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Maki (Ma'ingan -- Ojibwe for wolf): The Restless One

Owner of Louise

...little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love...

Kate Atkinson's quote from William Wordsworth, in her 2015 novel A God in Ruins resonate so strongly in these days of pandemic that I keep repeating them to myself. This book is so masterful and powerfully written that I wish I could repeat the experience of reading it for the first time. An unflinching story that centers on the skipper of a British bomber, raining fire and death on Germany during WWII, this book envelops the reader in family and public life. The terrible and casual proximity to death is both chilling and gives one perspective. A great, profound, compelling read. Atkinson has said that her main motive in writing is to entertain. This book does everything.

Maki is reading The Plant Messiah by Carlos Magdalena. How can you resist a person who brings plants back from the edge of extinction, and makes pollination and grafting and cuttings sound breathlessly exciting? In retrieving the cafe marron, a beautiful ever flowering plant, Magdalena writes, "So I resolved to pursue it on my own time. I will not accept extinction." Bracing words! Humans cause plant extinctions, so people are very much part of the suspense. There is the overzealous professor who snips off the only fruit in the world, belonging to the last tree, germinated with mind-blowing care. There is the forest worker who eats most the last remaining seeds of an endangered palm tree. And there is Magdalena himself, who literally goes the ends of the earth to save plants. He says that we know so little about plants, that saving only those we think useful now, to us, is like choosing all the books with, say, green covers from a giant library and burning the rest. Even if you've never considered how much plants do for us, you can read this book as a quirky thriller and be completely entertained.

As ever Louise is distracted by small events and unable to easily leave her house, running back inside for her keys or phone, muttering that there is nothing to make for dinner. But it's worse since November 8, 2016. What she reads is this: heaps of magazines and newspapers. She has suddenly subscribed to everything. Here's what she clips: Winona LaDuke's articles in The Circle newspaper. She is storing them in the pages of The Winona LaDuke Chronicles.

Oh great. Now Louise has taken to reading in "The Sphinx", a yoga pose that is so basic it really can't be yoga, can it? She is like a kid reading on her stomach on the floor, claiming that now she has no backaches whatsoever, and taking up Maki's favorite rug with her endless lolling about. At least it is possible to loll right up to her, put a head on her arm, and read Cool for You by Eileen Myles. This book could be described as a coming-of-age via psychiatric and Catholic institutions. She gets all the smells right, Louise mutters, and the fabrics of the uniforms and the food that is not really food. And sometimes Louise laughs, but it is a weird laugh. Sometimes she jumps up and runs out of the room. The best times are when she jumps up and runs out of the room with the dog and they both leave the house together and she brings the book to the park saying that it is the sort of book best read in the open air. Intense and wickedly insightful! Eileen Myles. cool for you.

The youngest of his humans leaves her favorite book within reach. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Maki opens the book and reads.

"...she did not notice what was in her car until it grabbed her as she opened the door... The impossibly tall being, seemingly made of bright black beams of light, shrugged, and there was the flutter of hundreds of tiny wings beating at once." The tall being says, "Fear is a reasonable response to life."

Maki closes the book and creeps to the couch, hoists self up, curls in the forbidden pillows. What he is reading feels strangely forbidden also. Perhaps that is why the youngest, 14, a girl, loves this book and the Night Vale podcast upon which it is based. Maki shivers. This book is perfect for thoughtful, smart, slightly quirky individuals of any age who like sentences such as this: "The faceless old woman who secretly lives in their home crawled by on the celing, but neither of them noticed."

The night has a thousand eyes. Maki squeezes his eyes shut and tries to forget.

Maki watches the pages of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff move swiftly along—all in one night. Why is Louise reading so late when she has to get up for school in the morning? Insane. Must be one of those juicy reads that come along every so often and... why so it is! Picking the book up, stripping off the dust jacket (raging waves) with his teeth, Maki reads til dawn. The book is about a tempest of a marriage where the wife has strange secrets and the dog is named God. The dog is wonderful. The rest is about humans.

