Nine months ago, we spun the Wheel Of Pandering and ended up with the story of Local Dog, a tortuously overwrought tale of some dog known only to a few people who had blown out his second knee ligament in pursuit of some dull-witted squirrel. That seemed to be the dog’s first and last brush with the horrors of fame, but Local Dog is not just any local dog. Local Dog is a medical trash heap, and since we last examined his preposterously sedentary life, he has (a) wrecked his knee a third time, (b) acquired diabetes (or as scientists call it, dogabetes) from slamming down rum-and-Cokes, and (c) has just had double cataract surgery for which he now must wear a clear plastic head cone that makes him look like a drunken lamp crawling out of a bar at closing time.
In other words, Local Dog is not only the thickest file at the vet’s office and a letter from the pet insurance people saying, “We got no more money so leave us alone,” but is also a medical marvel in that his bingo card of body parts is nearly completely filled. Toward that end, he also has a penchant for ear infections.
Local Dog is therefore an amazing achievement in the annals of dog because he has tolerated (and maybe even instigated) more medical indignities than most entire breeds can conjure in an eon’s worth of evolution. It’s a wonder he never acquired canine COVID, although his response would be exactly the same as it has been in every other situation: Give me a pork-encased treat, let me climb up on the couch, and then let me sleep until you fetch me another treat.
Which, frankly, may be his entire dodge.
Local Dog clearly has powers of muted persuasion that have kept one local family in his passive-aggressive thrall since his arrival 11 years ago. He slaps that look on you, and suddenly you’re whipping up 96 percent fat-free venison meat loaf because kibble is for lesser breeds. You’re taking him on walks you don’t want to go on because he needs to be able to relieve himself on every bush he passes as some bizarrely competitive game with the other local dogs. You’re scratching his stomach when you want him to figure out how to scratch his own stomach. I mean, sea otters can use their stomachs as chafing dishes. Octopodes can do it times eight. His arms and legs are long enough without involving you at all, and yet … needy is as needy does.
Anyway, he is two days into cone life, his vision is better, but he won’t eat because there isn’t a lilac aroma to his sauteed chicken or enough cab franc where the water dish used to be. Local Dog is more than anything else a psychological menace who has made real the plot behind Kurt Vonnegut’s epic short story, “Tom Edison’s Shaggy Dog.” If you haven’t read it, all you need to know is that Local Dog would be on the movie adaptation’s IMDb page.
His owners are intimidated by his mesmeric powers, afraid of his influential gaze, and fearful that his next trick for sympathy will be a bleeding ulcer, Tommy John surgery, or a prolapsed face. His endurance alone shames us all, and all that is left is the growing knowledge that he is not a de facto family member or beloved underling but a mute supervisor of humans he has broken with his maniacal half-smile. He is clearly willing to use his frailties as a weapon to enforce allegiance, which is both inspirational and soul-crushing. He is Local Dog. He is not to be crossed.