Antonio and certainly not to the puppies. I shall oppose it even if I have to go to the law. Do you hear me? To the law!"
I'd never seen Uncle so livid. His face was red and he was gesticulating wildly. I felt as if bludgeoned; in spite of my command of languages, I could utter not a word, such was the depth of my shock. But I also knew deep in my heart that Father would never have consented to such a criminal act if he had not been talked into it by Sylvia while he was sedated, vulnerable and certainly in no fit condition to argue it one way or the other. Suddenly I found my tongue:––
"I am outraged at such a suggestion! I give you fair warning, Sylvia: I shall use whatever means at my disposal to thwart your evil intentions––even the use of force if necessary." Here I bared my teeth and growled just to give her a scare and to add emphasis to my words. "Henceforth," I continued,"I shall accept neither food nor drink from your hands, nor shall I allow you to go near my puppies. Foul, foul, oh––I never would have imagined such a thing from my nurturers. You, you...you beast!" I shouted and let out howls of torment heard all over the house, for in a few moments not only was Betty howling in response to my ullulations (I could hear her howls coming from my room) but, also, Father had heard and had come downstairs to investigate the clamor and walked in.
"Darling," said Sylvia, "what are you doing up? You know the doctor said you were to rest. Let me help you back to bed." As she made to get up, Uncle went to her, pushed her back down and said:––
"No. Not back to bed. Albert, excuse me if I take advantage of you in your weakened state, but there is something wicked afoot, wicked, I say and there must be a stop to it––a stop! Do you hear me? A stop! Sit, sit, by all means; here, let me help you."
Docilely he was helped and when he was settled down, and with Uncle pacing up and down and Sylvia sitting very erect with a grim expression on her face, Uncle began to talk to Father:––
"When you were in the hospital, Antonio and I had a talk and at the end of our talk he made me promise to be his protector. His request has turned out to be prophetic. I now assume that role." (I was proud of Uncle for being so heroic that had I been able, I would have embraced him; but the situation did not allow for such an outburst).
"At first I didn't see any point to his request, but now I do. You, dear Cousin, owe me an explanation––owe one, also, to Antonio. After all, didn't you say he was like a son to you?" Sylvia cringed.
"You did say that, Albert, and now you want to lobotomize––surgically modify him––as Sylvia put it so euphemistically, and, also, your grandchildren! By what right do you now take it upon yourself to destroy his great intellect and that of his offsprings? Explain yourself, Albert. We are waiting."
Sylvia burst out: "Tony is not his son and those dogs are not his grandchildren! And stop referring to them as such––they are our property, and we may dispose of our property as we see fit, Corrado." Her voice was tight and filled with self–righteousness.
"I was speaking to Albert, Sylvia. He is quite capable of speaking. I beg you to be silent." He scowled at her and I could tell she was afraid of him.
Father grimaced; he was in pain and seemed bewildered, and I couldn't help feeling sorry for him. Nonetheless, I waited.
"If only I can make you understand," he began, "if you will only give me a chance to explain. You see, if I go on as planned with Dr. Ardath, I will never have a moment's peace. You can see that I am not in good health, Cousin. I will be hounded by the press, the scientific community and, I'm sure, by the government. Tony and the pups will be subjected to all sorts of questions and scrutiny; moreover, Sylvia and I have decided, after all, to retire. But how could we retire in peace if I am so much in the news?"
"Rubbish! Balderdash! Weak and unacceptable; a lot of drivel. What has that to do with a lobotomy? How does any of what you've said justify this disgusting and diabolic plan of yours? Your justification is irrational and contrived. You'll have to do better than that, Albert."
"I'm not well, Corrado. Maybe I'm not being clear enough. Let me tell you another way: When Tony told me about the pups he had sired in the community, I knew my experiment had been compromised and was over, for now anyone who had one of his offsprings would be able to capitalize on it and where would that leave my scientific validity and prestige?"
Uncle charged back into the clash of words: "What a lot of nonsense, Albert. I can't believe my ears. Your arguments are an injustice to your intelligence and not to be believed. They don't sound like the Albert I know. No; there is something deeper, something being unsaid. How could your scientific validity be put into question? If anything, Antonio's many offsprings confirms your science. No. There is more here than meets the eye, and I demand you tell me," whereupon he folded his arms and stood glaring at Father who cast his eyes down and was silent.
After listening to all of this, I finally spoke out:––
"Dr. D'Augusta," I said, not being able to address him as Father, "you went through great pains to create my intellect in your own image; your experiment has been so successful that my own genius can be passed on. Suddenly you wish to destroy me and my four darlings. What will you do with the score or more of my other offsprings? Will you now go about examining every puppy you see and when you find one of my scions are you going to buy it––or steal it away from its owner and lobotomize it––or worse––kill it? I dare say you won't destroy it, nor can you––and you know that. So everything you've said, thus far, to justify this heinous surgery is trash, utter trash. I know you better than you think I do. You have not merely created a talking dog, you have created a consciousness––part of which is yours. I am your alter ego, Doctor. I am no Frankenstein's monster of dead parts. Look at me: I am blood of your blood! Would you destroy part of you?
"Additionally, sir, you have failed to take into account my own feelings. Yes; you have simply made a decision based on your own narrow thoughts if, indeed, they are your own thoughts" (and I quickly gave a look toward Sylvia) "and consider this lobotomy almost a fait accompli. However, sir, you fail to realize that I shall not allow myself to undergo such base treatment, in the same way you would not allow such a procedure for your own person; nor shall I allow you to touch my babies. Am I making myself clear? I may be what I am on the surface, a mere dog, but I am also a sentient being with deep feelings, and I love life and appreciate what I am––even if there are those who do not appreciate me––" and again I turned my accusing eyes to Sylvia, who could not meet my stare and averted her eyes. "I am also a thinker and a talker and I can call a press conference and let this issue be brought to public attention. Do you understand?"