Natural Born Heroes? Thank you, Louise. I know you love me. But an endless subtitle: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. By Christopher McDougall. So it is not about me, Maki, for I am no misfit, but about a bunch of humans who kidnapped a Nazi general on the island of Crete and helped the infinitely tough and resourceful people of Crete delay the invasion of Russia so that they ...basically they turned the tide of World War II. It is also about ancient and fascinating new forms of useful exercise. Oh, stop reading. Why won't you stop? Why's this book so interesting? Just walk me!

At least when Louise is writing a book she will consent to long walks, thinks Maki, otherwise there is nothing to recommend living with her. She mutters and goes glassy eyed, drinks shocking amounts of coffee, and doesn't really READ the way Maki would like. He doesn't approve of her "while writing" type of reading. She calls it "research" but it is mainly moldy old newspapers from small towns or dry historical stuff, pamphlets even. Sometimes he hears her bickering with herself about what is supposed to "happen" next in a book -- duh -- walk the dog please? Worse, she's been rereading books Maki has read already. She loved Jennifer Eagan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. He heard her recommend it to several people on the phone. Then there's Lord of Misrule by Jaimie Gordon. She told people to read that too. She's read these books years ago! What's her problem? Louise is saying this nonfiction book The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by David J. Morris is extremely good. Well, it is Present Traumatic Stress living with Louise so Maki's plan is to bite that book off her bed tonight and stay up late, late, late, trying to grasp this human world he does all he can to make better with patience, bad breath, and love.

Maki feigns sleep again on the red couch. Once Louise leaves the Murakami carefully bookmarked, (for again the complex and exquisite cover by Chip Kidd makes it a piece of art as well as a book), Maki plucks it up gingerly and continues the story of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Louise has declared it her favorite Murakami so far because he doesn't use his usual set-piece of graphic violence to center the book, nor does Murakami rely on a shift in realities. His style in this book is calm and quietly emotional. Kawabata also uses this flat tone to great effect. It allows the reader to see through the surface to deep water filled with current and meaning. The book is a startlingly intimate meditation on human loneliness set off by the ordinary and yet magical metaphor of a great train station where people come and go, destinations are sought, arrivals and departures take place, and yet each human being travels in solitude.

Reading what? The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. A must Read.

True, most urban people don't see much more than dogs, cats,a squirrel, rat or cockroaches. Sparrows. So why care that we are on board to exterminate one quarter of all the living species on this earth via fossil fuel use, climate change, overpopulation, beef farming, and simply our presence here? The most eloquent answer to that was given in Countdown by Alan Weisman. He told a story about a teacher who brought a beautiful "Tree of Life" Iranian carpet into her classroom. She compared it to our world, and all living things the threads -- the animals you see, those you don't, all the plants and insects on the earth. If you cut one thread, she told the class, the carpet will eventually unravel. What happens if you cut one quarter of the threads? The world unravels real fast.

There's Louise, and she might have toast. But no, she is taking down one Alice Munro after the other, reading back in time. One whole bookshelf of Alice Munro. Dance of the Happy Shades, Progress of Love, The Love of a Good Woman and etcera, then Dear Life -- currently, it really must be noted, a number one NYT bestseller. Maki thoroughly approves, especially if there is peanut butter on the toast. Who cannot? There is no writer who has so thoroughly and compassionately entered the lives of small town girls and women. Although a city dog, Maki occasionally ventures into smalltown life in Wahpeton, North Dakota. There he sees plenty of Alice Munro characters. In fact, he is pretty sure Louise is an Alice Munro character -- earnest, acute, subject to fits of mercy, then missing the right move entirely, bumbling hard, hurting people's feelings, absurdly joyous at the wrong time, forgetting the dog, then passionately remembering the dog. Secretly sharing peanut butter toast with the dog. Then putting the book in front of her face when the dog whines for more.

Summer at last and Louise is wilting onto a couch with book after book -- mainly spy novels. John LeCarre: Russia House, Smiley's People, The Secret Pilgrim, and her favorite LeCarre: A Perfect Spy. She babbles about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, a book she is reading now but often misplacing because there are so many spy novels around. Louise says it sneaked right up on her with its deadpan voice and quiet humor. On the cover it says "a study of what it means to be 'human'" and Maki hopes that it will, perhaps, make Louise more human. More of an animal human who can see into the heart of a dog.

