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Richard Gilbert is the author of Shepherd: A Memoir, a story of farming and fatherhood. His essay “Why I Hate My Dog” was named by Longreads a “Best of 2016.” He's working on a collection of essays, and he blogs at Draft No. 4. Shepherd Amazon link: “Why I Hate My Dog” link: Draft No. 4 link:

The Boom Boom Song

All illustrations by Kate Gavino

Richard Gilbert | Longreads | May 2017 | 13 minutes (3,798 words)


My granddaughter, Kathy, sprinted down the upstairs hallway of her house, wailing for her mother. But her mother, my 30-year-old daughter, wasn’t home. She and her husband had left Kathy with me while they went to buy a larger car—Baby Number Two was due soon. I’d been on duty about three hours when Kathy realized her parents were really gone, and dashed for their bedroom. She was wearing only a red shirt, having shed her diaper and her britches somewhere. I hadn’t been able to get shoes on her in the first place. I ambled behind her down the dim hall, wondering how I’d deal with this crisis.

I’d already learned not to tell Kathy “no,” except in injurious situations, so I don’t recall doing anything to set her off. But on top of the Terrible Twos, she’s in a mommy phase. And she’ll only nap at day care, so she’s always exhausted on weekends at home. Her parents, Claire and David, had warned me that they had to drive all the way to northern Virginia for the best deal. Their getting back to this southwestern tail of the state meant I’d agreed to tend Kathy, alone, for over 12 hours. Read more…

Why I Hate My Dog

Photo (and all photos below) courtesy of Richard Gilbert

Richard Gilbert | Longreads | July 2016 | 18 minutes (4,584 words)

Belle Krendl, “our” dog but really mine, is a furtive, ragtag creature. She suffers in comparison to our prior dogs—and to most we’ve known. In fact, she suffers in comparison to any pet we’ve ever owned, including jumpy, escape-prone gerbils; a pert exotic lizard that refused to eat; cannibalistic chickens that stared with malice in their soulless green eyes; and a sweet, dumb, tailless black cat named Tao who spent his life staring into space with huge yellow eyes—but once, in a blur, grabbed and gulped down a gerbil our daughter dangled before him by way of introduction.

A Jack Russell terrier, or maybe a Jack cross, Belle Krendl is covered in whorls of stiff white hair. Bristly brows and white lashes accent her black eyes, as do her lower eyelids, a disconcerting garish pink. In the house, her movements are wary; outside, she streaks like a Greyhound after any creature unwise enough to enter our yard. Her long skinny legs with knobby joints—King crab legs, I call them—make her too gangly, at 16 inches tall, for a proper go-to-ground Jack. At 22 pounds, she’s too heavy for a lapdog. She’s ambivalent about cuddling anyway. We’re seldom inclined to offer much physical affection, given her peculiar odor, an intermittent acidic stink, especially pungent when she’s hot from running. A mouthful of missing, broken, and bad teeth partly explains her vile breath.

Richard's rescue dog, Belle Krendl.

Richard’s rescue dog, Belle Krendl.

“She’s a rescue—6 years old when we got her!” we crow, cashing in where we can, harvesting meager props for having saved her from euthanasia. In reality, she’d been lodged at a no-kill shelter. It had placed her twice in good homes before we showed up.

Baiting my family, I say, “I’d return her, but now she’s 12. Belle may have to take a dirt nap.”

“You can’t have her killed!” everyone cries.

“I’m thinking about it.”

“But you can take her back! They have to take her back! And they can’t kill her!”

I’m certain it would be more humane to have her euthanized than to take her almost anywhere. Read more…