A Dog’s Life

Nick Has Orange Knees

A boy, his tongue, and living the life anxious

John Werth
5 min readJan 17, 2021


Nick in repose (photo by the author)

Our dogs are Belgian Shepherds: Nick (pictured above) and Sasha, and I can’t claim to really understand either of them. They are a different species after all. (To be frank, I have so much trouble understanding humans I wonder if they’re my species either, but that’s another story.)

With Sasha, though, I feel like I have some sense of what she’s about. It is true that at least once a day I find myself asking her — yes, I talk to them, for which I make no apology — “OK, dog, what do you want?” But the basic outlines are clear: she is extremely concerned with all things food-related and an enthusiastic barker at anyone who comes to the door. The rest of her energy is allocated to the very serious and intense business of simply being Sasha, Conservatively Estimated To Be The World’s Best Dog.

Nick, on the other hand, is just weird.

At age 3 (photo by the author)

For whatever reason he seems to experience the world through his tongue. Come to our house, you’re going to get licked, it’s how he rolls. It’s getting a little better with age; when he was young I sometimes wondered if his body was just some sort of Men In Black-style transportation construct to carry that tongue around.

Like most dogs, he’ll lick the floor if there has been something edible there. On the other hand, he also does it for absolutely no reason I can fathom. Sometimes he’ll just walk slowly, licking every few inches, and something about the way his tongue bends leaves marks that look for all the world like little wet deer tracks. Other times he’ll lie on the Pergo floor and lick the area around him. The leather sofa seems to have a particularly good taste, so we try to keep a blanket over it.

He’s also aware that the humans in his environment don’t really like being licked, so he also uses it to manipulate us. If he’s being petted and wants you to stop, he licks your hand. If, on the other hand, you stop without permission before he’s had enough, he licks your hand to get you started again.



John Werth

Musician and conductor, repairer of woodwinds, owner of dogs, band director, lapsed mathematician, and scribbler of thoughts on humor, politics or both at once.