Because she's a forgetful human, Louise mentally deleted all of the reviews that told too much about this book. Karen Jay Fowler is such a deft writer, such a light touch with the very large story she is letting fall detail by detail into the hands of the reader. Complete enjoyment and, ah, the hand coming down to idly scratch the silken ears of Maki while she reads on and on . .

Louise staggers home and throws self on bed -- no run. Something about a book tour -- no games of fetch. But from her limp hand drops a book by Edmund De Waal -- The Hare With Amber Eyes. She's been reading this ravishingly written paperback, lamenting the lack of visuals. Suddenly she becomes utterly enchanted by new, hard cover, Illustrated Version. This is why we must have books, she mutters, madly flipping through the pages. I've yearned for the substance of photographs, art, pictures that I can touch and examine! The Illustrated Hare With Amber Eyes -- completely satisfying.

And yet, distraught, Maki watches the waning moon.

He feels as does Louise the anguish of his ancestors -- who would have him for lunch as they are wolves. In truth he is only named for them, in story he is related. At this writing, the wolf hunt in Minnesota has claimed over one hundred wolves. Louise does not hate or disparage hunters. Her family hunts, she hunted with her father. Ojibwe people hunt. But the wolf is not hunted because the wolf avoids humans. In the Ojibwe creation teachings the wolf walked with the first human; the wolf left us the dog so that we would not walk alone. The wolf is part of who we are as Ojibwe and as Minnesotans. There is no good science or reasonable explanation to back a wolf hunt. Who are we?

Maki can't type. Paws, awkward. Please write: or DNR COMMISIONER Tom Landwehr.

Maki is immersed in Sea of Poppies, the first in Amitav Ghosh's tremendous novels about the opium trade in colonial India. Jealous of Louise's total obsession with the second book of the trilogy, River of Smoke, Maki slipped the novel out of Louise's bedside pile.

The characters are deep, real, true, and the language is delicious. Ghosh has researched a period of history in which a language collision resulted in a strange and compelling pidgin trading language. Christianity and Free Trade combine in what seems an absurd argument for drug peddling, but which is current as today's news . . .

Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke. No dogs in these books, but the romance. Heavy. And everything you never knew about the production of opium. Maki would be tempted to say the books are addictive. As addictive as . . . liver snaps.

Has winter come and gone? Was it here? Questionable. Maki was buried in snow last year and saw none this year. Heard Louise talking with the Ojibwe maple sappers who said the maple trees did not run. She bought snow tires, took them off, and is spooked. That's what everyone says. Ah, how wonderful, yet, how weird. Maki would be the first to recommend a book on climate change, but that is not what he sees Louise reading. She burrowed into The History of the World in 100 Objects. This is book must be read in hardcover, she says. Get it while you can. And she keeps buttonholing family members to make them listen to the description of 7,000 year old pots, and first carving of human lovers, pre-Columbian gold mysteries, a find by a farmer looking for a hammer in his field and pulling up a Viking treasure hoard . . . Maki thinks about his dog dish. Blue, beloved, ceramic, slightly chipped. The history of Maki's world lies in that object, the filling and refilling, and who cares? Does she care? Wait, she's got a piece of toast. We always share toast. Hey!

Maki read The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes. This book was a one night read and although filled with typical British angst over sex and communication, it had a zinger of an ending. So an unqualified recommend. He knows Louise is reading The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje, and that she loves this book. But Maki refuses to read it -- dogs don't have tables, cats shouldn't have them either. And no way he's going to pick up IQ84 even though Louise has been reading it every night for what seems like a century.

Maki's first clue is that Louise seems to love the cover of this book. She likes covers and always studies them before she opens the book. This one, Indian Voices: Listening to Native Americans by Alison Owings, actually has a group of laughing Indians on the cover. True, they are mostly in blankets, calico, braids. That gives them away as Indians. But they are laughing, which is unusual for Indians on the covers of books. Notice -- most are either stoic, tragic, shades and braids fierce, sultry or shown merging with a bear or an eagle or a wolf. (Why not a dog?)

