Jan 1, 2024
I am Augustus Megatron Bulldozer Kingsbury.
I am a 12-yr old Black Labrador Retriever from outstanding blood and hip lines. Chances are that my combined SAT score (1600+) is better than yours and your dough-faced, over-privileged children combined.
I am a dog. I have seen many spectacular things in my twelve years of life. Here are some of those spectacular things:
I should continue with the spectacular, but almost all things have been rung up as tribulation as of late. In the last three years I said goodbye to three singular canine friends. Buddy went in 2021. Then my nemesis Maximus Gary succumbed to kidney disease in 2022. In 2023 it was Teddy Spaghetti’s turn to meet The Great Black Dog via bone cancer. But before I honor and lament these three, let me fall back and visit another fallen giant:
In my capricious youth, I misunderstood Coal. He was an obstacle. I saw him as puerile and an adversary.
Perhaps I resented him being the third dog in the pack. Perhaps it was because he was enormously better-looking than I, with his thick head, lustrous coat, and dapper mannerisms. I was but a yearling when Coal took his place at Chez Salty, so I am sure jealousy, hormones, and spiteful provincialism combined such that it caused me to turn my back on the old fellow. He was a thoughtful fellow. Much more so than Max.
After his passing, I realized I suffered the loss of Handsome Coal Dog more than the other dogs. He was a dog who certainly understood the rigors and sanctity of fetching. Max and Buddy fetched naught.
Unfortunately, I was a whelp who could not understand a fetching rivalry for what it was – a celebration of fetching, and not a scorecard of our individual fetching triumphs.
I was not there for your passing Coal, and I regret it deeply, though only the Bipeds possessed the privilege of attendance. And to my chagrin, I did not realize the full range of your fetching wisdom. Who knows? Perhaps if you had taken me under your wing, I would have become something even greater than The Greatest Fetchdog in All the Land. An Alexander the Great of Fetching, if you will.
What beasts we are when we are young! I mourn for you still, Coal. I mourn for you more with every passing year. The fiends to whom you abandoned me show only a deep ignominy for our fetching heritage and honor. I have yet to realize another dog who barks whilst swim-fetching. And I doubt I ever will
Rest, Handsome Coal Dog. Rest in Peace.
Buddy just “happened” one day. Like vertigo.
Don packed up all us dogs into the old Honda Vomitmobile and drove us somewhere near Portland that had well-manicured lawns and a lot more people than Boothbay Harbor. After a while, stinky Buddy and all his odoriferous belongings were tossed into the car and we sped back to saner climes.
Buddy was an island. He rarely wanted anything to do with Max, Coal, Teddy, me, or the Bipeds. He was a jolly enough fellow, but he kept to himself almost exclusively. Except for meal and treat times, I hardly ever saw the dog excited or engaged. There were exceptions, of course. Like when he joined Max and myself in a remarkably accurate portrayal of Cerberus the mythological Greek three-headed guard dog of Hell for Halloween.
Buddy was a most pungent and allergic dog, being rife with dander, seeping sores and eyes what oozed viscous green mucus. He would scratch himself without relent, sometimes until blood flowed freely from his tumor-covered chin and cheeks. His gait was that of a dog tortured with arthritis, deformity, and unknown maladies. His only relief was to hang his itchy yeast-smelling ears out moving car windows.
Don repeatedly said Buddy was interbred in some horrific puppymill in California. He began calling him Big Dumb Buddy. Though the kinder, more muppet-like of Bipeds protested, the name was not without its merits.
In my youth, I would disparage him (Buddy and Don) and their sluggish, fruitless brains. Since his passing, I realize The Great Black Dog dealt Buddy awful cards. Buddy never had a chance, yet somehow he won the Mega Dog Lottery and ended up at Chez Salty.
Whatsmore, Buddy never complained. He never had a pity party about his allergies or arthritis. He never deflected his problems. He never lamented. He never whimpered. He never cursed his lot nor begged The Great Black Dog for more cards.
And he never asked for more than any other dog at Chez Salty. He lived to be a Methuselah-like 16 years old. A remarkable achievement for a 90 pound, a lifelong arthritic dog.
