Conversation Between a Man and a Dog by Anton Chekhov / translation by Misha Feigin



Conversation Between a Man and a Dog


The moon shone brightly on that frosty night. Aleksey Ivanovich Romansov knocked a little green devil* from his sleeve, carefully opened the gate, and walked into the yard. 

Passing the waste pit and trying to stay upright, he philosophized, “A human is dust, mirage, ashes. Pavel Nikolaevich is the governor. He is ashes, too. It seems his greatness is a dream, smoke. You just blow once and he disappears.”

“Rrrr.” The sound reached philosopher’s ears. 

Romansov looked sideways and saw, just a few steps from him, a huge, black Caucasian Shepherd the size of a good wolf. The dog sat by the janitor’s booth and clinked his chain. Romansov looked at the dog, thought a bit, and decided to look surprised. Then, he shrugged, shook his head and smiled sadly. 

“Rrrr,” the dog repeated.

“I d-d-don’t understand.” Romansov threw his hands up in the air, “And you…  Can you growl at a man? Eh? I hear it for the first time in my life! I swear to God. Don’t you know that man is the crown of creation? Just look… I am getting next to you… Now look… am I a man? What do you think? Am I a man or not? Explain!”

“Rrrr, ruff!”

“Give me your paw!” Romansov stretched his hand to the dog. “Give me your paw! No barking?  You don’t like it? No need now. Let’s go with that. And in the meantime, if you please – I punch you in the snout… lovingly….”

“Ruff! Ruff! Rrr…?Arf!“

“Aaaah! Why do you bite me? Very good, okay. I won’t forget it. So, don’t you care that man is the crown of creation… the tsar of the animals? So I can conclude from that, you can bite even Pavel Ivanovich? Yes? Everyone prostrates himself in front of Pavel Pavlovich, and you don’t care if it’s him or anyone else. Do I understand you correctly? Aaah! Then, are you a socialist?”

“Rrr…Ruff! Ruff!      

“Wait, don’t bite… Where was I anyway?… Oh yes, it was about the ashes. Just one puff – and he’s no longer here. Pff!… Then I ask: What is the meaning of life? Mothers suffer giving us birth, we eat, drink, learn science, die… but what is it for? Ashes. The human being is worthless! You are just a dog and understand nothing, but if you only could get inside the soul! If you could penetrate psychology!

Romansov shook his head and spat. 

“The dirt…You think that I, Romansov, Collegiate Secretary… am the Tsar of nature?… You are mistaken! I am a slacker, hypocrite, I take bribes! I am a jerk!”

Aleksey Ivanovich hit his chest with his fist and began to cry.

“I am a rat, a whisperer… Do you think that Egorka Kornushin was not fired because of me? Ah? But who, can I ask you, pocketed 200 rubles from the committee funds and then blamed Surguschev? Was it not me?  A jerk, a Pharisee… Judas! A flatterer, an extortionist, vermin.

Romansov wiped tears with his sleeve and began weeping again. 

“Bite me! Eat me! More! Nobody ever said anything useful about me…Deep inside their souls, People know I am a bastard, but they still praise me and smile to my face.

If only someone could smack me in the face or scold me! Eat me, you pooch! Bite me! T-t-tear this anathema to pieces! Gobble this traitor!”

Romansov stumbled and fell on the dog. 

“Yes, that’s right! Tear up this snout! Don’t feel sorry! It’s painful, but don’t spare me. Here are my arms, bite!” Yeah, the blood is spilling! You deserve it, a schmuck! Yeah! Merci, Buster…or what do they call you? Rip my fur coat. It does not matter – it was a bribe. I sold out my fellow man and bought the fur coat with that money… and the service cap with the badge too…where was I?… It’s time to go… Farewell, doggy…  you little rascal.”


Romansov petted the dog, letting it bite his calf again, wrapped himself into his coat and schlepped to his door, stumbling on his way.

Romansov saw something very unusual when he woke up in the afternoon the next day. There were bandages on his head, hands and legs. His tearful wife and a concerned doctor stood by his bed.


* Very drunk Russians see little green devils crawling all over them.