The Smell of Earthy Things

by Zoë Blaylock

Twelve years I kept the dog for them. Then they took her back. 

Twelve years of cradling her in my arms, feeding her from her own plate at the table, combing the neighborhood so she could sniff around. Expand her horizons. 

Now I’m alone again. 

It’s not just unfair. It’s criminal.

But when I called the police to complain, the officer said Wofferine belonged to my daughter and her husband, not to me. It was right on the license. In ink. Both their names. Not mine. 

If I wanted to dispute it, he said, I should take it up in court. Maybe engage a lawyer. 

“Engage?” I said, hopeful because I’ve always had a way with men. Eighty-some years-worth of practice to be precise, which netted me four husbands. Two are still alive. Why the good die young is something I’ll never understand. 

“That’s not what I mean,” the cop growled, “I mean hire a lawyer.”

“Hire! Hire! Lawyers cost an arm and a leg, and mine are no longer limber. Who would want them?” I asked. 

The cop gave me one of those looks.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” I said. “Don’t get in a tither, copper! And don’t go carping that I’m not making any sense. Sometimes humor is nonsensical.”

When did being funny become an infraction? When did using a little humor like a weapon if not a salve become evidence of dementia? 

That’s what they said I have, when they took Wofferine.

She howled! How she howled! You mustn’t think that dog went willingly. She is as attached to me as I am to her. We understand each other. She’s a real comedian, like me.


I’ll bet that now she paces all night. We used to sleep together, her butt not far from my head. You get used to it, the smell of earthy things. And, we both slept like logs. Though at daybreak we were each glad for a long, long pee. We held it in, you see. We never wet the bed.

I now walk the night away. Of course, not in heels like a lady-of-the-evening would. What I do is pace. Pace, pace, pace in my slippers or in my bare feet, the way mad-with-worry-souls always have done. Since time immemorial. Times I remember well. I’m kidding, dear Jesus, I’m kidding.

“Is Wofferine suffering too?” I ask myself as often as the night is long. “Are they feeding her enough fat? Enough meat? 

Vegans they call themselves. Vegans. Sounds like a warrior race from another galaxy. Not that I ever watched science fiction. The Golden Girls, they were my thing. 

Do they give her the dried liver treats I bought on Amazon? I sprung for next-day delivery since I’m not a Prime member.

Prime. I haven’t been in my prime in decades. On the other hand, if fifty is the new thirty, and the shift holds exponentially, I’m in my early sixties. That’s good isn’t it? Not too old to have a dog. Right? 


Did I tell you that in my generation girls aged-out of their prime while still in their twenties? That’s when my first kid came. The one who grew to rip the dog from my grasp. And all because I’m old. Past my prime. My grasp is not what it used to be.


I once had grasp the way men have balls. 

Did I tell you I was as good at math as boys were? And chemistry? But they wouldn’t let me take anatomy. The subject was not delicate, not appropriate for impressionable young ladies. My, my…

And yet I could always tell when Wofferine had a tummy ache. I understood how her stomach churned, and I knew just what to do. How to boil the chicken. When to add the rice. 

Now they say they’ll bring her for a visit, like one brings a dog to the vet, something no dog wants. And they say that I’ll learn to like it—my new home. 

It costs an arm and a leg, they boast as if such would please me. “Hope it’s your arm and your leg,” I smile and add, “Because who would want my old weak limbs?” 

They don’t answer. They shift the conversation because they’re shifty. 

They tell me that I’ll learn to enjoy all there is to do at Casa Last Stop. 

“Choir,” they say sing-song, “Chair-obics. Crafts. Even a class called The World of Yesteryear.” 

As if I need to be lectured. As if I need reminding about the good old days. 

I had a little dog named Wooferine in the good old days, did I tell you?  

She slept with her butt not far from my face. 

You get used to it, the smell of earthy things. 

                                                 *   *   *

Zoë Blaylock is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Examined Life Journal of the University of Iowa School of Medicine, the other side of hope: journeys in refugee and immigrant literature, La Piccioletta Barca, Mulberry Literary, Front Porch Review, and in other publications. She lives in San Diego California with her husband and a series of large, old, gentle dogs.

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