Vegas by Stephanie Fitzsimmons; for more information, visit

Vegas by Stephanie Fitzsimmons; for more information, visit

The Thing About Dogs

by Jerry Dennis

Let’s say you decide to be the drop of dew on a blade of grass on one of those cool wet summer mornings when mist colors the woods blue and sound snaps from hill to hill without resistance. Good luck with that. The same with wanting to be a brook trout or a church bell or a small-town Southern lawyer. Our intentions are not what we are. Our intentions are not even in the same ballpark. But if I could, I’d be a dog. Big, stubborn, smelly, one who rolls on dead things, licks his balls with gusto, digs holes in the neighbor’s yard, chases squirrels even while knowing he doesn’t have a chance in hell of catching one, pisses anywhere he wants to piss, wolfs his food and the cat’s too, sleeps on the couch if he can get away with it, makes short work of rawhide chews and pork knuckles, considers it his duty to sniff the ass of every girl dog he meets and kick the ass of every boy dog, and fills the house with gamey stench so that anyone who enters gets twice the pleasure of his company. The main thing a dog has to do is keep being a dog. That’s its full-time job until it dies and becomes something else. It has other jobs, too, but the main one is just being itself. It’s all a rock does. And a kitchen chair. And a beam of light. My friend Tom who played football in college and has gotten even bigger with the years bolts from the room with his hands over his ears if he thinks a dog story is about to become a dead-dog story—

It’s all a bird does. And a trout. And a blade of grass. Cut a tree into pieces and set the pieces on fire and they become light, heat, smoke for a while, ash, then tree again.


About Jerry Dennis

Jerry Dennis is the author of many books, including A Walk in the Animal Kingdom: Essays on Animals Wild and Tame (Big Maple Press, 2015), A Daybreak Handbook: Prose/Poems (Alice Greene & Co., 2014), and The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes (University of Michigan Press, 2011). His essays, stories, and poems have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Audubon, Smithsonian, Orion, Riverteeth, PANK, and Michigan Quarterly Review. He lives in northern Michigan. Visit him at

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