Tag Archives: J.R. Carpenter

More Words the Dog Knows

Shiba Inu and BallHOME: Where they keep the kibble. The origin and the terminus of the walk. At home, all scents are known.

CYBERSPACE: The place where people go while dogs are sleeping.

CONQUEST: It is not enough to give chase to a ball, catch it in mid-air and bring it back for another throw. A victory lap is in order. Then give it a good shake to make sure it knows it has been conquered.

CONTINGENCY: If an orange ball has just been lost, look around. Maybe there’s a busted tennis ball nearby. Maybe there’s a stick waiting to be found.

PHENOMENOLOGY: When wind happens it happens in the ears. When rain happens all the smells are hidden. When thunder happens it happens inside the heart and head and there is no hiding from the fear.

CONSUMPTION: If it is put in front of you, eat it. If it is on the floor, eat it. If it is on the ground, eat it. If it is dead, sniff it carefully, and then eat it. Even if it smells like shit, eat it. Even if it is shit, eat that too.

SECURITY: Bark if the doorbell rings. Everyone knows danger rings before it enters.

WORK: The ball is a bird, see? Shake it, make sure it’s dead. The sticks need rounding up. Who left this branch here?

PERFORMANCE: If you bring them the ball they will throw it. If you stare at the door they will open it. If you come when you are called, you will usually get something out of it. If you lose a ball under the couch they will find it for you.

MELANCHOLIA: When playtime is over and the long nap in the dark is over, and the early morning walk is over, sometimes in a hurry, sometimes even in the rain, the people shut the door behind them and the dog is left.

Excerpted from J.R. Carpenter, Words the Dog Knows

Lapsus Linguae

Words the Dog Knows

Words the Dog KnowsJ. R. Carpenter’s long-awaited first novel Words the Dog Knows follows the crisscrossing paths of a quirky cast of characters through the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. Simone couldn’t wait to get out of rural Nova Scotia.In Montreal she buries her head in books about far off places.

Her best friend Julie gets her a job in the corporate world. Traveling for business cures Simone of her restlessness.

One summer Julie’s dog Mingus introduces Simone to Theo. They move in together. Theo is a man of few words. Until he and Simone get a dog, that is.

They set about training Isaac the Wonder Dog to: sit, come, stay. Meanwhile, Isaac the dog has fifty girlfriends to keep track of and a master plan for the rearrangement of every stick in every alleyway in Mile End. He introduces Theo and Simone to their neighbours. He trains them to see the jumbled intimacy of Mile End’s back alleyways with the immediacy of a dog’s-eye-view.

Words the Dog Knows isn’t a story about a dog. It’s a story because of a dog.

I never had a dog as a kid, which is surprising considering I grew up on a farm. We had every other kind of animal. Ninety head of cattle to keep the one bull busy. A pen of pigs to keep the one we’d eat company. A roost of free-range chickens run ragged by a mean white rooster. A hutch of show rabbits not good for much of anything. And thirty-five hives of honeybees – white wooden worlds unto themselves – each one run by a queen.

I had a housecat named Feather of the Fairies. Children below a certain age should not be granted the power to name. The barn had its own cats. They kept their own company, lived according to laws unknown to us, and came and went and fed and bred and killed in anonymity.

We had a horse named Red, even though he was brown. Red decided how fast or slow he’d go by the weight of his rider. The heavier you were the faster he went. My mother was barely five feet tall. But according to Red she weighed plenty. No sooner was she settled in the saddle than he was off and running. Splashing through the shallows of the cattle pond, up the slope to the rock wall, along its length to the northwest fence, and down again for a victory lap around the first pasture. Unable to rein in his canter, my mother did her best to avoid Red altogether.

My father was six-foot-two at least, and solid as a cast-iron skillet. He rode Red to a froth. The two of them lived for round-up. There were other dairy farms nearby, much larger than ours. Most ran round-up with dogs. On our stretch of the Sloane Road alone there must have been fifteen herding and hunting dogs. And that’s not counting over at the Doyle place where they kept a pack of sled dogs, twenty-four or more, chained all seasons. Their howled chorus blew our way on the same south-easterlies that made the power lines whine. It’s not that I wanted a dog. It’s that I was surrounded by something that was missing.

J.R. Carpenter website

Image: One Bark at a Time