There’s a book called The Dog with the Old Soul, by Jennifer Basye Sander, subtitled “True stories of the love, hope and joy animals bring to our lives”. It’s also translated into Finnish with the same title, which is why I’ve seen it twice in my generic general store, and both times been struck by the same thought.
Namely, “That book is not in a genre that interests me; but it would be a good name for a book in a genre that does.”
That is, weird.
The beagle looked at me, sad in the way that only droopy-eared, long-faced beagles know.
Then it said, “That is how I died.”
I put the rope down and looked at the dog. Then at the rope, the unfinished noose. Then back at the dog.
“I hanged myself in 1294”, the dog said, its mouth hanging open, this hollow, uncanine whisper emanating from its mouth. “Before the mob came for me.”
“Dear God”, I swore, “so I’m not only suicidal, I’m having food poisoning hallucinations too?”
The dog shook its head; its ears flopped heavily from side to side like furry church bells ringing someone’s death. “They used to say I was a demon. It is not better to be bad hamburger, John.”
I sat down, avoiding looking at the dog the best I could. That left the rope, which wasn’t better, and the walls, which weren’t much to look at. The car — the less said about the car, the better. “My dog is possessed?” I wondered aloud.
“No”, the dog said dolefully. “This is just reincarnation. But only the wizards talk. I met a wizard in a pigeon, once.”
My eyes turned at the dog; it was staring at me. I stared at it.
“He had the most terrible headaches.”
I swept fingers through my hair, absently noticing the terrific amounts of sweat there. “I really should call an ambulance right now.”
“Usually”, the dog said, with pity in its eyes, “that’s done after the hanging.”
It lowered its eyes. “Not that it helps any, then.”
There was a knock at the door. “Honey! Five minutes!”
I looked at the dog, not quite finding anything to say.
“Wuff”, the dog said.
“What’re you doing there anyway?” came the voice through the door. “Something wrong with the car?”
The dog stared at me, tongue lolling out, eyes friendly and empty. It panted a bit, then began scratching an ear.
I cleared my throat, raised my voice. “Just playing with the dog, dear! I’m coming!”
I got up, the rope in one hand, went in a careful half-circle around the dog, unravelling the knot, and dropped the now un-noosed line in a bin by the door.
As the door shut after me, I thought I heard a hollow, uncanine whisper: “Not even a thank-you. I don’t know why I bother.”