Louise casually opens the books, chokes on her Kenwood Cafe soy latte when she sees an inarticulate quote from herself in the beginning. She looks stoically, tragically into the book and starts reading and reading. Then she starts laughing. The voices, as advertised in the title, really are Indian Voices and the Alison Owings has done her homework and footwork very well. The people interviewed in the book are funny, off-handedly heroic, cranky, kind, tremendously varied. Owings includes fascinating chunks of tribal history. She describes people with a sweet elegance and doesn't chase them down for visions or sacred stuff or mind-blowing coincidences.

It isn't easy to let people tell their own stories, but this author stays out of the way and does it. Indian Voices.

Will Louise ever let that book go and get some sleep? She stays up until 1 a.m. reading it. Whoof, Whoof, woman. You've got responsibilites. Take me for a walk so I can try my charms out on Madge -- a new lady in the neighborhood -- an arresting mixture of terrier and terrier -- neither side interested in Maki -- yet.

Life is SO much better since the ice went out and Louise started running -- very slowly, but her feet do lift off the ground with each step. She trained to run in the Erdrich family relay in the Fargo Marathon last weekend -- all (Angie, Mark, Jake, even Louise) ran heroically through the waterless streets of Fargo! Maki suspects that for Louise the marathon was just an excuse to carbo load, but so what. A nice trot around the lake, at times a wolfen lope, makes Maki so happy he sees stars. Star Songs and Water Spirits, that's what he sees. What a marvelous title for a collection all about these fascinating, not to mention goodlooking, people, the Ojibwe or Anishinabe. Victoria Brehm edits a collection that spans the Ojibwe universe. Louise is reading it now while she eats pesto linguini and tries to get back on her feet. Maki waits for his chance.

Of course with running, all the romance is gone from those chance encounters. No way to more than meet a lady dog's eye and Maki's past all opportunity. Down the street, the gorgeous tri-color dignified Layla eyes him safely from behind a screened storm door. Would she touch him with a ten foot pole? Much less her nose? Probably not. Maki's only hope is that Louise will wander off after her plate of bowtie noodles, and leave that interesting book. Someone should tell her, thinks Maki, that the carbo loading stops after the race.

What is the sound of one dog laughing in the dark? Louise drags herself off to never never land and Maki, bored, swipes Anishinabe Syndicated off the floor. This book looks like a good chew, but Maki doesn't do that anymore. There's some dignity in being 5 and having your real teeth and laughing in the dark.

Reading these collected essays from Jim Northrup's distinguished and always hilarious column from The Circle newspaper, Maki revisits old favorites and adds to his list of mental jokes. These essays take him places he's never been -- in and out of Vietnam and a veteran's aftermath, ricing, fishing, the swirl of Ojibwe family life.

Through it all that warm intelligence of Jim's and reference to a special dog that Maki vows to meet one day. Oscar Meyer Wiener Dog lives at Jim and Pat's house and runs things there, the way Maki would like to run things here.

For instance if Louise would wake up and let Maki out to chase that insomniacal squirrel sneering at him through the window . . . would a sonorous whoof or two alert or infuriate her? whoof?

Maki's Message of Hope: the snow will melt; the green grass will poke through the brown grass; leaves will faintly film the trees. There will be tulips. And yet no love? It seems that even the faint signs of spring do not soften the hearts of females Maki encounters. If he could only resist barking wildly at the lovely twinkle pawed miniature collie down the street!

Again, the night. The super moon clouded over. Maki pokes his nose into Louise's stack of poetry books and finds The Failure of Certain Charms. Reads. Gordon Henry Jr. knows, knows, and knows the way a cracked heart knits. Whether stitched by ironic laughter or accidental lust or wild barking... the heart can mend. How reassuring. How delicious.

