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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Dog Days” uses a third-person narrative from the perspective of Lisa, a young woman, to relate the story of a family caught up in an undefined national crisis. Over a single year, the family’s standard of living declines drastically; they lack electricity, experience drastic food shortages, and have their neighbors disappear mysteriously. Soon they appear to be the only people remaining in town.

The unifying thread in this chaotic situation is a creature, presumably a human dressed as a dog, that ingratiates himself with members of the family, becoming their constant companion. Lisa’s mother scavenges in the trash seeking food for this man/dog who sits up and begs, rolls over, and licks the hands that feed it. Even when the mother cannot find food, the dog, Prince, remains with the family.

Initially, the mother defends the dog; the father eschews it. Lisa’s brothers, Pat and Eliott, sell their clothing to buy drugs and retreat into their basement bedroom, from which they exclude Lisa. They do drugs and leaf through old issues of Playboy by moonlight because their electricity has failed. They do not go to school because, in April, the schools close. They boys rejoice in the freedom this closure gives them, but soon they become bored and seek jobs. The town, however, is clearing out. No one is hiring. They are left to their pot smoking and prurient reading.

Lisa’s father, Howard, goes hunting with his shotgun but finds little to hunt. Lisa never reports that he brings anything home from his hunting expeditions. The family is short of food, but Howard is powerless to do anything to relieve his family’s hunger. Ever the realist, he realizes that the dog his wife is nurturing is actually a human dressed as a dog. Because he discourages his wife’s ministrations to the dog, she carries most of them out secretly, feeding the creature behind his back. She accepts the man/dog as a dog because that is what it wants to be. She supports its right to be whatever it desires.

The man/dog behaves like a dog. It acts as dogs do—it sits up and begs, rolls over, and barks. It sleeps curled up on the porch. Howard will not permit it to enter the house. It smells and has fleas, some of which cause pink bumps to appear on Lisa’s legs, but she does not tell her mother that the man/dog has given her fleas. Her brothers joke that she should not let the dog get too close to her lest it impregnate her.

The family’s world is obviously collapsing around it. The town...

(The entire section is 680 words.)