Sylvia turned on me (if you will excuse the expression) like a dog:––
"How dare you, you four–legged ingrate! How dare you! A press conference? If you even go near the telephone I'll...I'll..."
"You'll what, Sylvia?" asked Uncle, stepping in front of her. She just glared at him. "The press conference might even be called by me. Then what will you do?" said Uncle.
"You wouldn't," she said.
"Ah, but that is where you are wrong. I would––unless, of course, this mad scheme is shelved and I am given legal custody of Antonio, Betty and the pups."
Just then the door bell rang. Sylvia went to answer. In not too long a time she was back and she was shaking, and for a moment she was unable to do little else except move her lips open and closed the way fish do.
"What is it, dear?" asked Father. "Tell us."
In an agitated voice Sylvia answered: "There is a television reporter with a camera crew and he's asking to interview the talking dog!" I thought she would burst with fury. Nevertheless, I felt reprieved. The Fates were on my side; but I did not wish to be made a spectacle of in front of a television camera.
"Let me go and talk to them," said Uncle Corrado.
I crept up to the window and looked out through the lace curtains. I could see the call letters on the service truck: WBYX; a local news channel noted for its propensity for sensationalism and arrogant reporters. I shuddered. I could see a cameraman panning the front of the house so I ducked down. "A cameraman is filming the front of the house," I said.
Father and Sylvia looked at each other and winced. She turned to me and said in an ugly, throaty, whisper: "It's all your fault."
By this time I didn't care nor did I think for a moment anything was my fault. This insistence of always trying to put the blame for something on someone was one of the many human imperfections I'd observed. It is a real fault in my human cousins (or brothers, I'm not sure which), that when something goes wrong, they always try to find a scapegoat and penalize someone calling him or her the culprit, the perpetrator and lay blame and, more often than not, do it with the purpose to belittle, shame and punish and make someone sorry who is no more at fault than anyone else or any system. That's why there are so many penal codes around and so few enforceable moral codes of conduct, the many religions, notwithstanding. Fault usually implies some weakness or error and, as far as I was concerned, there was neither on my part.
Uncle returned, closing the door softly. He looked around the room as if searching for something; his eyes fell on me. He smiled.
"Apparently some off–hand remark you made to the paramedic was reported to those hyenas at WBYX, Antonio. In future, you must guard your tongue," and then he laughed. How he laughed. I had never seen him laugh so in all the time I'd known him.
"You are both fools," he said to Father and Sylvia, once he'd regained his composure, "and now the whole world will know of this magnificent creature's genius, blasted through the medium of the six o'clock news, and if you think you will be able to change anything, you're in for a surprise."
"Why? What did you say to the reporter?" asked Sylvia, in a tremulous voice.
"Say? I told him he was a fool to believe such a story––but wait for the kicker, hear more: I was told, just now, that the paramedic had his radio on and the talk button, after his last transmission, had stuck, so everything that was said from the time they arrived, was recorded at the dispatch office––including Antonio's 'Drop dead, buddy.' All the voices have been accounted for––human wise, that is––except for one. The reporter said he and his crew will stay outside until you agree to an interview."
"Nonsense. They can't do that," said Sylvia.
"But they can and they will."
"I shall call the campus police; they will make them leave."
"That will only stoke the fire. I believe you ought to call President Ardath and apprise him of the situation. Perhaps he can figure a way out of this. In the meanwhile, I'm going to make arrangements to transfer Antonio and the others––that is, if you have no objection, Cousin?"
Father was silent at first, but at last he spoke. "No; I have no objections. Take them and take good care of them," he said.
Father did call Dr. Ardath. I did not hear the conversation, for I stayed close to Uncle, who went to his room and called a couple of van rental agencies. He wanted a closed van to take us to freedom; and after having arranged a rental, via phone, he left by the back door and went out the garden gate unseen by the gathering out front. He had also called a taxi, so I'd overheard, to pick him up a few blocks away. Uncle is very shrewed.
When I went back to Father, he was on the phone again; this time it was the campus chief of police whom Dr. Ardath had called, and the chief was now calling Father for details; but, as Father was told, the television news crew was not violating any laws, and the chief had no authority to move them on. Father was crestfallen, he looked paler and my heart went out to him.
Sylvia, who was at Father's elbow whispered something in his ear. I only caught two words: "...good riddance..." I could only conclude she meant myself, Betty and the pups. I called out:––
"Sylvia, I heard your 'good riddance,' which could only be meant for myself and my family. Now I know what Uncle meant when he said there was something unsaid; now things become even clearer. You, Sylvia, are Father's evil genius, the one driving us out into the storm. You're jealous––ah, yes, I see it all too clearly now. You never did care for me––perhaps when I was younger––but for a long time now your affection has been false. You thought I had taken Father's affection and time away from you. Yes; and it is you who decided on the lobotomy! Owww!" I wailed. "You would have destroyed my genius and that of my family. You are wicked––oh, I'm so mad I could spit!" (Which, I might add, is not a little difficult for a dog, a clear indication that a special idiom for dogs must be created so that this new idiom reflects a dog's physical abilities).
Sylvia stared at me with angry, volcanic eyes. I could almost feel her hatred for me, who had loved her, trusted her. Had I not then been so incensed, I would have fallen to the ground and wept. But my increasing anger clouded all other emotions and reason. I growled at her, the way any common dog would have when faced by danger.
