Reggie Dawgkins finished his sautéed femur in Béchienel sauce, carefully wiped his jowls with a napkin, and checked the advertisement he had posted on the popular dating website bitch.com earlier that morning.
Mastiff, age 2 years and 3 months, music teacher, stable income, non-smoking, non-salivating, completely flea-free, attractive brown fur, masculine hind paws. Likes: gourmet food, International Retrieving League games, karaoke barking, medieval Hundland poetry. Dislikes: figure mushing, South-Western acoustic pop, Poodle nationalism, excessive bitching. Looking for a temporary sexual liaison or a long-term relationship, pref. long-coated, pref. Rough Collie, pref. strong natural scent. Color not important. No caninelingus! Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reggie’s best friend and fellow musician Csaba Kutyus, a handsome Kuvasz with a perpetual mischievous grin on his muzzle, poured himself a glass of strong brandy and casually remarked:
“Reggie, my mutt! Heed the words of a son of a bitch who has smelled more rear ends than you could possibly imagine. Scrap those ads. They make you look needy. Look, bitches want –”
“You don’t know what bitches want, Csaba.” Reggie scratched his right ear. “Admit it. You are a bitchinizer. You never had a relationship that lasted more than one afternoon.”
“Look who’s barking.” Csaba stuck out his long pink tongue and discreetly peed on the carpet. “Shall I remind you of one sick pup who specified a temporary sexual liaison in his ad?”
“Touché.” Reggie put his chin on the table, between his forepaws. “But what should I do? You know how it is these days. They keep saying monogamy is an unnatural canine invention. Nobody wants a commitment anymore. Maybe I should just get my one hour of dog knot and forget about true love.”
“That’s the spirit.” Csaba yawned and stretched his paws. “True love is no more real than vegetarian Labradors. Remember that song we used to sing in college? ‘Truuue love, it is but fiction ... Truuuuuuue love, it’s malediction ... It’s all about the friction! Oh yeah, baaaa-by ... Arrroooo-wuff!”
“You’ve had too much brandy.”
“Never too much! Never ... too much! Reggie, Reggie, Reggie ... Listen to me. The way I see it – love is what they ... hic! ... what they call a groli ... glofi ... glorified instinct. You woo them, you do them. Seize the day ... and all that crap. Yeah ... I’ll buy you a new carpet.”
“Just get out of here, stinky breath.” Smiling, Reggie locked the door behind Csaba. The smile disappeared once his friend was out of sight.
A few bitches answered Reggie’s advertisement. He had two temporary sexual liaisons – one with a shy Toy Fox Terrier, who wanted to “rebel against the stereotype” by having a one-hour stand with a complete stranger, and another with a third-rate television actress, a curly black Barbet, who was “exploring her inner sensuality” and almost broke Reggie’s baculum in the process.
“I feel even lonelier now,” Reggie confessed to another friend, a writer named Wim van Tyke, over a cup of decaf latte in Starmutts. “I guess I have to acknowledge the fact that sex, on its own, cannot satisfy me.”
“Of course it can’t, you mongrel,” Wim replied calmly, removing locks of unruly Schapendoes fur from his artistically shaped forehead. “Just as I subtly indicated in my latest novel, Throes of Convulsions, sex is but a pale shadow.”
“A pale shadow of what?”
Wim graciously waved his forepaw.
“A pale shadow of that unattainable aegis, that unfathomable pleroma, which we call – yearningly! – the utopia.”
“Wim ... What are you talking about?”
The writer bit his lower lip.
“You would have known, Reggie ... You would have known, if you bothered to read my speculative short story The Inquisitor. In that story, a futuristic theosophist, who is also the Prime Minister of our planet, retrieves Adolfo Perrez from the past and leaves him in the Middle Ages, where he becomes –”
“Can anyone actually follow those convoluted plots of yours?” Reggie spread his paws. “And we were talking about my love life, not about your ... art.”
“Oh!...” Wim raised his snout in a dramatic gesture. “Is that what you call my oeuvre?”
“What’s your problem? I called it art.”
