I was mentioning one of my friends to the Old Man and my grandmother overheard. “That boy never had a dog’s chance in life,” she said. “Not a dog’s chance.”
“How good a chance is that?” I wondered aloud.
“I guess that depends on the dog,” the Old Man said when she’d gone.
“Take this dog here, for example,” he added, indicating the mop of fur at our feet. “If she means his chances, I’d like them better than my own.”
The dog, which was about one-third Feist and two-thirds who knows, lifted his head and regarded us with one heavily-lidded eye, then went back to sleep.
“He knows we’re talking about him,” I said.
“Better than that,” the Old Man said, “he knows nothing we’re saying about him matters. He understands as long as he stays in your grandmother’s good graces he lives under the protection of diplomatic immunity, you might say.”
Presently, the dog stirred in his sleep, grumbling to himself about the quality of cornbread and the scarcity of rabbits, no doubt.
“If you ever need to know where you stand in life, think about the purity of a good dog’s dreams,” the Old Man said. “He knows the past can’t come back and hurt him, and he never worries about tomorrow at all. The only future he knows is right now. His dreams are limited to what he can reasonably expect to have, and he enjoys to the fullest the things that do come his way, like a cool morning’s chase through a frosty field, or a good, dust-raising wallow in a fluff of freshly-plowed ground. There’s nothing on God’s good earth he could potentially eat that’s so nasty he won’t give it a try, and his greatest pleasure is making his master smile.”
“Looks to me like his greatest pleasure is snoring by the fire,” I said.
“And have you seen how that makes your grandmother smile?” the Old Man asked. “Like I said, the quality of the chance depends entirely upon the dog.”
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media for Mossy Oak in West Point.