2014-07-17 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Old dogs, past the point of being gentlemen

I’m spending the month of July in France. I’ve come to the same remote mountain village for the last three years to stay at a writing residency that’s a little like summer camp for adults. By now, I know most of the locals by name. I know all of the walking paths that extend out from the village.

And I know Homer, the Brittany spaniel who belongs to the residency, a handsome and smart dog I’ve come to adore.

I’ve written about Homer before. Too much, if that’s possible. He’s truly a great dog, the kind that even catlovers like.

One of the women staying here now, who also is a regular, said that after her last stay, back home in Virginia, a friend asked her, “So, did you fall in love with anyone in France?” And she said, “Yes. A dog.”

It’s true that Homer is quite lovable. He’s sweet and affectionate, only bossy with other dogs, never snarls or snaps. He has soft golden eyes that swear he doesn’t get enough to eat, even after you’ve fed him half a sausage.

But the very best thing about Homer is his gentlemanly manners.

As a cat person, I cannot tolerate the way dogs are always humping something. t of Sometimes they’re humping each other, sometimes they’re humping the furniture. Sometimes they’re humping you.y

Homer, though, has never crossed thatt line. Sure, he’ll climb up on Filou, a male bloodhound who lives in the village and is his best pal, but that just seems like a natural extension of their relationship, sort of like the way football players smack each other on the rump — more fraternal than sexual. But with me, Homer has always been perfectly respectable. Unlike the rest of the men in my life, he’s never tried to give it a go.

Until yesterday.

It was mid-morning, and most of the other residents were working or off hiking. I was in the kitchen making tea when Homer snuck into the house through the open front door. I saw him and stepped into the foyer to say hello. He leaned against me and I patted his neck and spoke a few soft words. I gave him a final thumping against his ribcage and started to step away. But before I could turn, he jumpedd up on his hind legs, wrappedd his front paws around my thigh and assumed the classic pose.

“Homer!” I said, appalled.

I stepped back and he stepped with me, still locked on.

“No!” I said, trying to shake him loose.

He looked up at me with those golden eyes and practically said, “But I never get any.”

Unfortunately for him, I know that look — from men, not dogs — and I learned a long time ago not to believe it.

“Homer,” I said. “Down!”

He gave me one last pleading glance before he released my leg and slunk out the door. I couldn’t tell who was more embarrassed, him or me.

No one likes to see old friends engaged in bad behavior — even if that behavior is in their nature — and no one, especially, likes to be on the receiving end. ¦

— Artis Henderson is the author of “Unremarried Widow” published by Simon and Schuster.

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