Here is a partial list of Henry's calendar of wasted seasons: Moon of dripping faucet, Moon of the cold school, Moon of the return of big geeshis, Moon of snow buried yard angels . . .

I know that Moon! Henry knows Dog Moons. Moon of the Long Sleep. Moon of the Boring Food Bowl. Moon of Dangerous Sidewalks. Moon of Short Walks. Moon of Ice Between Toe Pads.

This is a rich book, though, a funny book, a deadly book, a book of deep understanding. The Failure of Certain Charms. The story of my life, thinks Maki, remembering her show of teeth at the gate. Her snub near the hydrant. And his futile lunge against the leash as he tried to pull Louise between them to make his case . . .

Let Gorden Henry jr.'s book make the case for me! Maki closes the cover softly.

The Winter of Ice Burned Paws.

Even though Louise sprays his plumey paws with Mush Paws, the cold snow still stings at -20. Even on those days of deep cold, the walls close in. They try to get out and walk. These walks are not leisurely strolls but involve shocked striding and awkward skids. Settling in at night, Louise reads The Mishomis Book to her daughter and to Maki, curled at their feet on a warm rug. This explanatory book, accompanied by coloring and drawing books, is the perfect introduction to Ojibwe culture for parents and children. The gentle illustrations bring to life an elder's voice. The words are soothing and the stories of creation so very beautiful. Maki has always been proud of his kind -- the wolf kind -- who were the first to walk beside the Ojibwe. The wolf taught the Ojibwe a great deal about life. The wolf continues teaching us even now. The Mishomis Book, written by Edward Benton-Benai, illustrated by Joe Liles, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Available through Birchbark Books, of course.

Truly, a dog's freedom and fun suffers in November, the season of ice. Any dog can slip off the porch steps, right? But to slip off in front of a squirrel! Will Maki's pride ever recover?

The worst thing is that humans are even less sure-footed. The walks are shorter slipperier and Maki's boredom grows. He tries meditating and is delighted to find that it comes naturally. When Louise leaves out The Etiquette of Freedom: Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and The Practice of the Wild, he is interested. First of all, two guys in beards and boots high on a hill. That's the cover. Maki thinks these guys look like they know how to give a dog a walk. When Louise passes out for the night, leaving the couch and the book unguarded, Maki settles in. This book is the script of a movie which is also included.

The script is great! What a conversation! All about things that Maki has already discovered, like Zen. There is even a Koan about dogs.

A monk asks Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have the Buddha-nature? And Zhaozhou says, "No." What is the point of that "no".?

Maki smiles. That "no" was the sound of Zhaozhou barking, of course.

Maki heartily recommends The Etiquette of Freedom. Especially of animals -- free agents, each with his own endowments, living within natural systems.

Fine words, ideas, ripping good conversation, a DVD, this is a MAN BOOK even though he saw Louise enjoying it and even rolling around in bed with it, crushing The New York Review of Books and her daughter's Archies.

But will Louise get those spikes for the bottom of her shoes and for godsake get OUTSIDE with him, please?

The dog days of summer and what else is there to do but read, pant, and scratch. In the sultry evenings, Louise retires in atrocious style (those baggy pj's) and outside the crickets tune up, the bats flit, the racoons prowl. She's left two dog books well within Maki's reach. The first is Monologue of a Dog, by Wislawa Szymborska. High art. Poems. Maki would rather eat grass. But as there is nothing else to read he begins the title poem. It is about . . . can it be . . .Hitler's dog. Maki figures that out right away and is astonished at how well Szymborska understands the problems and tragedies of his kind. No other dog poems, but this book. This book. It is an enchanting book. Poem after poem take Maki to the strangest places. He sees the earth as a cloud. He understands exactly why a child pulls on a tablecloth. He feels the same way as little Szymborska about puddles. Maki decides to hide the book from Louise.

These are the sort of poems you want to memorize, every single one.

These poems are thought experiments, they are very funny, they are arcane and wise. Szymborska is writing in what is called old age. How subtle and exquisite her mind has become with all of those years.

