By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
My mother is teetering on the edge right now. She acts like she's holding it together, putting up a good front and saying relevant, timely things like "Christmas gifts," but inside she's falling apart. Her baby is having babies, and she's made herself sick with worry.
No, one of my sisters didn't get knocked up — though with the way those two get around, you wouldn't be wrong for thinking that. My mother's one true love, her dog Pondhollow Sylvia James, is having babies. Sylvia is a show bitch, a purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and for the past three years or so, she's been competing on the dog circuit, doing her best to make a name for herself while simultaneously transforming my family from people laughing at the characters in Best in Show to the actual characters in Best in Show. The change has been slow and subtle, but it is undeniable. We now wear T-shirts with little Chessie-head logos without the slightest hint of irony; we have water bottles that say "American Chesapeake Club"; we carry canvas tote bags with iconic imagery of these dogs surfacing from lakes, clutching felled geese in their mouths. We are now those people, and rather than rest comfortably in our new positions, my mother has led the movement to kick it up a notch: We're breeders, too.
A few months back, my mother began putting out feelers on the Chessie message boards, looking for a stud to hook up with our little Sylvia and bake us up some fancy, purebred puppies. Sylvia is no slouch, so a suitable partner was soon found, and just as in all great love stories, his semen was shipped in a freeze-dried container to our door. That semen was then unfrozen, essentially placed in a turkey baster and fired right into fecund little Sylvia James. A few days later the process was repeated, just to make sure it took, and then, voilà, Sylvia was pregnant. Now Sylvia is really pregnant. She's due any day, and you can feel the puppies kicking inside her belly. She waddles around my parents' house, her nipples like those on dogs you see on Indian reservations, looking sort of confused as to why she closely resembles a beluga whale. Our other dog, Dorothy, seems pretty fired up about the arrangement. While sluggish Sylvia sleeps away most of the day, Dorothy just bounds around looking happy, snagging most of the attention from anyone who happens by.
Except my mother. She's glued to Sylvia, constantly checking on her. She has a litany of professionals on speed-dial, and even electric monitoring equipment from some company that caters to insane dog people like us. The other day Sylvia threw up, and my mother went off the deep end, so I said, "Mom, a lot lesser dogs have had puppies in far worse situations." She heard me, but the statement did no good. Until every one of those dogs is out — there could be anywhere from six to sixteen, so it's sure to be a calm, serene holiday season at the Cayton-Holland manor — my mom will continue to worry.
Me, I'm focusing on the puppies that Sylvia is going to spit out, on the post-pregnancy era. This is easy to do, of course, because I don't live with the dog, but regardless, I'm concentrating on that time not just because my mother will then return to normal, but because one of Sylvia's fancy, purebred, super-puppies of the future will be mine.
And it is at this exact point that I would like to announce to the world that I am now an annoying dog person. Oh, really, you want to talk about how much you loved No Country for Old Men? Well, too fucking bad, look at these pictures of my dog. Oh, wow, you just had a new baby? Bet it's not as smart as my dog. I am now that guy. I will be covered in dog hair all the time, there will be a vague, doggish smell about me, I'll probably be carrying a leash even if I'm not with the dog, and I may even implant a tracking chip in myself just so the dog always knows where I am.
I realize that this transformation will rub some the wrong way. There will be those who will say that Adam was a lot cooler, a lot more accessible before he got that dog, a lot funnier, even — and these are the people that I am excited to rid myself of. Because if you don't want to hang out with me and my puppy, Clear Creek Annabel Lee (I'm not kidding, that's the name), then we don't want to fucking hang out with you. We'll just hang out together and watch a movie or something. Maybe we'll put in Best in Show. And I probably won't laugh even once.