“Yes, but sarcastically!” Wim exclaimed. “Art! You said it like you were spitting with your tongue hanging outside. Like there was a flea in your mouth. Now I know what you really think of me. You haven’t even read my recent piece of decadent psychological horror, Horrible Omelette. How can you hope to understand the ecstatic mystery, the inchoate trepidation, the fallacious muse that is love? You are an insensitive cur! A callous fleabag! You, Reginald Dawgkins, are unworthy of being called a son of a bitch!”
Reggie got up and left the coffeehouse. As soon as he was gone, Wim van Tyke stopped yelling and wrote down their entire conversation. After a moment of hesitation, he entitled it A Dialogue with a Monster.
Whistling Cur Pawrter’s show tune What Is This Thing Called Love? in a melancholically slow tempo, Reggie deleted his online advertisement on the dating website and sighed.
“Am I cursed?” he asked the reproduction of Ruffael’s famous oil painting St. Canis the Witness Preaches to the Great Danes, which was hanging on the opposite wall. St. Canis did not reply.
A pop-up window with a short video clip flashed on the monitor. A medium-sized Chow Chow, gently caressing the trademark mane covering his chest, solemnly promised “hypnotic transformation” intended to “purify the illusion of self”. Reggie dialed the number and made an appointment with Dr. Gou, better known under his spiritual pseudonym Shvana Nay Kukuraputra.
Playfully wiggling his triangular ears, Dr. Gou snickered and gawked at Reggie with a radiant expression on his muzzle.
“Oh yes, oh yes. I can see it. Wooooo, I can see it! Reginald – may I call you Reginald? Reginald, I know where the source of your problem lies. You see, your puccha is distorted. You need to restore the balance of your jivha. Your shi is shrouded in illusion – that which we, the enlightened ones, call chou.”
“If that means ‘your love life sucks’, I wholeheartedly agree,” Reggie uttered gloomily.
Dr. Gou wagged his tail energetically and jumped towards Reggie. He was standing so close to him that their snouts almost touched.
“Reginald, your problem is much bigger than that. Tell me: can you dig with one paw?”
“Can you pee with both your hind paws in the air?”
“What does it have to do with anything?”
“This is the ancient wisdom of quan, Reginald. To solve your problems, I’ll have to show you your illusion.” Dr. Gou placed his soft, furry paws on Reggie’s head, closed his eyes, and started rocking back and forth, moaning in ecstasy. “Wooooo! Aroooooo!”
Reggie’s nose was itching from constant contact with thick Chow Chow fur.
Three minutes later, Dr. Gou removed his paws.
“Ah! Your perception of self is vanishing, isn’t it?” Dr. Gou grinned and energetically nodded a few times.
“On the contrary.” Reggie scratched his nose. “I sneeze, therefore I am. St. Dogustine used that simple argumentation, and Chiené Dogcartes made it famous. Besides, Doctor –”
“Please. Call me Shvana Nay Kukuraputra.”
“– my problem is my love life.”
“A-ha!” Dr. Gou exclaimed triumphantly. “Your love life! Now tell me, Reginald: if there is no love, if love is but an illusion, a figment of your imagination, a mirage, then ... how can there be a problem? How can your heart ache if there is no heart? Are you dreaming that you are a flea, or is a flea dreaming that it is you?”
Reggie shook off strands of Dr. Gou’s fur and walked out of the office without saying a word.
“Well, Mr. Dawgkins, what did you expect?” Professor Lucius P. Schwanz asked, wiping his glasses. “You tried to determine the essence of such a complex phenomenon as romantic love by interviewing a person clearly afflicted with the Dog Juan syndrome, an author of turgid pseudo-philosophical melodrama, and a patent charlatan. Obviously, they are unable to properly educate you in the topic, don’t you think?”
Reggie thought that the Professor’s distinctive Schnauzer beard needed some trimming.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, Professor Schwanz. That is why I’m consulting a psychotherapist now. I’ll be honest with you. I have a problem. As a puppy, I was always ashamed of associating sex with love. I imagined I’d meet this sweet, beautiful bitch, have fifteen-sixteen pups, a two-story kennel with a backyard – you know, the usual suburban dream. Then, in high school, a classmate once showed me a porn video – I think it was a Bolonka and a Newfoundland – and I just couldn’t connect it with that dream of mine –”
“Sounds like a classic Schmutzpelz syndrome,” Professor Schwanz observed, stroking his beard. “Objet petit.”
“Please go on.” The psychotherapist waved his forepaw wearily.