Everyday Heroes, by Thomas Marshall

Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette, June 2010 edition.

"Just drop it in the box."

"No box, rush job."

"Whaddya mean?"

"Due tomorrow."

"That’s ridiculous. Can’t be done. I’m right in the middle of the Scientific Digest job. Remember? Aging cyborg working for an intergalactic fire department?"

"Back burner. Check out how much."

"Whoa! That’s a nice payday. What do they want?"

"Dog story."

"I don’t have a dog."

"Make one up."

"Okay, Space Puppy! You know, every cyborg needs a friend."

"Perfect. Man’s-best-friend angle. I’ll read it in the morning. See ya." John the Editor wasn’t such bad guy; after all, this business of cranking out contest entries was his idea. And it was a good one. He had figured out there were hundreds of different story contests, and with a couple of good writers, we could enter and win enough of them to cover expenses and earn a pretty good living. The only drawback was deadlines. Two weeks for a short story was heaven. One week meant pressure and no weekend.Overnight, ridiculous. What kind of literary effort could go into that?

"Some of your most gifted writers produced their best work under extreme circumstances." Or so John said.

I decided on interviews. Ask the right questions, and the story should write itself.

The park would be just the thing. There were dogs all over the place. The thought came into my head to interview the dogs themselves. What funny stories they could tell about their owners! Then, again, maybe not. Judging by the cranky-looking French Bulldog coming toward me, maybe their sense of humor was not so great. I stuck to my original plan of getting that prize-winning story from the owner.

"Pardon me, madam."

"Of course I have a dog license! Can’t you see the tag on her neck?"

"l can’t see her neck. She seems to have hidden her head under my pants leg."

"Ingrid, come out of there. Don’t play with this man. He wants to give us a summons."

"I don’t want to give you a summons."

"Then why do you have that ticket in your hand?"

"This is a list of questions. I would like to know a little bit about why people and dogs go so well together."

"That’s a stupid question. Ingrid, come out from under there. She always loves to play hide-and-seek in a pants leg. I never wear them of course. That’s what makes it so much fun for her. The novelty."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Give her a rub."


"On her back. No, a little lower. Near her tail."


"Did she slobber on you? She does that when she laughs. There’s my girl! What are all these white flecks on your head?"

"It’s from my socks. Did Ingrid ever save your life?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, were you ever drowning, or stuck in a well, or involved in some other calamity where Ingrid either directly rescued you or was instrumental in your being rescued?"

"She once made such a fit in the dentist’s office l was forced to leave."


"And what?"

"And, perhaps that dentist was later discovered to be making improper advances towards people while they were under anesthesia?"

"That dentist was my husband."

"I’m very sorry"

"No need, He’s gone now. Ingrid was his little darling. She reminds me of him every day. Do you know you have nice teeth?"

"Thank you. I try to brush regularly."

"I do the same with Ingrid. See, clean and bright. She loves it when I brush them. Take care of your teeth, and your teeth will take care of you. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, ma’am. Thank you."

I had just jotted down a few notes when an obstreperous-acting dog bumped into my leg.

"Sorry, mate."

"What kind of dog is that?"

"Bernese Mountain Dog."

"Boy he’s big… and fluffy."

"He’s only a puppy—well, 10 months. He seems to like your right leg."


"Stunning. What’s the other leg called?"

"I’ll assume the dog is too young to have saved your life yet. So, why, or perhaps more interestingly, how have you come into possession of such a dog?"


"Ah, now we have something. Speak, knave."

"She thought I was from Australia and should have a dog from that country."

"But this is a Swiss dog."

"Yeah, she was a bit daft. I think she was thinking of an Australian Shepherd."

"And then?"

"And then it came out that I wasn’t really Australian. It burst her bubble and she left."

"You sound Australian."

"It was all a bit of a gag. See, coming here to the big city I thought I should have a big personality like Crocodile Dundee.5o I started calling everyone mate and wearing lizard boots and such. Now it’s a hard habit to break."

"And what will you do with the dog?"

"Keep him, of course! Antrim gets me out of the house and talking to half the city. Look at him. He just bounces along saying hello to everyone. A big, hairy greeting card."

"Does he know you’re not Australian?"

"He does and it’s no problem. He thinks I’m William Tell. Auf wiedersehen."

Maybe I’ll have the girlfriend dying from a tooth infection, and the boyfriend gives her this dog, and somehow she recovers, and he gets a Green Card, and runs for mayor, and one of the puppies from a recent litter becomes the mascot of a Indonesian television network, and … Whoops!"


"Oh, sorry Not looking where I was going. Yep, a writer. And this dog of yours I recognize: Dalmatian."

"Correct. Screenplays?"

"Short stories. Fireman?"

"Actor. You see a guy with a Dalmatian and assume a fireman?"

"Humor me, I’m desperate. Here’s my easiest question. Did your dog ever find an article of clothing, or jewelry, or perhaps a financial instrument that you thought was irretrievably lost,thereby saving you from embarrassment, shock treatment, or change in lifestyle?"

"Financial instrument? You mean like a collateralized debt obligation?"


"I once played an investment banker on a soap. But no, he’s actually not too good at finding things. He usually loses his toy every time we go out to play. But, there was that time…"

"Tell me!"

"During the bubble. There was this guy on late-night TV who kept screaming about how easy it was to make money in real estate. I mean, he was beyond proud telling you how uneducated and dimwitted he was in every other aspect of his life, but here he was making millions by flipping houses."

"Yes, and?"

"O’Leary never liked him! He would wake up, get off his bed,and bark at the television. The only thing that would get him to stop was changing the channel. Any night the commercial came on, the barking would start. So it got me thinking. Dogs are supposed to have that extra sense for spotting trouble, right? Well, I guess I don’t have to tell you. Stayed away from flipping, and I’m glad I did."

"Excellent! You have no idea. This is just the sort of unique story that a writer dreams about."

"Oh, oh. I just remembered. He also barks at Al Gore."

"Good Al Gore or bad Al Gore?"

"Anytime he comes on the television, especially Oprah."

"What about Hillary?"





"Yes, yes he does now that you mention it. More of a whining. Maybe he’s just hungry"

"He seems like a happy dog."

"He’s great and so patient. He’ll listen to me rehearse for hours. Makes sure I have everything perfect. By the way, I’m up for the part of the tossed-out-back-again boyfriend in the next Sex and the City movie. Wish me luck. Ciao."

"Got it?"

"On your desk."

"Say, this reads all right: An aging Golden Retriever named Sandy; good, good. Living out his days on a sustainable farming commune; he’s golden and green. Coal-mine disaster! Now that’s unexpected. Turns out he’s a retired service dog; well then,it’s his duty to help. How many times can he go down and pullout another carload of trapped miners? He has to finish the job.Finally everyone is out, but at what cost? Will Sandy survive? Clever, the heartbreak angle. He pulls through! Story ends with him and Al Gore warning against the dangers of climate change."


"l like it."


"ls it dramatic enough?"

"I think so."

"Good, we’ll go with it. By the way, what’s with the Collie?"

"A rescue. Thought he might be good at keeping the stress down."

"I betcha there’s a story there."

"Could be. Each dog seems to have one of its own."


Comments are closed.