When he was twenty-five, working as a caretaker at a Lake Tahoe lodge during a snowy winter and trying to become a novelist, John Steinbeck confided in a letter to a young woman that he was quite worried because his only companion, an Airedale, had learned to swear. Where the dog had learned such a thing, Steinbeck couldn’t imagine.  Nearly a decade later, traveling in Mexico, he wrote a letter to a friend about how wonderful Mexican dogs were. One dog he studied, whom he arbitrarily named Corazon del San Pedro Martin de Gonzales y Montalba, would lie on his owner’s doorstep and chase away all pigs but the owner’s pigs, guarding street trash against foreign pigs. One day when a “very big old pig” defeated the dog in a brief skirmish, Steinbeck said, “Corazon after one howl, walked sheepishly back to his doorway. He glanced over to see whether I had noticed, and when he…

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