One of the funnier books I've read this year is "Dialogues de betes" (Dialogues of the animals) by the French writer Colette. It's a series of short stories, written like scripts for plays, starring Kiki-La-Doucette (Kiki the Little Sweetie), a cat, and Toby-Chien (Toby the Dog). They talk about all the things they like to do and don't like about each other, and they are loyal to Her and Him, the Deux-Pattes (Two-Paws), their owners.
Ever since I read the book, I've thought differently about the dogs I meet while I'm out doing errands or going back and forth to work. I even think differently about the cat I meet -- the one who goes for walks on my block.
I used to think of greeting the neighborhood pets as a way to get to meet their owners. Since I read about Toby and Kiki, I've noticed that my neighbors often seem to adopt their animals' voices as we talk.
(Names of pets have been changed to protect their owners' privacy. Their owners are known to me as the dogs' owners -- not by name -- so they don't need much changing.)
I see William, a corgi, with his mistress when I leave work.
Margaret: Oh, there you are! And how's the prince today?
William sits down on the pavement, not a long distance for a corgi, so that his shoulders are under my hand. I tickle him.
William's mom: Oh, I'm fine, just itchy! (William turns and licks my hand.) Thank you!
Margaret: Your royal highness is welcome!
I picked up on the royal link because of the name William. I said "Oh, like a relative of the world's most famous corgi owner!" William's mom loved it.
I see Fred, a hound, on a long leash near my apartment.
Margaret: Fred, is that you? Are you OK?
(Fred's dad appears from around the corner.)
Fred's dad: Yes, I'm fine! I'm getting a walk!
(I come up to Fred, who balances himself on my purse because I hold it on a hand strap, not over my shoulder.)
Fred's dad: Yes! See what I can do? See how I balance?
Margaret: Oh, yes! Good for you, Fred!
Dirwood, a shepherd mix, lives near Leo, the cat who takes walks. What might happen if they and their moms saw me at the same time? It would go something like this:
Dirwood's mom: Look, Dirwood! There's your friend! (They accelerate toward me.)
Margaret: Hello, Dirwood! (He nudges my hand until I tickle his shoulders.)
Dirwood's mom: I'm having a great walk today, but I have to go to the groomers tomorrow!
Margaret: Oh, you'll be so handsome. (To mom) Good luck. (She grins.)
Leo's mom: No groomers for us, right?
Margaret: Well, hello, Leo! You look wonderful already.
Dirwood's mom: Are you sure you don't want off that leash?
Leo's mom: Oh no! No chasing for me! I am taking my walk!
Margaret: Bye, everybody! (Dirwood knocks my hand for one last tickle.) Bye, Dirwood! Go with mom!
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