I remember the afternoon he was put down. Don fed him mammoth chunks of medium-rare New York strip steak. Don doled out some chunks to us other dogs, too, but most were for Buddy. We were all there. It was a party. A sophisticated party where Buddy held sway. He sat on the couch regally and surrounded by Dog and Biped. He was holding court for the first time in his life and he knew exactly what to do. He looked like he needed a cognac and a fat cigar after gorging on chunk after chunk of steak. He was smiling….
Everydog’s meeting with The Great Black Dog should be so peaceful as Big Dumb Buddy’s.
In my youth, I could not wait to be released from the adamantine talons of Maximus Gary’s (Latin: The Greatest Gary’s) brutal oppression. As little as three years ago, I was plotting his demise. Now, I regret his passing with growing intensity. Though I would have boxed your ears had you suggested it in years past, I now understand our lives were tightly twined at a most basic level. I felt a seething hatred of that fact for most of my younger life.
He was the first dog outside my litter I ever met. Whereas Max had four years to meet other dogs, I only had eight weeks. Max had four years to understand how another dog might affect Chez Salty. I had zero years. There was no use complaining. That was the hand The Great Black Dog dealt me. Like Buddy, I had to play it through.
From the moment I was incarcerated in Chez Salty, Max and I were in an endless war of attrition. I admit I prefer an eternal, well-fought war to a life of senseless, predictable gyrations and hollow obligations.
I was Oceania to his Eurasia and Eastasia. Mr. Peabody to his Sherman. Williams to his Yaztremski. Chipotle to his Taco Bell. Mustang to his Edsel. Ringo to the rest of the Beatles. Sweden to his Norway. Cher to his Bono. VHS to his Beta. Lobster to his prawn. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE THIS ANNOYING COMPARISON.
So it was an epiphany to me upon reading Max’s past writings that Max was humoring me. He was older and wiser. He was amused at my youthful revolutionary exuberance and skull-cracking nature. He wasn’t at war with me. He understood that I was a pup with large aspirations and unparalleled intelligence. I needed to explore the boundaries of my life and hew what refuges I could from them. Anything else would be a prescription for inferiority.
I dare say the old boy knew me better than I did. And for that I am simultaneously grateful and shameful. Few dogs have had a more stolid, non-judgmental mentor. Max never berated, belittled, or criticized me wantonly. He let me plot the course of my own life as I saw fit. He was my rock – a non-judgemental rock that always let me lay my weary head upon him in times of defeat and exhaustion. He was the father every dog should have. He was the friend everydog should have. I was lucky to have him as both.
Max, if you could possibly be reading this, I want you to know I forgive you for your horrendous maltreatment of my beloved Pink Piggy. I forgive you for snapping at me when I needled you for 24 hours in a car to Florida. You are forever released from the time you made me think there was an intruder at Chez Salty and made me bark for three solid days.
And I want you to know that I still remember commiserating with you when Liana dressed us up in pathetic holiday costumes. That time we fought off the coyotes. Those years you would bring us our Christmas presents from the tree and taught us how to rip through the wrapping paper for the treats inside. Your battles with Don. When you stole the wheel of Brie and the only reason the Bipeds knew was you was because you didn’t poop for three days. When you had diarrhea at the Fishin’ for Fashion Show.
And I could regale the good times here until our sun went supernova. But I don’t need to regale all the times here, Old Max. I have them in my mind and I prefer that they offer small, private respites throughout the course of a normal, unremarkable day.
Thank you for everything you taught me. Swimming. Thwarting Don. Ripping up stuffed toys. Barking at nothing. And most importantly, how to be myself.
I miss you, Max. Time was our enemy.
It is mine still.
Yes. Teddy Spaghetti. Teddy Ballgame. Small Head Ted. Or Sketti. Skeds. I shan’t go on with Don’s endlessly tiresome and whimsical name morphings.
Teddy had a strange life. He came to Chez Salty with a lot of baggage. Word on the street was that he had killed his Bipeds at his previous home. I believed none of that soft-brained fiddle-faddle. True to what I knew of the gossip mill, the story was only correct in part of its content and not its context.