"At one time I thought you were cute, but as you grew older you took up more and more of Albert's time and our resources. You weren't supposed to be the center of his world. We were happy until you became too smart for your britches––always spouting poetry or quoting some arcane philosopher and lamenting about your status as a dog. You are nothing more than a dog. A dog! A smart–mouthed cur who should have remembered his place!"
Her noxious words seemed to pollute the very air I breathed. All at once an evil, vengeful thought came over me. It was as if I had been seized by a demon. What had come to my mind so suddenly was a vicious act of revenge, completely and utterly base, a traitorous act, cold, cynical and it drove me to trot over to the telephone. Lifting the receiver, I carefully touched the numbers for Dr. Blauteufel. Ipse respondit: "Hello. Here is Doctor Blauteufel."
Naturally, I spoke to him in German; and to save the reader time, I shall translate our conversation into English for convenience's sake. I have a good memory:––
I: Herr Doktor, I'm sorry if I disturb you. I would like to introduce myself. I am the talking dog developed by Dr. D'Augusta.
Dr. B: What nonsense is this? Who are you and what do you want? I have no time for pranks. Speak.
I: I assure you, this is no prank. I am not a human being. I'm a dog, a vizsla. You've seen me before. I'm sure you will remember. I have superintelligence. Would you like to speak Chinese with me? I understand you have some knowledge of this exotic tongue. How about Russian? We could have a delightful chat. I'm sure if you'd come over to Professor D'Augusta's house you would not waste your time. Why even the media are here.
Dr. B: Who are you and what is your motive? Do you mock me?
I: I assure you, Herr Doktor Professor, I do not mock you. I invite you. Come over. You would enjoy meeting me. What do you say? [A long pause].
Dr. B:: If you are what you say you are, then I demand to speak to Dr. D'Augusta!
I: Immediately. As you wish. Please hold while I bring him the telephone.
(With the receiver between my teeth, I carried it to Father).
I: (To Father in English) Blauteufel would speak with you. (I dropped the receiver into his lap. He drained of color and, with a shaking hand, picked up the receiver).
Father: D'Augusta here, Blauteufel.
Dr B: So? What is this all about? [Reconstructed, based on Father's response].
Father: Yes, it's true. Yes, he called you. Want? I don't know what he wants. Maybe revenge. No, he's not a monsters out of control. Yes, you can come over. There is nothing to hide. The subterfuge is over. (He dropped the receiver).
"How could you, Tony? Why?" asked Father, burying his face in his hands and moaning. When his hands came off his face I saw anguish, despair, anger, bewilderment, rippling over his face like moving masks. And, he seemed to have aged in just a few minutes, for he looked older than his years. He pressed his lips together until they became white and he wrung his hands. I shall never forget his contorted face. Taking a deep breath through his nostrils, he spoke:––
"It is no longer possible to keep you from the public. I know that." His voice was full of resignation. He continued: "But, Anthony Albert, how could you stoop so low as to have shamed me into inviting that cretin, Blauteufel? You take advantage of a weak man. Where is your noble spirit?"
You must understand, dear reader, at that juncture, I had lost all reason, and the noble spirit Father invoked had been numbed. Also, I was under tremendous psychological pressures from both my human consciousness and my canine ancestral memory, each wanting precedence over the other, which filled me with arrogance and poisoned my affections with the bile of anger and revenge. And in that state I stood my false ground of pride and said:––
"I may be a dog, but I have a human nature. My feelings are no different than yours. You did not take into account the emotional aspects of my creation, my humanness, Father. You only went after genius. You passed on to me genius and, also, transmitted the collective emotions of humanity and dogs. I am only doing what my DNA progenitors have done throughout the millennia. DNA, Father, is not only chemistry, it also carries spirit, emotions. I am doing what, perhaps, you, too, would do if you were in a similar fix. Do I not manifest traits you hide or refuse to admit to, Father? But it was your higher self I loved. A dog recognized the summum bonum in you and has loved you for it as no one has ever loved you. But you have betrayed me. Look at me! I'm a dog. I bark, I walk on all fours. I urinate and couple in public. I can't be anything else but a dog no matter what my IQ is. I am a monster––not physically grotesque––but my mind makes me one to others. I could very well teach a course in comparative Indo–European morphemes and recite Dante and Goethe and sing lays in Provencals, And what good is that to anyone?" I lashed out:––
"I am a literate dog in a human world that does not honor him. You said I was like a son to you, but you consented to lobotomize me and the children. Is that what you do to a son? You are a monster yourself for even having discussed such a course of action. You would destroy a beautiful creation. You would have put us all under the knife and made of us idiots! That is unforgivable!"
There was no end to my harsh words. As I spoke, emptying my spleen, my keen ears heard a screech of tires and the slamming of a car door. I sensed something and grew alert and, ceasing my harangue, I sprang to the window. When I stuck my head under the curtains, I saw Blauteufel walking to our front door with the t.v. camera trained on him.
Being on the qui vive, I heard the front door slam, then I heard voices: Uncle and Blauteufel's.
"I'm no intruder," came his strident exclamation, which penetrated the walls. "I have been invited by D'Augusta himself. Let me pass!"
The moment I heard his voice I knew what a fool I had been. Deo gratia, however, Uncle was back and in the nick of time. But not even Uncle could keep Blauteufel from seeing us.
In he stormed with Uncle just behind.
"Well?" he said, standing just inside the door with his arms akimbo. "Who is the perpetrator of this farce?"
Had I been able to crawl away and hide for my shame, I would have gone and lived like a repentant monk. All at once, however, as if awakened from a bad dream, by a charge of electricity, I became acutely aware of my glaring blunder, and all because I had been blinded by anger, false pride, vanity and vengeance. I still shudder from my lapse of mental clarity and compassion. There was also danger in the air. I could sense it. Blauteufel was dangerous, so I was especially on my guard. With my powers of reasoning and discernment back, I felt I had to (now) both protect and stand up for Father.
