When I was in my teens, my next door neighbor had this rundown looking house populated by mean looking dogs. The place was flat grey with a gravel driveway, a backyard that was mostly dirt and dark yellow curtains that always seemed to be closed. There were four gargantuan Bullmastiff purebreds that I used to play with through the fence. If you’re unfamiliar with the Bullmastiff, they were originally bred to guard large estates and cripple would-be poachers. I once watched one of them bite a hefty tree branch in half. Despite their appearance, I thought they acted completely hilarious and reveled at the chance to use my hand to test their jowls, which I affectionately called “dog-flaps.” Their owner was the classic Michigan shop rat. He possessed a shaven head accompanied by a substantial mustache, owned an immaculate Trans Am WS6 and took his Harley Davidson motorcycle to Sturgis every year. One year, he asked me to watch his dogs while he was away. I was surprised because, up until that point, I had never even spoken to the man. He told me, “You don’t seem to be scared of them and I don’t know anyone else since my daughter moved away.”
It turned out that they were prizewinning show dogs and he paid me handsomely to care for them. I loved doing it and would regularly use them to scare my friends. I often fantasized about building a dog powered wagon that they could pull me around in. After my first summer of dog sitting, he started taking more frequent trips and I found myself watching those dogs often until Pepper got pregnant. She was the sweetest dog and would dance when she got excited. After some months, I went over to visit and see if she had given birth. Her owner seemed glad to see me and asked me how I had been. I told him that I was doing well and jokingly asked, “Have the puppies hatched yet?”
There was a long pause as his face changed from confused, to concerned and, finally, a little scared. “Dogs don’t come from eggs.” he replied.
This was an intensely serious man and the chance that I could have been joking never crossed his mind. In the three years that I had known him, I had never once heard him crack a joke and knew that he took most things quite seriously. He had just found out that the person he had entrusted with his beloved dogs for the last two years, believed that dogs came from eggs. As he recoiled away from me in terror, I began to reassure him that I understood that mammals all give birth to live young and was attempting to be humorous. I then went on to elaborate about how that ties into nipples and milk but I could tell that I was just digging myself a deeper grave. He let me see the puppies and I got to watch the dogs a few more times but he moved away not long after the incident. I would tell myself that it had everything to do with his new girlfriend or the want for additional space for the large animals but I secretly worried that it was because he thought I was crazy.
Years later, he contacted me and told me how much he missed being neighbors and having me take care of the dogs. While that did a great deal to ease my anxiety, I still wonder if there is a part of him that remains unconvinced that I was only kidding. I sort of hope so because that would give him an equally good story to tell. I suppose it doesn’t seem all that outrageous for dogs to come from eggs either. I have certainly fantasized about what it might look like and, let me tell you, it’s pretty great.
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