The truth was that Teddy was with his first Biped for quite some time until his Biped met The Great Black Dog. There was no evidence of foul play. Teddy was transferred to another Biped who, in turn, met The Great Black Dog not long after. Teddy ended up in a shelter and was saved by Old Dogs New Digs. That organization is how the Teddy ended up on the floor of Two Salty Dogs one fine spring morning.
He was a most solitary, and somewhat pariah of a dog. Do not misunderstand me. He was a good enough fellow. He was courteous, respected boundaries, obliging, and was tolerated by all. But that Teddy dog had some bewildering traits.
He hated the nebbish Buddy. As if Buddy were a threat to anyone or anydog. Teddy would growl and growl at Buddy constantly, but the joke was on Teddy. Buddy was as deaf as a frying pan and would walk brazenly past Teddy completely unaware. That would shut Teddy up for a while.
Furthermore, unless it was to drink, Teddy hated water. He simply would not fetch. He would not sleep on a bed – Biped or Canine. His ears were mismatched. He veered off well-scented trails and became lost in the woods. He would not go up more than three stairs. He was finicky with his food and would leave it in his bowl for ages. He would not rip up or even touch larger toys, but rather carried tiny stuffed toys around in his mouth incessantly. He looked the village idiot! A 105lb dog with a tiny yellow chick in his mouth! With a big smile! The opprobrium of that tiny toy!!! And he was the most stubborn dog I have ever encountered. If Teddy didn’t want to go up the stairs, no amount of hot dog or kicks to the butt would make him.
And so I left Teddy Boy to his own devices. It was no skin off my proverbial cold, wet, nose should he avoid me. I shouldn’t take offense. There was nothing baleful betwixt us. It was just Teddy’s temperament, and I understood it. Max would try to cater to him and make him feel welcome.
I began to notice Teddy clandestinely observe me from afar. When presented with something new, he would check for my reaction and proceed like me. He did that only with me. I believe it was because I ignored him. I do not deny I was proud to take the Old Boy under my invisible wing.
What easier way to train a dog?
By the end of Teddy’s life, he was swimming. Not fake Buddy swimming, but real, paws-off-the-bottom swimming. He also had his own form of fetching where he would get the ball and run back to the Biped. He opted for the eternal triumph parade that drives Bipeds insane with jealousy. But it was much better than his arrival.
I feel strongly that if Teddy had another year in him, he would be fetching properly. But the cancer was relentless. It regrouped and attacked him through his bones. On the day Teddy met The Great Black Dog, Dr. Miller had no idea how Teddy walked into his surgery under his own power. Teddy was rotten with cancer. He was out of time.
A little time here. A little time there… What Great Gods we would make if we had but a little more time!
I am now twelve years old- 84 in Biped years, if you will. My muzzle is silver and the hairs on my chest are cast with gray. Both my ACLs are torn. I can only see blurs and hear high-pitched tones.
I AM AUGUSTUS! I AM A SURVIVOR!!!
I should no longer have any meaningful ties to this world. My mother and father are long gone. My litter-mates have met The Great Black Dog, or will very soon. Coal, Max, Buddy and Teddy are but blurry memories that are receding all too quickly from my memory.
I regret nothing. I have lived my life with the cards The Great Black Dog dealt me. Nothing more. I am Augustus Megatron Bulldozer Kingsbury! I live! I love! I will not go quietly into that good night!!! Today is a good day to die!!
Yet what should happen to that usurper, Marz if I die today? He would be alone with the Bipeds. Especially Don. He wouldn’t learn the time-honored traditions of how to impede Don and drive him crazy.
Marz is neither a God of War, nor the sweet, 3-ingredient confection Marzipan. He isn’t as intelligent as me. He still can’t snuggle effectively with the Bipeds. He is an exuberant pup with great fetching promise, but with no direction or guidance.
He needs me the way I needed Max at my age.
I am much older than Max when he tutored me. In fact, I am 3 times as old. I’m not sure I can do as well with Marz. Yet I shan’t strike myself with a club of self-pity, nor shall I strike Marz with a club of my age. These are the cards I was dealt.
Get thee behind me, Marzipan! You are impudent! You are an impediment! Yet you have promise! I will watch over you! I will guide you! I will give you new perspectives! And you will not understand it all until I after I meet The Great Black Dog!
Augustus Megatron Bulldozer Kingsbury