"So, where is this wundertier? I've come to expose him" Blauteufel looked around the room; his eyes studied everybody, scrutinizing each of us. His eyes stopped. "You look familiar. Hmm, are you the dog with whom I spoke on the telephone?" he asked, addressing me in a sarcastic voice. Before I could speak, however, he continued:––
"Are you the humbug who annoys a busy man? No, no; you look too stupid to be intelligent." I was not offended; I was once again master of my feelings; my assault on Father had emptied me and that emptiness was now filled with enlightenment. I was glad I had read the zen masters and Chuang Tze during my Oriental philosophy study days. Those masters were always talking about instantaneous understanding; and I had gone from gross baseness to sudden union with profound sentiments in a flash: I was able to transcend my ego and affronts to my intelligence.
"Professor D'Augusta, are you going to give me an explanation?"
Father said, "Tony will speak for himself. Would you care for English, German, Latin, Spanish, Chinese or––Tony, what was that other one. Dear me, it seems I've forgotten it," he said, innocently admitting to his lapsus memoriae.
"For God's sake, Mein Herr, stop this insanity. I can see your pallor, I hear the weakness in your voice," he said, like a clinician announcing his observations. "You are not a well man. And I have heard you have been in the hospital. It is obvious to me you are in a critical state of breakdown, and in the process, you have created this cock and bull story and now you want me to be part of your delusions about a polyglottal dog."
I found my tongue.
"I believe, Father, the language you refer to is Esperanto, a language, Herr Doktor Professor, I understand you have been using in your research." I was standing directly in front of him; so there could be no question about whom was speaking. I felt so comfortably urbane and just the touch of the snob.
Blauteufel's initial facial response was of unmistakable incredulity. I could see it quite clearly. His color changed from red anger to ashen disbelief.
"Won't you sit down, sir? Would you care for some refreshment? Perhaps some coffee? We have an excellent Arabica we can grind for you, or, would you prefer some schnapps? Which would you prefer?" I laid it on thick. "Yes, perhaps some schnapps would do you a world of good; it might bring back your color. Please, Doctor, do sit over there." I pointed with my right front paw as gracefully as I could, trying to mimic the gesture of some gracious, human host, indicating a choice spot on the sofa. "I'm sure you will find it most comfortable. I often sit there myself."
Blauteufel, his look of astonishment notwithstanding, sat without once taking his eyes off me. When he had seated himself, he said:––
"I want nothing to drink. I want to know who is the ventriloquist? Ach, I was not yesterday born," he said, lapsing into German syntax. I discerned his usage and found it amusing––in spite of the circumstances.
"Ventriloquist? Herr Doktor, you surprise me. You are much too sophisticated to believe that. Come, come, sir, look at me. What do you see? A dog. Yes, but I am no well–trained house pet who barks at the neighborhood cats and fetches the morning paper. You see before you the culmination of pure genius, the creation of my Father–creator," so saying, I lifted my muzzle proudly, in Father's direction with as much dignity as a dog's muzzle can convey.
"You only pretend to ask for the ventriloquist to cover your shock at the reality of my person. I understand your condition quite well, Professor. I've read a book or two on psychology. I am very real. I am everything I say I am. By the way, did you find the correctness of my German to be more than satisfactory when I spoke with you on the phone a while ago? I had a most excellent teacher," and with my paw, I pointed to Uncle with respect.
"You are a fiend!" he retorted angrily.
"Sir, you continue to surprise me with your theatrics. I assure you I am no fiend and this is no theater impromptu of the absurd. It's all very real––all flesh and blood." He sat still. "Come, touch me. I won't bite. And stop looking so surprised, Herman. You needn't take a tissue sample of me to your lab. My presence should be proof enough. You are a scientist, and should not be so astounded by an observable phenomenon. I am flesh, blood and voice. The both of us, Herr Blauteufel, even share archetypal progressions and drink from the same fount of universal consciousness, the collective unconscious and..." he cut me short.
"You sound like a Jungian."
"Ho! Jungian? I never thought of myself that way, but now that you mention it, my words do have a Jungian flavor, and a little bit of Eric Neumann, too, wouldn't you agree? Have you read him? I found him delightful, especially his work on the origins and history of consciousness; marvelous reading, but, personally, I rather bend toward the Tao, myself. What about you?"
"I have no time for metaphysical prattle. I deal in facts."
"And so do I. I've invited you to examine me; that's a fact. But you don't seem to be interested, so let me ask you this: Would you say it is a fact that you are having a discourse on things psychological and metaphysical with a dog, a non–human?"
There was a long, heavy silence. Presently, he nodded his head curtly and muttered, "Ja, ja," in capitulation.
"Well, since you admit I am a fact, understand further that I was the first, unique, but no more. There are others like me in this house; and in this neighborhood there are other like me, also, and we have indeed multiplied and have grown. Have no doubt about that. So, Herr Blauteufel, you might as well find another career because your work is crudely redundant––to say the least. It doesn't add to the store of knowledge. In short, it is superfluous––doch, doch, uberfloss," I added in emphatic German.
For a moment he closed his eyes and seemed lost in thought. Quickly, however, he opened his eyes and glared at me. Herman started breathing heavily, saliva oozed from the side of his mouth.
"You...you dare to call my work superfluous?! I am now passe, unneeded? You are a devil! My work is important. I will create a hundred such as you––just give me time!"
