Phil Reisman's Dog Once Ate His Newspaper Column ⁠— And a Couch

The columnist shares the story of his peculiar canine, Roger.


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Illustration by Jieyu Deng; headshot photograph by Stefan Radtke

In a nod to that hallowed period of sweaty indolence, ennui, and sloth known as the dog days of summer, I present the story of my peculiar but handsome shepherd-collie mix, Roger.

Where to begin? Oh yes: Let’s start with... The Accident.

When walking Roger, one must be prepared for his tendency to lunge without warning at just about anything that moves — joggers, squirrels, Canada geese, cars, and even shadows, especially his own. Walking my dog can be a trial.

One afternoon in early spring, he pulled so hard on his leash that my wife stumbled and fell face-first onto the pavement. Her glasses were damaged, and she suffered cuts, a black eye, and a broken right hand. She may have been in shock when she went to the emergency room at Bronxville’s Lawrence Hospital. Luckily, no concussion.

Roger was fine, of course.

During the six hours I waited for my wife to be fitted for a temporary cast and sewn up with 19 stitches, I thought long and hard about Roger, our beloved canine cross to bear. He has been with us a long time now — long enough for us to be more or less resigned to the permanence of his primitive fears.

Roger is a rescue dog, a former stray scooped out of the hills of West Virginia. On the day we adopted him, he was still a puppy on the verge of adolescence, but he had already been rejected by other families, who, we theorized, must have found him too hard to handle. Anyway, he had two or three other names before we got him.

When he got in our car for the first time, he was so excited, he threw up. We attributed this to acute anxiety, which was understandable, since no car in his experience had ever carried him to any place worth going to, at least not to a “forever home” with good food. We sensed his desperate need to please.

The second time he got into our car, a couple of days later, he vomited again — probably believing that, well, he was getting rejected, as usual, and on his way back to a kennel or something worse. After that, he was fine, but he has never embraced car travel like other dogs that flap their tongues out the window and act like they’re going to a steak barbecue. Roger sits perfectly still in the back seat and is so silent, we sometimes forget he’s there.

 

 

We keep a framed photo of Roger, next to which is a list titled “10 Skills Your Dog Must Learn to Be a Canine Good Citizen.” Roger has mastered none of them; indeed, he was ejected from a doggie-daycare center on the grounds he “teased the other dogs.”

He is not welcoming. His deep baritone bark makes him sound as if he were a very big dog, two or three times his actual weight of 62 pounds, which explains why the mailman haphazardly chucks our mail onto the porch and runs for his life and why our cleaning lady won’t come into the house if he’s there. Channeling Cujo, he once scared off a church deacon delivering flowers. Twice he has cornered the exterminator. Don DeLillo, the prize-winning novelist, used to live a few houses down from us in Yonkers — and just for the fun of it, Roger, ever the Philistine, lunged at him when he was walking down the street. At a recent family gathering, he jumped at my sister-in-law.

At night, he infiltrates the kitchen and raids the garbage if it isn’t tightly locked down. Roger, who possesses the sociopathic cunning of a burgling coyote, has a special love for leftover chicken, but he will devour almost anything — including the napkin off your lap, which he has been known to steal and shred in a matter of seconds.

He once ate a five-dollar bill. And in one particularly painful episode, he consumed a printout of one of my newspaper columns. He tried to eat the couch. His bull-in-a-china-shop antics have netted two broken lamps and one antique chair.

Not long ago, we sent away for a canine DNA test to determine what manner of beast we had. We fantasized that a team of laboratory scientists were astounded by Roger’s chromosomal mélange. “Smithers, look into the microscope! I’ve never seen anything like it!”

It was revealed that Roger is predominantly an Australian cattle dog, a lively breed with a penchant for nipping at the heels of bovines.

This more than explains why Roger tries to bite the tires off FedEx trucks.


The opinions and beliefs expressed by Phil Reisman are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Magazine’s editors and publishers. Tell us what you think at edit@westchestermagazine.com

 

 

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