The other book, Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson, is the perfect read for Maki. Oddly suspenseful! The writer tells the story of how she trains her search and rescue dogs, and in the process she tells us about herself and about humanity. Maki watched as Louise read the book nearly all through at a sitting, as she declared it thoroughly fascinating. Details of scent. A dog's emotion. A trainers tricks, games, patience. Who knew? And of course Louise finds the book compelling because Maki comes from a distinguished line of dogs including search and rescue dogs. When she put it down she looked at Maki thoughtfully and said, "my friend, this is something you could have done. But it might have broken your very sensitive heart."

And now, back to the rug in front of the fan.

Having endured the ultimate sacrifice, Maki declines to wear booties. There are boundaries, after all, and being neutered doesn't mean you have to dress neutered. For subzero walks, Louise sprays his paws with Musher Paws, which keep those cold sidewalks from burning the old pads and the ice from between the toes. He also wears a red dog cape. The sort of outfit a Centurion Dog would wear on a march through Gaul.

Maki is ever eager to meet those two Champagne colored standard poodles with the baby blue boots, matching fuzzy sweaters, and floppy bows. Adorable. Twins. Maki's head spins. Maybe if Louise would only step along a bit faster he could ask about their reading habits. Closer, closer. Closing in. Maki's ears are fully erect. His tail is a killingly elegant plume. I wonder if either of the champagne poodles has read Drew Hayden Taylor?

Have you read Me Sexy, he asks the fluffier of the two. She gives him a wild roll of the eye. Their human jerks the two tantalizingly out of licking range. Maki spins Louise around and around and then tangles her ankles in his leash. But alas, the poodles have pranced off the other way. Maki will have to read long into the night.

Once Louise has passed into her usual stupor he knocks Me Funny by Drew Hayden Taylor off the shelf. Harph, harph, harph. Me Sexy, me funny, me lonesome. Those little booties were tied on with bows, weren't they? Too Much Happiness.

How boring it is when all of his people are asleep and there is no passing dog to challenge Maki's household hegemony. Maki jumps off the couch and trots to the firmly shut garbage bin -- ah Louise. Trying to be the Alpha and depriving him again of a blissful night of licking clean the sour cream tub. Maki is only doing his canine best to reduce organic landfill waste. How sad that Louise can't see this! The look on her face that morning when Maki had neatly flattened all of the butter wrappers on the floor and cleaned them thoroughly with his tongue!

Just thinking of butter makes Maki laugh -- harph, harph -- remembering the time his super protective mom, Rowdy, took a flying leap on her short legs and skidded across the dining room table, neatly seizing a whole stick of butter in her delicate, vise-grip, jaws. She crawled under the couch and Russelled the butter down before anyone could find the broom to sweep her out. How sweet was that. And later? Gross. But splendid.

However. Maki has noticed that since Louise read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, the garbage has been distinctly less enticing. Used to be, a chicken carcass carelessly abandoned overnight would drive him crazy enough to use his claws on the bin door. But there have been no chickens, or come to think of it, even those glorious little foam trays that once held fabulous tidbits of grass fed beef. The truth is dawning. Have they gone all the way? There is a V word that comes to mind. It is not a word Maki will admit into his consciousness.

Anxious over the possibilities that the garbage could be permanently compromised, Maki takes the book off the shelf. Eating Animals. An awful title in Maki's view. Opens to the section that includes a recipe for dogs and learns that pigs have scored as well or better than dogs on intelligence tests. What? Pigs as smart as dogs? Or SMARTER??? Why not eat dogs? Where to hide this fearsome insight? Ah, in the laundry room, at the bottom of the unmatched sock basket. Nobody in the entire family has tried to match a sock in ten years.

Maki jumps back on the couch to try and sleep off his anxiety. Thanksgiving is coming, then Christmas. His dreams are dark.

Maki is having one of those nights -- a night when everything is too loud. The passing of cars returning down quiet streets, the sinister rubbing of tree branch on branch, and now, the sly prowling of the neighborhood cat! Maki hates this ignoble creature. Maki's protective nature scorns the subsidized predations of cats. He delights in the beauty and courage of birds. Everything is stacked against wild finches! But what to do? Maki rages within.

