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Questions People Have Had For Me Now That A Third Dog Is Here
Previously in this series: Why you should consider second dog. Things older Italian men in my neighborhood have said to me about my dogs. Parts II and III. Things kids have said to me about my dogs.
The third dog is Mr. Wilson, a brief loan from a friend on vacation, and not a permanent addition. I spend a cumulative hour or two every day telling the dogs that there are three of them, that there are three dogs in this house, that the number of the dogs on the bed (or the couch, or the floor, and so on) is three.
So far the reaction from the neighborhood adults has been one of mild delight mingled with not a little concern:
[With an uneasy eye] “You got a third dog?”
“Did you get another dog?”
“This a new puppy?”
“Look at them, all walking together! They’re all walking together!”
“Three dogs, boy — I don’t know!”
Small children have been more enthusiastic, as the addition of Mr. Wilson has united some of the most beloved of childhood pastimes: counting to three, noticing a new thing, more dog, informing their parents that something about the daily environment is now different than it was yesterday, and pointing.
I’ve compiled below a handy Q&A guide for those of you wishing to know more about Mr. Wilson, his provenance, his likes and dislikes, his incorporation into what was previously a two-dog dynamic, how many dogs are three, et cetera.
Q: Is it true there are three dogs with you now?
A: At present, I have the authority, stature, position, and condition of three dogs with me, yes. The two regular dogs I already have, and now with the temporary addition of Mr. Wilson — the third dog — there are three dogs here.
Q: Who is Mr. Wilson? What is the origin of his years?
A: Mr. Wilson is an old red dog, who has united within his red body both peace and age. He comes from Anna, my friend in the Bronx, who is on vacation.
Q: Mr. Wilson — does he remember how to go down a single stair?
A: He can do this 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time he will forget, and bark until he is airlifted to safety.
Q: Where is this happening to him?
A: The kitchen and the bathroom are both separated from the rest of the apartment by a single half-stair. The kitchen is, obviously, full of the smell of food, and the bathroom has the softest rugs, so this happens anywhere from twice to seventy times a day.
Q: Follow-up question: Can Mr Wilson remember how to go down more than a single stair? Say three, or even four stairs in a row?
A: No. He must be carried.
Q: How, then, can all three dogs go outside on a walk at the same time?
A: First you must pick up Mr. Wilson and go outside to the landing. Then you put Mr. Wilson down. Then you go back inside for Bon-Bon and Gogo, who do not like going onto the landing and have to be herded. Then you put a leash on Bon and Go, before retrieving Mr. Wilson, who by this time has wandered back into the apartment and is barking to be let out again. Then you hoist Mr. Wilson into your arms while looping the remaining two leashes around your left hand before carefully descending the stairs behind the smaller dogs. Be careful, as Mr. Wilson will block your view of your own feet.
Q: Then how do you open the front doors at the bottom of the stairs?
A: You have to put Mr. Wilson down, open the door, let the first two through, pick him up again, carry him through, put him down, open the second door, let the other dogs through again, pick Mr. Wilson up again, close the door, and then carry him down the final set of outside stairs. Do not bother coming back into the house and up the stairs again. It is not possible to take three dogs back up all those stairs, because of Zeno’s Paradox.
Q: What does Mr. Wilson like to do all day?
A: He likes to be on the bed, he likes to be asleep.
Q: In what style does Mr. Wilson best like to dine?
A: He prefers to eat off of a paper towel, because he is afraid of bowls. It is easy to confuse his water dish for his food dish, but he has no food dish at all, just a fresh paper towel with scoops on it every day.
Q: Then how does he like to drink water?
A: His favorite way to drink water is in the middle of the night, by panting heavily until I wake up a little. At this point he prefers that his little green bowl be brought to him, very full of water, and held just under his nose for two minutes while he considers his options and moves his head around. Then he likes to drink water.
Q: Does he like to drink water if his water bowl is on the floor?
A: He does not like to do that.
Q: How do the two dogs engage with the third dog?
A: With the same great bafflement with which the young always encounter the very aged. Mr. Wilson does not like to play, no matter how often the other two dance at his feet, and the other two are not in the habit of cultivating self-restraint, so there is something noble about their suffering as they reluctantly affirm his decision to rest. Still they live in hope.
Q: What does three dogs in the house feel like?
A: It is very important, at any given moment, to count the number of dogs out loud. Never in all my life have there been so many dogs in my house. It is very possible that there will never be three again, so this is the most three we are likely to have.
Q: Is it correct to say there are three of them?
A: Yes, quite correct.
Q: Merveilleux! And quite important?
A: C’est merveilleux! And very important, yes.
Q: Do they sleep along the foot of the bed all in a row, in order from largest to smallest, left to right?
A: They do this as naturally as if God had sorted them by volume. It is good, and it is three.
My latest book, Dear Prudence is on sale April 4th. It's an anthology-slash-retrospective of my tenure as Slate’s advice columnist from 2016-2021. You can pre-order your copy here.