"You waste your time. All I need do is mate with a female––any canine female and create dogs who can be educated, dogs with mental powers heretofore undreamed of in an animal. You fool yourself continuing to think you can teach dumb chimpanzees to mouth rote speeches. My Father's genius has eclipsed your work and he has already created an uberhund, if you will allow me this new coinage. Were he to use his methods with a chimpanzee, he would conquer the world. What use, then, are your crude, almost barbaric methods and mediocre results?"
"Say what you wish. Your slanders are a clear indication that more work on you is needed. You are only a prototype––an excellent one, there is no doubt about that. There are a few adjustments, shall we say, in behavior yet to be made––starting with your capacity for insolence. I would breed that out of you and mold a beast who obeys!"
"Ha! I knew you would say that. I intuited it from the start of your rambling. Thank you, sir, you have confirmed my intuition. You know, Herr Doktor, you are only a pretender to science, You want to be a creator of new beings without taking into account the nature of the being you are trying to condition. Robots are more suited for men to create. You go about creation as if the subject of your experiments and brain–washing techniques were devoid of their own natures. You would want a creature to correspond exactly to your calculations at the exclusion of its true nature. Do you really believe the true nature of your chimp wants to recite in Esperanto? You are absurd.
"But my Father, my creator, he truly made a wonder. Just look at me: I can recite the Lord's Prayer in twenty different languages and translate it into ancient Punic if I had a mind to. That, sir, is science, that, sir, is what this man has done," and I pointed to Father. "Now how does that compare to your dog and pony show and your lab of smoke and mirrors?"
I never got the opportunity to continue my phillipic, and I was waxing so eloquently. I was proud I had read Cicero and had learned from him, when all of a sudden Blauteufel leaped from the sofa, pouncing on me like a predator after a prey. Before I knew it, he had me by the throat with both hands.
Momentarily, I was stunned. My life, however, was in danger and I did the only sensible thing I could do: I clawed him with both front and rear legs. But he had the advantage.
Uncle jumped into the fracas. He grabbed Blauteufel's wrists and managed to pry off at least one of his strangleholds and I was able to breath a little better. He still had a grip with his left hand, however, and his grip was strong.
Sylvia, who had been mute and passive all this time watched as Blauteufel now used his hand, which he'd managed to pull away from Uncle, to pummel Uncle with a fist. Not only was he trying to strangle me with one hand, he was beating Uncle to boot, at the same time, with the other. He was like a tiger unleashed. His outrage was fiendish and his strength remarkable.
Our only hope was the decisive intervention of Sylvia. She, however, did nothing, but stayed, either out of shock or by design, immobile.
Father, who had been watching, got up, weak as he was, and threw himself on Blauteufel, grabbing him, shouting at him to stop! Father, despite his own indisposition, managed to knee Blauteufel in the groin and put him out of action. I'd never known Father to have ever lifted his hand against another and now here he was delivering a knee jab like an experienced street fighter. Unco!
At the height of the pandemonium Father collapsed. Only then did Sylvia act. She flew to his aid. She touched his carotid artery, she listened for breath and felt for a pulse. She tried CPR; but she was becoming increasingly hysterical and shaking so much that her uncoordinated efforts at manual resuscitation were wasted.
Uncle, who was the only ablebodied one who had his wits about him, called the emergency number, then went to Father's aid. Shortly afterwards, when the wail of the ambulance could be heard, I went to the window and saw the camera crew and the reporter alert and the camera rolling while the reporter, with a microphone in hand, spoke into it, giving, I imagined, a remote account to his studio of some impending story. I found it all so distasteful.
While we waited, Blauteufel lay on the floor in a fetal position with his strangler's hands now coddling his gonads, which Father had probably damaged. He was groaning and cursing. Uncle continued giving Father CPR as I stood by helplessly, wanting terribly to do something to help revive my Father. But there was nothing, nothing I could do because I was a dog.
The paramedics let themselves in and came into the study. They relieved Uncle and did what they could for Father. However, it was too late: Father had given up the ghost.
Sylvia's hysteria had now reached a violent stage: I saw her pick up a vase (a particular favorite of mine, I might add). I moved before I could become a target. The vase crashed to the floor, shattering in the very place I'd escaped from.
The shattering vase seemed to bring her to another level of hysteria. She began to weep and wail, gnash her teeth and swing her arms about, hugging herself (it seemed) then unhugging herself repeatedly so.
Her hair, usually neatly coiffured, was disheveled, Medusa–like, and the glaze over her eyes and the froth at her mouth told me she was mad. I backed away until I was at the door. I turned and ran for all I was worth out the back dog door. I'd take my chances outside. I would not be trapped by confining walls.
The paramedics summoned the campus police, who were close by. When the police entered, the t.v. crew was at the threshold. Uncle slammed the door in their faces––all this he related to me afterwards.
It took two of the police officers and one of the paramedics to wrestle Sylvia to the floor, for when they approached her, she flew at them with a fury and ferocity seeming to feed on itself, giving her the strength of many. I was glad I was not there to witness her combat deliriums. In a straight jacket and strapped to a gurney, she was wheeled out, to the "delight" of the t.v. crew, only too happy to have some footage for the evening news.
Alas, it was too dreadful. When I heard Sylvia's wails, I peeked over the fence just in time to see them push her the short distance from the door to the ambulance. Then I knew the coast was clear and I could go back in.
The coroner was called. The police called more police and a lieutenant and a sergeant arrived and tried to piece together and understand the events of the recent episode.
"Now say that again," said the police lieutenant to Uncle, and Uncle would begin anew, explaining that during a metaphysical discussion that Tony, the dog, was attacked by Professor Blauteufel for no just cause, that he had not been threatening him. Then the police would turn to Blauteufel and ask:––
"You say you lost your temper because of what the dog, Tony, said, and you attacked him?" Whereupon Herman, who was very cooperative with the police corroborated Uncle's statements.