Everything You Know About Cats is Wrong, he thinks, looking idly at the stack of books by the couch. Cats are wily, whiney, opportunistic serial killers, (oh, except for his Indoor Cat Pal, the Ojibwe cat, Gazhigens, who protects his family from the Hanta Virus by catching mice). Wait, Maki blinks. The title of the book by the couch actually is Everything You Know about Indians is Wrong. Ha, very funny and true about all the Indians Maki knows. The book is by Paul Chaat Smith. Despite the suspiciously feline middle name, Maki decides he loves the title, and then opens the book. The book is so right on the mark that Maki forgets cats for the rest of the night.

At dawn, the next door cat is let outside again, just in time to sit under the bird feeder. Maki snarls. The cat looks up at the window with a smug expression. The cat would lift an eyebrow, if it had an eyebrow. It licks a wicked little paw.

Maki thinks War Dances by Sherman Axie.
Sit right there, fur scag, he growls. Just wait until Louise lets me out . . .

Alas, romance isn't in the dog stars for perhaps the best-looking guy dog on the block. He has turned his commanding, yet soulful, brown eyes on Louise's bookshelf to take his mind off Lara, the Husky who maintains a frosty air even in the summer heat. Maki has chosen to spend his summer reading all that he can by James Welch. He chose Winter In The Blood one hot July day, but it didn't cool him off one bit. It made him think. It made him growl. He noticed that Louise had written the introduction and that it was one of her favorite books. Maki understood. The spare courage of the writing, the sly humor, the dead on characterizations, the modest despair of the narrator -- were also evident in the next book Maki chose -- The Death of Jim Loney. He is now embarked on Fools Crow, a masterwork by Jim Welch, and one that demands devotion in the reader.

No wonder Louise has all of the books by Jim Welch on her bookshelf, in hardcover, a couple of precious ones signed. Trotting into the bookstore, Maki studied Welch's signature on the back wall. He noticed that Louise stood in front of that signature for a long time.

Maki grew impatient. Settle down, said Louise. I wish Jim were still with us. I miss all he would have written next. Okay then. Maki sat.

Trotting out of the bookstore, around the lake, he saw one of his other crushes, Pearl, a border collie with the intensity of a serpent in her gaze. Her eyes are pearl-white with fanatical black pupils. He tried assertiveness. Uh, oh. Big slapdown again. When will Maki learn that a suave gesture wins the lady, not a swinish lunge?

Forget Lara, forget Pearl. Deepest night. Curled on the white couch (a daytime no-no, but Louise is unconscious), Maki takes Fools Crow down again and turns back to the fascinating story, the maze of gorgeous language. He lifts a paw and switches on the lamp. He'll read until the birds sing, then replace the book. Louise will never know they share this bond among so many others.

Now . . if only he could reach the dog treats . . .

Handsome, but be-deviled by inappropriate desires, Maki turns to reading when thwarted in his manly pleasures. Having recently received what he thought was a definitive slap-down by Lara, a husky with eyes blue as Julie Christie's, Maki opened the latest from his human crush, Naomi Klein. The Shock Doctrine. At first the title put him off -- it reminded him of an ugly experience with a barking collar. Maki bravely read it anyway. Actually, he found that the book was a shock, an intellectual shock to the understanding. Maki quickly decided that this book was indeed, as Arundhati Roy says, " . . . nothing less than the secret history of what we call the 'free market." As we are now seeing this market in free fall, Maki decided this was essential reading to understand both the past and the future. Disturbed, he began to wonder whether he'd still have dog biscuits in a year. For reassurance, he turned to Home, a new novel by Marilynne Robinson. This book was so perfectly written it took his breath away. He stopped worrying about dog treats and paid attention to each progressively lovely sentence. Those who read GILEAD will want to return to the characters. Those who didn't read GILEAD will be enthralled by the story, and find this a quiet, exquisite masterpiece.

Update on Lara: her growls are slightly less emphatic lately. Her icy stare may be softening. She didn't bare her teeth. Dare Maki hope? Stay tuned.