Even the most stoic, blithe, and unflappable of ladies and gentlemen will sometimes find themselves lost in the shadows, with the black dogs at their heels. I can vouch for this from personal experience. Many times they have come to find me, snuffling at the bottom of my door like coyotes outside a henhouse. More times than I can recall, I have awakened in the middle of the night, roused by some unsettling dream of serpents or teacups, and looked out my bedroom window only to see their bright red eyes glowing in the darkness at the bottom of the garden. I have seen them holding court in my neighbour’s treehouse, or floating slowly across the face of the moon.
What is one to do when the black dogs arrive?
I find that staying active can be the best medicine. As Brian Eno, the godfather of elevator music, once advised, “energy fools the magician.” With this in mind, I will attempt calisthenics. Or I will draw up plans to learn ballroom dancing, or reconstruct Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement using miniature marshmallows and cubic zirconia.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s better to simply get the fuck out of dodge and put a little distance between yourself and the dogs. To this end, I’ve been known to take off to Edmonton or Babylon. Perhaps you will find me one day, ambling up the Boulevard Saint-Germain, silver-handled walking stick in hand, whistling “Oh, My Darling Clementine,” or “I’m In the Money.” Chances are, I will be pretending not to have a care in the world. But the truth is, I will secretly be checking all the reflections in shop windows, vigilant for any signs of them, of their foul stench, their bristling hair, their flashing teeth. Of course, I will always look upwards, too, watching the rooftops for jackals with parachutes, for wolves disguised as weathervanes or angels. I will be careful to stick to places like shopping malls or carnivals, and be sure to only walk streets that are bright with sunlight or with neon. I will carry an amulet fashioned from a silver bullet. I will never wander through the dark woods alone at night (although the baddest dogs have sometimes been known to bring the dark woods with them).
Some days, all one needs to keep the hounds at bay are the simplest of creature comforts. Perhaps a pineapple milkshake or a bottle of scotch; a few hours in a flotation tank, or a fine cigar. Nothing repulses the black dogs more than the smells of gratitude and contentment.
Perhaps, if you’re feeling up to it, a still better approach is to invite the black dogs in. Have them over for poker night, for instance. They are better company than you might imagine, with their wry senses of humour, their raw-throated karaoke, their goofy bum dance, their lurid tales of true crime in the forest. Besides, they are often reckless, extravagant gamblers, especially when they’ve had too many tumblers full of moonlight, and the blood lust is upon them. If you play all your cards right, if you’re very smart and very lucky, you may be able to take them for everything they’ve got. But, if not, hey at least you tried!