Henri the Lab
by Joe Registrato
I was on a trip to Paris that I arranged as an anniversary present for my wife; and it was fun, poking around museums, shops along the Champs-Elyse, sidewalk cafes and outdoor food vendors, but even during a pleasant trip a man needs a break.
So when my wife was napping, I went for a walk among the Parisians, strolling along the sidewalks of one of the banks, left or right, I'm not sure how you tell the difference; and along the way I ended up talking to this very friendly and lovable, but also very discerning and analytical Chocolate Brown Labrador Retriever.
I stopped at a bar built of stone and old black lumber that looked like it had been serving cognac and wine on that same corner for hundreds of years. The two waiters or bartenders seemed a bit surprised when I stopped in, but were happy to take my American dollars for a short glass of Scotch. I no sooner took one sip from the glass when this massive brown dog came over, a big smile on his face, and sat down for a chat. The two bartenders smiled, apparently accustomed to seeing their customers engage with this dog.
But then, I realized the dog understood English. Now you've got to see the craziness of this. Here's this dog, beautiful yes and very smart, but probably never was taught English, right? I mean, where would he have picked it up? He spends his days lying around a bar in Paris. And I don't speak a word of French. Somehow, he gets it.
First thing I told him was how beautiful his city was. He agreed so heartily I thought he would jump in my lap, and I'm kind of glad he didn't because this dog was one big son of a gun. He had to go in the 70 to 100 pound range, big block head and paws designed to get traction in the snowy Alps.
He told me his name was Henri, pronounced on-Ray, of course, as any Frenchman would. The thing he wanted to talk about was women. My God. I was blown away. He went on and on about how some of them act like they love you and are so wild to jump into bed, but then the next thing you know they'll have your money and are out the door. He laughed and shook his head. Males, we're all such suckers for a pretty face, he said, and repeated the phrase a few times for emphasis. Although this was kind of a sexist thing for him to come up with, I did not even think of rebuking him, it was his opinion, after all, an opinion shared by many humans.
Next he wanted to talk about politics. He was appalled at how people are constantly fooled by their political leaders, even in democracies like France and America. He was very up on politics in America and disagreed strongly with the way the previous election had been "manipulated," was the word he used. Again, we had a good laugh about it.
I offered to buy him a drink, and he looked over at the waiters. They obviously understood what he was saying and so they promptly brought him a bottle of French beer and poured it into a bowl, which the dog lapped up. He said he preferred the French beers to all the others, as it was made from home grown hops and was available all year round.
We talked about so many other things, too, the beautiful sights of Paris, the delicious French food and terrific restaurants, the trade agreements that were making things hard for both America and France, and then back to women. He couldn't seem to get off the topic of women for very long. He kept saying, listen, Joe, (he called all Americans Joe), we're all just animals, right? And then he'd laugh and take another drink of beer.
I had to admit, he had a solid point that most people don’t think about out every day.
“Of course,” Henri said with a little laugh. “We are half male, half female, and there are rules, rituals, call it what you will. It’s the same for all of us. The female of the species, they get to choose from a field of males. The males, they do their best mating dance, put on fancy plumes, like the male peacocks. Have you ever seen one flare out its tail feathers, Joe?”
I had to admit I had not seen a male peacock flare out its tail except in television documentaries.
“When it comes to reproduction, most every animal has evolved in the same way, with a few exceptions.”
I waved for the waiter to bring me another drink, “and another beer for Henri, please,” I said. They brought the drinks right away and Henri was very appreciative.
“To what exceptions are you referring, Henri,” I said.
He nodded and smiled. “It is not so easy to see this for humans, but for dogs it’s very obvious. Some species mate for life, such as swans and some other birds, but for dogs and cats, no. We are much more like humans in that respect. But for dogs and cats, we have no silly legal technicalities, as do the humans. When you move on, you’re supposed to get divorced in court. How silly is that? Why should the government care when a man and woman split up?”
I nodded in agreement and he went on.
“And except for what looks a bit like rape among some species of dolphins, most animals like dogs and cats are more respectful of the mating rituals. But among the humans, there is a certain amount of violence between men and women. It is so primitive and crude. Why haven’t the humans moved past all that?”
I had no good explanation, and had to admit the dogs and cats did seem more advanced, at least when it came to violence between the sexes.
“It is a bit ironic, isn’t it, Joe, that some animals are thought of as not as ‘advanced’ as humans, but it some ways, we are much more advanced, isn’t it so, Joe?”
I had to agree. But I had a few questions.
“Henri isn’t it odd that you are something like a philosopher, whereas most dogs that I know are happy to retrieve a tennis ball and bring it back so a human can throw it again.”
He smiled and nodded.
“Is that so much different than the humans? You have your professionals, scientists and social scientists, thinkers; and you have your lazy ones who would rather play video games. Then of course the mentally ill and homeless. We have homeless humans in Paris, Joe, and all over Europe.”
“I can see that, Henri,” I said. “But the job market for dogs and cats must be tiny. Where would dogs work?” I asked.
Henri nodded. He looked over at the two waiters, still behind the bar and looking on. One of them waved at us.
“I make a pretty nice living at this place, Joe. The ownership is pleased with the entertainment I provide the tourists. It’s a good gig,” he said.
I had to laugh out loud at that one.
Finally, he pursed his lips together and nodded.
“There is another thing I wish the humans would work on, and that is consumption of meat. I know the dogs and cats eat other animals too, but that is how things evolved. We have to eat meat or we die. Not humans. The humans can do very well eating only vegetable protein, but they choose to raise huge numbers of cattle and hogs and chickens to eat for dinner. It is a disgrace to the species, Joe, that the humans haven’t seen this as primitive and crude.”
Again, this was something I had not thought much about, but here was this dog talking like a college professor. And I found myself agreeing with everything he said.
Just before saying goodbye, I asked the waiter if he would take a picture of us together with my cell phone and he said of course he would, and Henri hopped up on a chair and looked directly into that camera, let his tongue hang out and gave it a big smile. It turned out great! I emailed a copy of it to the bar and the waiter said he's make sure he pinned it up where Henri could see it, along with a whole gallery of other pictures that Henri had posed for with the tourists. There were hundreds of them!
For a few minutes, I smiled thinking of how my wife would enjoy hearing about this strange dog, but then I realized she would never believe me, and would think I made up the whole story.
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Hahahaha. Great story, love the dialogue and the theme. I think you're going places, Joseph ;D Fabulous job!
This really struck a chord with me, Joe. Haha, I met a talking dog in Tokyo, we also talked about women and wine. Very nice. Keep going Joe, you got talent!