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The Truth, Mainly - 02/27/2006

Heating our house with what?

“Wake up, Bozo,” the dog tells me at 3:13 a.m. “I’ve got good news.”

It’s Ned again, the one-eyed beagle with the headstrong personality and the mismatched jaws. Or at least the ghost of Ned. In his ultimate act of disobedience, he died six years ago, but he occasionally visits us in the middle of the night to resume giving us orders.

“What is it this time?” I say. “What’s so important that you wake me up at 3:13 a.m.?”

“Like you never woke me up when I was asleep,” he says. “To chase a ball if I remember right. To chase a ball and bring it back to you, wagging my tail as if this was more fun than anything. You woke me up on your schedule. I wake you up on my schedule.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, and close my eyes so he’ll go back to wherever it was he came from.

But he licks me in the face—wet licks full of ethereal saliva. I try to bop him on the head, but it’s like bopping smoke.

“OK,” I say. “Once more, you win. What is it this time?”

“A clipping,” he says. “A clipping from last Wednesday’s Journal Star. Page 4A.”

He gives me a slobbery piece of newsprint headlined “San Francisco is looking into the power of dog doo.” “Dog doo?” I say. “You wake me up at 3:13 a.m. to tell me about dog doo?”

“Look at this,” he says, pointing to the sub-head with his paw.

It says “In pilot program, pet waste will be used to create methane gas.”

“Methane gas?” I say. “Isn’t that what you liked to pollute the inside of the car with when you wanted us to roll down a window so you could stick your head out and breathe sub-zero air?”

“That’s it,” he says, grinning as well as a beagle can grin. “But look at what San Francisco is doing with the methane gas from the dog doo.”

So I read the Journal-Star story. The opening paragraph says “City officials are hoping to harness the power of dog doo.” And it goes on from there to say “in this dog-friendly town, animal feces make up nearly 4 percent of residential waste, or 6,500 tons a year.”

“Gross,” I say.

“Keep reading, Bozo,” Ned says, “or I may pass some gas. I can do it at will, you remember.”

I do remember, so I keep reading. The dog doo “will be tossed into a contraption called a methane digester, which is basically a tank in which bacteria feed on feces for weeks to create methane gas. The methane could then be piped directly to a gas stove, heater, turbine or anything else powered by natural gas. It can also be used to generate electricity.”

The Truth, Mainly


“How about them apples?” Ned says, grinning a beagle grin.

“It’ll be a cold day in hell,” I say, “before I warm myself or my house with dog doo.”

“If it’s good enough for San Francisco,” Ned says, “it’s good enough for Lincoln. Did I tell you that in dog heaven we keep warm by burning methane gas made from people doo?”

“That’s obscene,” I say.

“And did I tell you,” Ned says, “that in dog heaven we put collars and leashes on people and take them for walks? They seem to like it. You’ve got a lot to look forward to.”

“One more thing,” I say. “When did you learn to speak English?”

“When I was about three months old,” he says, “but I didn’t speak it around humans. You’d have put me in a cornball teevee show. It was at about the time you bought that book, ‘How to Discipline Your Beagle.’”

“Oh yeah,” I say. “The book that recommended shooting you with a water gun when you were doing things you weren’t supposed to do.”

“That’s the one,” he says, “the plastic water gun that I chewed into tiny pieces after you shot me with it a couple of times. I was a precocious pup.” With that, Ned audibly passes some methane, then begins fading away. By the time he’s completely gone, I’m shivering from the cold.

I get out of bed and kick up the thermostat. I hear the natural gas ignite, but it doesn’t seem to put out as much heat as I need. I get back under the covers and shiver myself to sleep.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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