Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Evening With Scratch Galligan

I gave my dog, Fergus "Scratch" Galligan, a mustache for Christmas. It is a fine mustache, but I had my fill of it earlier this evening, and made my feelings known.

This evening I have other fish to fry, as I believe the expression goes, even as I remain uncertain whether in fact I am using the expression in the proper context.

The fish I have to fry are not impressive fish --not by any means-- yet they nonetheless must be fried. Once upon a time I spent my evenings feeding words into a rock tumbler; these days whatever words I can rustle up are tossed half-heartedly into the Fry Baby. When these words are sufficiently crisp I mix them in with the Galligan lad's rations.

Galligan is inordinately fond of even the most pedestrian words, and uses even finer words to describe them: Scrumptious. Savory. Delectable. I will hear him utter these and other such fancy words between bites. Often he will continue to smack his chops with genuine relish for a good fifteen minutes after he has dined.

Oh, yes, Fergus Galligan is indeed a fancy fellow, a gourmand of the banal. He will pronounce a bowl of prepositions and the scrawniest imaginable epithets, "the most toothsome repast in recent memory. On my honor, sir, your fried words have enriched my kibble experience tenfold."

Often Galligan will don his mustache as he digests and ruminates over the words he has just eaten.

I am, of course, gratified to be able to serve up such easy satisfaction with the increasingly dreary collection of words that I dredge from the increasingly long nights.

My dear Galligan never fails to surprise and delight me, even in the bleariest days of mid-winter. Galligan is, as I may or may not have previously mentioned, a Chilean Dasher, one of the rare dog breeds to have appeared on the Endangered Species list. At the time he came to live with me, at seven months of age, I was led to believe that he was one of only five surviving Dashers in the world. He was then a refugee, rescued from seismic debris and transported to the United States for safeguarding and study. Even this arrangement did not work out as planned --at least initially-- for the poor fellow. Twice before he came to me he had been placed in other homes only to have his custody rather hastily relinquished. The reason for this, I was told, was that Galligan was rather too spirited for many conventional domestic arrangements. The Dasher comes by its name honestly, and my lad is the swiftest of hounds, long-limbed, and a world-class leaper into the bargain. This is not a dog you want to present with the challenge of a fence.

I have had few problems, however, since taking responsibility for Mr. Galligan. I quickly discovered him to be an excellent conversationalist, an agile thinker, and a most reasonable fellow. These are not, of course, traits that the average person is eager to recognize in a dog, and I was somewhat astonished to learn that none of the boy's previous caretakers had ever attempted to converse with him. And where there is not attempt at conversation, you'll understand, there can be no reasoning.

If ever a dog was starved for conversation, it was Fergus Galligan, and in me I like to believe he found his perfect match. No subject is out of bounds between us, thank heavens. I once asked Galligan why he was not given to the humping I have previously experienced with other dogs. He shuddered quite violently and replied, "Such behavior is unseemly, sir, and beneath a Dasher. Your legs, and the legs of your visitors, as well as your pillows and general upholstery, are safe from me. I assure you I am as chaste as a monk."

Some moments ago, as I was reclining with a book and Galligan was reposed on the sofa, he raised his head and stated that he should like to hear some music featuring the French horn.

"Heavens above!" I replied. "Where do you get such ideas, Galligan? You, a dog, asking to hear French horns! Those words I'm feeding you must be giving you queer notions, old fellow. I'm not sure that, even were I feeling so inclined, I could dig up any recordings featuring French Horns."

After a bit more in the way of discussion on the matter, Galligan suggested that he may have learned the term from one of the holiday carols I regularly sang with him during our recent Christmas revels. I found this astonishing, as you might well imagine, and it wasn't until a good deal later, after Galligan had retired for the evening, that it occurred to me that this was an even queerer business yet.

"French hens!" I shouted to Galligan in the other room. "The words in the song are 'French hens'!"

A moment of silence followed, and I assumed Galligan must have been sound asleep. After a brief interlude, however, his voice --measured and a bit sleepy, yet characteristically undaunted-- carried to me in my easy chair: "What I requested, sir, was not French hens, but French horns. I remain certain of that fact. And I beg you not to trouble my sleep with any more of your foolishness."