The sergeant said out loud to no one in particular: "I think they took only one nut away and missed these two."
I was standing there all the time, but the police never bothered to ask me for my statement, and I was too much in a state of shock to volunteer––but I would have answered any questions put to me. Uncle said he would not press charges for Blauteufel's having attacked him––and obviously, I could not press charges.
When all the formalities were through, and albeit the circumstances were most unusual, the coroner conferred a moment with the police, then declared Father's death would not be considered a homicide until proven otherwise by an autopsy. The sergeant drove Blauteufel home because he was still hurting from Father's blow and was shaking all over. A second, newly arrived mobile t.v. camera crew followed them as they drove away.
Sylvia was in a psychiatric ward. The police were gone. The paramedics and the coroner were gone. We were alone at last; and it was not until that moment that I realized the magnitude of what had just gone before: Father was no more.
I broke down. I crawled to the place where his body had lain. I stayed there all night, inconsolable. Uncle was no better off. He sat by me, holding my head in his lap and together we cried: He for the loss of his dear cousin, his friend and I for the loss of my Father–creator, my friend, my mentor. A good man was dead. Our tears and grief commingled that night of mutual sorrow and lamentation.
An autopsy proved Father had suffered an embolism, which was recorded as the cause of death.
You can't imagine, dear reader, the heartbreaking stillness and loneliness in the house. Father dead, Sylvia gone mad, Uncle and I grieving, my throat sore from being choked. My muscles ached, my appetite was gone. My little darlings wanted to play, but I was laid too low to respond to their innocent coaxings and nudgings and Betty, intuiting my sadness, lay next to me in commiserative silence.
Funeral arrangements were made. Uncle and I collaborated on a funeral oration. We agreed it should be in English, but we nonetheless rendered it, also, into eloquent Latin to give our hearts a brief respite from our grief by participating in something near and dear to us, language, which once gave us joy and which now gave us some solace. The original, bilingual text of the oration is in my files.
Our spirits were calming down and we were more accepting of Father's passing; but the cat was out of the bag, or, rather, the dog was no longer in the dog house: He was on national television. Of course there was no footage of me, per se, though there were plenty of shots of the front of the house and the reruns of poor Sylvia being wheeled to the ambulance, the police coming and going, and the coroner's wagon taking Father's remains away. That was a cold, cold act. There was nothing of substance to show, so the media showed nothing, pretending it was something. I watched those scenes twice before walking away from the television in disgust. The networks were making hay in the rain. The fact of the matter was that Uncle and I were a family in mourning, yet caravans of cars passed up and down the street with rubbernecking gawkers making a mockery of our mourning and our right to privacy. Their parading presence saddened me; and, lest we forget, it was now known that a talking dog resided on Elm Street. To add salt to the wounds, there arose stories––I do not make them up––terrible rumors besmirching my character and dishonoring Father. I have the videotape I recorded to document the slanders. I give you a sample:––
That I was an experiment out of control, a kind of Frankenstein's monster, who had turned on "his master," and was the cause of his death. These were all bantered about on various speculative television forums, as if the reporters had been privy to everything in our household. And the tabloids were having a field day. There were more "truths:" That Blauteufel and Father, long time scientific antagonists, had had a kind of "duel" with each's respective beast, i.e., the chimp Jezebel and myself. But we "mutants" turned on Father and Blauteufel, in which attack Father died. It was further alleged that we two animals conspired and had been the aggressors and instigators of the attack! However, the most vulgar of the tabloids stated that Sylvia was now in the psychiatric hospital because I had tried to force myself on her! Can you imagine the shame I had to endure? The amount of corruptions and lies that came out of the media could have raised the dead. I always get a little upset (still) when I think about this particularly pernicious accusation; and I apologize to you, dear reader, if I offend you in any way by mention of this salacious revelation. But this item must, also, be told.
O, bitterness! What scandalous things were not stated. What lie–filled articles didn't I read? I've kept the clippings. They, too, are in my files. I was outraged and gnashed my teeth. What gall! What unmitigated cheek to have made such false statements about a situation which no one had the slightest clue as to what was the truth.
As for Blauteufel, he gladly sat before the cameras and reporters. I give you briefly part of what he said. I made a videotape composite of his statements taped during three different interviews. The tape is in my files. I submit a transcribed reduction of it for your examination:––
[Blauteufel] "It is a sad day for science and for the world to have had unleashed on it a monster dog, unpredictable and more dangerous than any wild beast...because this animal does not think like a beast...but with a human mind, and, it speaks...with ten such beasts, much trouble could be made for civilization and this beast must...and should be destroyed. And I would urge any and all whose bitches have given birth to such a kind of dog to bring it to me and I shall relieve them of the heavy responsibility of administering to it for the sake of public order."
He said more: That Father had stolen his secrets and that was why he had gone to the house to confront him and have it out. That's when I attacked him––at Father's command––to keep him from telling the whole world Father was a scientific thief!
My outrage smouldered. I used all the spiritual exercises I knew to keep both sets of my ancestral demons from taking over. I used all my will power to stay away from the FAX machine to prevent me from communicating my outrage to all the duped producers, publishers, editors and directors who hung on Blauteufel's every word. I even refrained from faxing Blauteufel to remind him that he was a liar. However, the vicious things he said notwithstanding, Blauteufel did something I never thought possible, and I shall relate that in its proper place.
We were besieged by the media. We kept them at a distance, however, by hiring security guards to keep these predators at bay.
Father belonged to no church, so he was buried without religious service. Uncle had a brass band hired and as we walked to the gravesite, the band played the Beethoven "Marce Funebre," from his Eroica Symphony, which I thought quite appropriately sensitive to the occasion.
