When I adopted a dog five months ago, I vowed to myself that not every future column would be about him, because I am a well-rounded individual with diverse other interests to write about. For starters: I love taking walks with my dog, going to the dog park, and snapping photographs for my in-progress art series, called Portraits of My Dog.
But, once in a great while, I feel entitled to write about Wally, which (to answer his #1 fan mail question) is definitively short for Wallace. Today, I’d like to address his #3 fan mail question.
First, I imagine you are wondering what sort of fan mail comes to a dog. Here’s an example. Wally’s #2 fan mail question concerns his breed. I don’t understand why people even ask this question, because people are quite good at answering this question for themselves. Folks who have known Wally for a time shorter than a Vine always have an opinion about what kind of dog he is, and they are always wrong.
The honest truth is that I don’t see the world in “breeds.” When I look at dogs, I see just their innate dogness. But that’s not what the questioners want to hear. So to appease them, I have started saying that Wally is a cross between two random alien races from Star Wars. This answer actually makes sense to me, because I’ve realized that I talk to Wally exactly like Han Solo talks to Chewbacca. And it’s apparently really, really difficult for someone to rebut with, “I dunno, man. I think see more beagle than gundark.”
And if that dialogue doesn’t stop the conversation, fan mail question #3 really does: “What happened to his nose?”
It is a testament to Wally’s overall friendliness that petters continue petting him when they see his muzzle. It’s not that it’s gross or anything. More like, it looks sunburned. And sometimes, it looks like a sunburn on top of road rash.
This condition doesn’t seem to faze Wally one bit. No itching, no scratching, no griping. And its flare-ups are not tied to anything I can identify. They could be an allergic reaction to diving into lizard-populated sage bushes just as easily as to, say, answering the same three questions over and over.
I could always brush off the topic with bromides and banalities. Instead, I use these instances as “teachable moments,” wherein I hope these strangers can teach me what is up with Wally’s snout. Because I have no clue.
These everyday Joes fail to crowdsource my answer, though, so I recently took Wally to the actual vet. She took one look at him before suggesting I sit down. I don’t remember what she said, because I didn’t want to hear anything difficult. But the next appointment ended with her sending off little pieces of my dog for a biopsy.
The biopsist—who, I understand, makes a living completing biopsies—sent back inconclusive results. That’s medical speak for shrugging the shoulders. So while we’re waiting on a second (or rather, a first) opinion, we are treating symptoms. And until the animal scientists invent a definitive answer for me, I am choosing not to think negatively. Or, really, at all.
That’s why I took the dude on a camping trip—his first, as far as I know.
(You know how a significant other will say, “Oh, I used to go boating all the time with my ex—erm, with my friends?” And then the resulting pause gets awkward because you KNOW you’re not the first to plant a flag on this moon but that doesn’t mean you want to see the booprints of previous astronauts? It’s the exact opposite with an adopted dog. Wally’s got three to five years of life already—his age is another “inconclusive result”—but he keeps mum about them. Everything we do together is a first, at least for me.)
Now I could tell you the dramatic story about how a mystical desert creek cured Wally’s nose, and more importantly how our grand adventure taught us to weather life’s many turbulent travails with love and optimism. But I would be lying.
Really, we were just a man and his Wookiee-Rodian mutt out under the stars, forgetting all about biopsies and mysterious disorders, eating beans and dog treats, lighting stuff on fire, treeing chipmunks, getting lost, getting found, and getting far, far away. Out where a man is a man and a dog is a dog, and the post office doesn’t forward fan mail. And that was good enough for us.