In Praise of Good Dogs

When I was four years old, we had a dog for about five minutes — a German Shepherd named Sarge that my dad brought home from the Army. Sarge bit a girl from down the street, and we had to get rid of him.  In the dog’s defense, she messed with him while he was eating, which is just stupid, and he was a puppy and didn’t know any better, and more to the point, I didn’t like her, anyway. So it is, and always has been, my opinion that Sarge got railroaded.  However, in the wake of Sarge’s exile, I saw an opportunity, and, through my tears, promptly requested a penguin, which was rudely deemed “impractical” in our tropical home. (It was at this tender age I learned that my mother is immune to my pleas, tear-stained or otherwise).

When the kids were little, I — in all my wisdom — decided we needed a dog. You’ve probably heard of him, because in certain elite circles, he is quite famous. His name is Father Dave the Blessed Beagle. He is named after a priest I love very much, but being named after a wonderful man didn’t seem to offset the fact that Dave was determined to be The World’s Worst Puppy.

He ate anything that wasn’t nailed down: plastic soldiers, pencils, crayons, houseplants, cat food, books, Legos, Lincoln Logs, a pair of Disney princess sandals (someone in my household is still bitter about that, eleven years later), my wallet, a wad of cash fresh from the ATM, a five pound bag of M& M’s, a checkbook, orthodontic headgear, eyeglasses, and the best pair of heels I’ve ever owned.

I still think about those shoes in quiet moments, and mourn them. God, they were beautiful…

Relaxing after a hard day of mischief-making and snacking.

In the house where Dave was a puppy, the doggy door was at the end of a hallway, next to the laundry room.  Dave got into the habit of stopping in the laundry room for a souvenir, which he would then drag out onto the front lawn.  More often than not, this souvenir was one of my bras – a garment he seemed to have a particular affinity for, perhaps because the straps made it easy to drag.  As you’d imagine, this was highly entertaining for the neighbors, particularly Wicked David, who got to see a bit more of my wardrobe than was appropriate.

Dave the Dog [as you already know, pretty much everyone in my life is named David or a variation thereof, so we have to be quite specific about whether we’re referring to Dave the Dog or Dave the Man or Dave the Priest or Dave the Plumber or Tennis Dave or Wicked David etc. etc., because their behavior often overlaps…more often than you would think possible] was also a master escape artist, and would be snoozing on the couch, seemingly oblivious to the world around him, when someone would make the mistake of opening the front door. Sensing an opportunity, Dave was off like a shot, moving so fast that we only had time to register a brown and black blur before he was two counties away.

One memorable morning, he rocketed out the door just as a school bus came rumbling down the street. He flew across the yard, into the street, and directly under the wheels of the bus.  I screamed: NOOOOOO!!!!  The bus driver slammed on the brakes, and thirty kids went flying into the back of the seats in front of them. Good times.

Who, me?

Dave came with me and tried the whole seminary thing for a month, but it wasn’t his bag, which he let me know by digging out of his pen and running away on an hourly basis.  Now he is hanging out with dear friends (human and canine) in the mountains, and by all accounts, is very happy.  This is the second time he has taken an extended stay in the mountains with these friends; the first was when we were selling our house and he was a giant, snoring, fur-shedding lump of a deterrent to prospective buyers. You know you’ve got some good friends when they add your dog to their household, no questions asked.

My cousin had a fantastic dog, a big, slobbering boxer who curled himself into the letter C with excitement every time he saw me. I loved that dog. He died some months ago of renal failure, and I am still sad about it. Whereas my dogs are untrained heathens, my cousin’s dog was very well-disciplined, although my cousin’s training methods were somewhat…unorthodox.

Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

For instance, the dog was initially reluctant to go out in the snow, which was a problem, given that where they live, it snows about nine months out of twelve.  He would hem and haw at the door, while all the warm air in the house seeped into the yard, then try to push his way back inside, ostensibly to make a dark corner his personal toilet.  My cousin solved this problem by Intense Immersion Therapy.  He tossed the dog into a snowbank, and pelted him with snowballs until the dog did what needed to be done, at which point, my cousin picked him up, wrapped him up warmly, and took him inside for treats.  After that, the dog went out into the snow without hesitation and immediately did his business — all the while looking over his doggy shoulders for incoming snowballs.  Problem solved.

I’m coming, man! Hold your fire!

One time, the dog made the mistake of eating a pair of very expensive sunglasses, tailor-made for snow-skiing and purchased in France.  For the next two meals, my cousin served the dog, in place of his usual kibble, the chewed up remains of the glasses.  While the dog sat and looked mournfully at his bowl, my cousin reminded him that at one time, those sunglasses were what the dog wanted to eat more than anything in the world. “Bon Appetit!” he encouraged the dog, who, like the sunglasses, came from France. The dog bowed his head and went back to his bed.  That was the last time he ate anything other than kibble.

Ummm…somebody left the whip cream out. I took care of that for you.

Meanwhile, my dogs continue to wreak havoc.  They’ve become quite adept at escaping from the front porch and running the few blocks downhill to campus, where they always, always end up with undergraduate girls.  I’ve joked many times that I should have auctioned off the space on their collars where my phone number is, because I have met at least two dozen beautiful and sweet college girls due to these furry Houdinis, and someone else could have had that privilege, and enjoyed it.  They’ve escaped to sorority houses, the equestrian center, the fitness center, the football field, the hiking trail, and most recently, to a sunny soccer field, where they were lounging with four girls who were taking advantage of the spring day to sunbathe.

“Oh, they’re so cute!  We’ve had so much fun with them!” the girls say, every time, while the dogs wag their tails and pant happily.  “They’re so sweet!”

And then I, like the Captain Buzzkill I’m forced to be, smile, thank the girls, and drag the dogs back home, lamenting the fact that my dogs have more fun at college than I do….

We were invited to a mixer at the Kappa house. Can we go?

I invite you to note that in the picture below, the carpet is missing most of its fringe and one of its corners. Guess which one of the miscreants above did that?

It’s hard to beat a good dog….and luckily for my dogs, it’s impossible to beat a cute dog, even when they’re bad!









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