At the gravesite there were many mourners: Dr. Ardath lead a faculty delegation and the Academic Senate marched as a group, all berobed and in file like monks. Many of the administrative staff had come, and many, many former and present students, too. The campus police chief came dressed in white gloves and formal uniform, accompanied by a small contingent of his force, one officer holding a flag and one carrying an old bolt action rifle as a lone color guard.
Dr. Ardath gave a brief, choked–voice, honorific introduction followed by a short statement read by the president of the Academic Senate. Uncle then stepped forward, mounted a small dais and delivered the eloquent oration we had composed:––
"We are come to bury and honor a great man who had great scientific vision: Albert Lucius D'Augusta, who was my cousin. Our grandmothers were sisters. Our line is deep and old and filled with honors. Our blood was close; but as close as we were in blood, we were closer in spirit and world view. Our souls were friends. That is important to remember in our fleeting lives. Albert Lucius was also a father. He leaves behind an only son and untold grandchildren. His very DNA was used to splice life into his offspring.
"His genetically engineered son, Anthony Albert D'Augusta, is a dog and so are my late cousin's grandchildren. For through my cousin's science, he created this son, a new and superlative species of dog with superintellect, who speaks many languages and who can easily converse on things philosophical, or, play you a common game of checkers or read you a poem of his own composition. The grandchildren are too young to understand that their progenitor is no more, no more."
There was a murmuring and movement among the mourners and gasps of shock and surprise as people turned to me with looks of disbelief on their faces upon hearing this revelation. But I stood strong in my dignity, not moving a muscle as Uncle continued.
"Albert Lucius was a teacher and a paragon in his field, and he lived an impeccable life. He was wealthy and he shared his wealth. He liked good music and food; he loved nature and had a keen and insatiable curiosity about natural phenomena. He was a member of many learned societies and received many honors and awards. As a physician and scientist he advanced both medicine and science; as my cousin, and my life–long friend, he advanced, also, the field of friendship. As a father of a remarkable entity, he did the best he knew how, considering the circumstances. The extraordinary son grieves for his father as is fitting of a filial and loving son.
"Albert's wife, his true love for many happy years, being now mentally incapacitated, would also be grieving were she to know of his demise. Alas, her mind is lost to other realms. Perhaps one day she can be told of his passing.
"He will be missed. He will be remembered by all those who knew and loved him. Our world is now less because of his passing.
"By all that is holy and mysterious, we inter the remains of our friend, our colleague, our teacher, our father, our cousin, No one knows what is on the other side of the veil. But, if, as all the holy books tell us, there is a paradise, Albert Lucius D'Augusta, will be bathing in its golden light.
"We salute you, we commend you to the earth," and stepping down from the dais, he picked up a handful of dirt and poured it onto the coffin. Others followed. Uncle gave a signal and the band struck up "The Skye Boat Song," a favorite of Fathers, who had especially liked it when played on the bagpipes.
Little by little the mourners left. We tarried for a while. We talked in low voices nearby the grave. It felt good to commune this way. We were standing obliquely to the path so we did not see Blauteufel until he was in our peripheral vision; we both turned. In one hand Herman held a bouquet of yellow flowers and in the other he carried a somber grey homburg hat. We nodded to him, he nodded to us. What else could we do? He stood at the edge of the grave, his toes overhanging the grave about an inch. He spoke into the grave:––
"You gave feeling to a cell. That shows great genius. You gave supreme value to something taken for granted: A common dog ovum and made a creature with a man's brain and sensitivity. In my own way I was walking a similar path, but, as I see it now, I was like a confused wanderer guided by a faulty compass. I didn't know this immediately. I also took advantage of your death to justify my arrogance and to inflate my ego. It has taken a great struggle of conscience these past few days for me to see my errors and follies. I can't ask you to forgive me, D'Augusta, because you are dead, but I am asking your grave to forgive me," wherewith he dropped the bouquet of yellow flowers onto the coffin.
He looked at us again and gave us a short bow. We (or rather Uncle) bowed back. I was only able to acknowledge him with a nod of my head. Uncle and I looked at each other. We were stunned. Had we seen an apparition and were the respectful words and conciliatory tone of the voice we heard real? Yet it had been no phantom. He was flesh and blood and truly repentant.
I was moved to speak to him, but I was so choked with emotion I could not speak, for he had touched me deeply and I felt all the rancor I had held against him melt into compassion. We watched him disappear among the gravestones, then made our way back to the car.
As has been said, we tried to avoid the media as much as we could. They had all but surrounded the house. They wanted a story, but we would not give them one. This was a private family affair and of no one else's concern. It was impossible, however, to avoid them altogether. They had been kept away from the graveside by our cohort of security guards, but on the public road they were at our limo and the chauffeur had a devil of a time trying to open the door for us and our guards had a rough time of it too, with these swarming gadflies.
Those fool media people tried to goad me into speaking. But, as it is said, I maintained my cool.. One reporter asked me in dreadful Spanish if I was sad. Another spoke to me in gibberish, making the kinds of sounds one makes around infants to keep them happy. I can't imagine what he expected to accomplish by that. A journalist from France kept pestering me by asking repeatedly, "What will you do now?"
Do? Why, of course, I would go on living my life. One simply goes on. I didn't say that, naturally, and Uncle, as always said, "No comment," no matter what was asked of him.
Uncle was under a great strain; I could tell. But he carried on, nonetheless, with great courage, stamina and aplomb. He adamantly refused any and all interviews, nor would he speak to President Ardath, who still wanted to put me on display for the fulfillment of his agreement with Father. Uncle even sent away an emissary from the White House.
Without me saying anything, Uncle was doing what I would have done: Keep the world away and live as privately and as retired a life as possible, and not volunteer any information about my person or Father's work. I wanted no exposure. I just wanted to be left alone. I loved Uncle even more because our spirits were so much in tune that I did not have to express my wishes, for he already knew them.
Uncle said we had time on our side: That if we would simply be patient and uprightly aloof, the swarms of media mosquitoes would find other blood to suck and would fly away leaving us in peace. We occupied our time with a renewal of our Punic studies to pass our besiegment, and we were able to take midnight exercise in the back yard with Betty and the pups. When the hour was late and the coast clear, we would often leave by the garden gate and take long walks to really stretch our legs.
Uncle's strategy worked and eventually the media encampment dwindled until our street was empty except for the general public which still drove by now and then.
In the meanwhile came the day for the reading of the will. Father had forgotten nothing. He had made provision not only for me and mine (as I have related elsewhere), but for Sylvia, too, and the school, to various foundations, scholarship funds, community centers, the music conservatory, libraries and the S.P.C.A. Many of his publications and papers he left to the library of the Academic Senate. I was not surprised by any of this, for my late Father had been a generous man.
When we were at last rid of condolers at the door, when at last the phone stopped ringing and the last sympathy card and letter acknowledged, when at last all of our tasks and obligations and legal matters and responsibilities were taken care of, Uncle and I sat and had a long talk about our future.
I suggested we try to get back as many of my progeny as possible––if possible. We negotiated with Professors Marquez and Gundersen and got my darlings from them. We often got calls from people saying they thought they had a talking dog. Several calls proved to be true and Uncle was able to offer a cash consideration for the release of the dog, or dogs, in custody. With horror, we heard that someone was planning to freeze the sperm of one of my offsprings when he came of age. Initially we got back twenty–eight. We had to lease a kennel and kept them there until we moved to our new home. As time went by we got back many more.
Uncle sold the Gettysburg farm and bought a remote place in the Pocono Mountains, big enough for all of us and room for expansion. Uncle recruited a sympathetic guardian, whom he screened and scrutinized and interviewed half a dozen times to take over after his demise. He left nothing to chance. He was as thorough with our collective welfare as he was a scholar. As I write, Uncle is very much alive and, deo gratias, is in good health, in fact, we are collaborating on a translation of the works of A.E. Housman into Russian and Chinese.
Our guardian–mother is Marieanne Montrogue, and I like her a lot. She's from Quebec, speaks excellent French and speaks English with a charming French–Canadian accent. Marieanne is as kind as she is pretty and I've got a slight crush on her. We liked each other upon our first meeting. She is teaching me French–Canadian folk songs.
We have a small dog village. By no means can it be called otherwise. We have small cottages, built, more or less, on human lines, but, also, architecturally sensitive to the needs of dogs of superintellect. We eat, however, in the common dinning room at the main house, where everyone in the village is always welcome. The main house is where I live with my family and is also Uncle and Marieanne's quarters and it also houses our central library. We are an active community, a canine Castalia, an "Airdale's Arcadia," as one of my offsprings, once removed, of airdale extraction put it.
From time to time we get an addition to the community. Our latest came by himself, having heard about us on a radio talk show while he was a common pet in White Plains, New York. He walked all the way to us here in Pennsylvania and was in pretty bad shape when he arrived. We ministered to him and welcomed him into the family. Our code of return welcomes all. We turn none away.
Recently we held a council meeting. We are very democratic. We deliberated for many hours. The topic was celibacy and sterilization. The question was: Should we cause surgical neutering of ourselves, or, take vows of celibacy and die out, each in his or her own time until we are extinct, or, have birth control and keep our numbers small, but, nonetheless, vitally participating in our way of life?
We agreed to life and birth control. After all, we are a very special species of brilliant dog––not just intelligent––but brilliant. However, the world would see us only as freaks and would have us on display doing tricks.
Perhaps one day our human relatives will look upon us in another light. We would welcome their friendship. In spite of considerations to the contrary, we are related. We are cano–humano. Our DNA proves it.
I pass my time in various ways: I help in the Housman translation; I tutor and give regularly scheduled lectures. We have what one might call a miniuniversity. Uncle is our chancellor and we grant degrees. When I'm not busy teaching, I keep a journal and I've started a picaresque novel which keeps me amused. I indulge the muse and I've a new book of poetry to my credit, which Uncle wants to send off to a publisher under a nom de plume, and, I found time to write this account.
Our village veterinarian, whom we also recruited through a thorough screening, came to us from New Mexico. He is originally from a Tewa speaking pueblo and I take lessons from him in his indigenous tongue, so I am pretty busy, considering that my doctor, Henry Abeyta,D.V.M diagnosed me as having arthritis. Father had overlooked that genetic inheritance. We of the community are now examining the possibility of creating a new one of us, or a batch of us, to be disease resistant. But for the moment this is only academic talk. Our sharp minds and computer models based on Father's findings and procedures create this possibility. But we keep this exercise in proper perspective.
Betty and I are still together and we are happy as we glide into a graceful old age. The children are big and they are academically astute and I am so proud of them.
I have no axe to grind with the world. I hold no grudges and no prejudices or malice toward anyone, but I am always mindful that I am a dog, even if my knowledge and world view and intellect aren't too different than a human's. But where we differ is that I know what I am and I do not ask, nor have I ever asked for preferential treatment.
One amusing note: The local foxes don't know what to make of us speaking and the hares are never sure if we are going to chase them––which we don't.
As I look back on all that has happend to me from the time of my birth and my awakening to consciousness to the present, it is as if in a dream, which recalls to mind and confirms for me the lines of Wordsworth:––
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting..."
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