Monday, January 12, 2009

Dog Day Afternoons

This happy Christmas card from my friend Emily and her buddy, Sydney, arrived about the same time I gave in to endless peer pressure to read Marley and Me. I had been resisting from the moment the book started showing up in trade journals. You know that whenever there is a dog in a book, there is a sad ending. Take Old Yeller, for example...need I say more? And Bambie..or The Yearling...or The Red Pony...OOPS...not dogs, but the same darn concept. Who wants to read about how wonderful an animal is, only to have the good times come to a screeching halt when the inevitable nastiness happens?

Nonetheless, I have been reading about Marley cautiously, knowing full well what will happen at the end. I turn each page slowly, and peek for any words that hint at impending doom. So far, so good, but I know I will not read to the dog-gone end. I honestly am enjoying the book. Not only is Marley truly the worst dog in the world, he is not so very different from the bad dogs I have owned.

I didn't have dogs as a kid, except for one that I never got a chance to name. It (didn't get to know it well enough to determine if it was male or female) scared me, and I believe I let it loose on it's first night with us. No sign of the poor thing after that. My only memory of good old nameless, besides the fear, was feeding it Cheerios through a hastily opened and slammed door. There was a string of canaries, all named Peep. None of them would sing. Once Peep Three got loose and I stopped him from making a break for it by slamming my hand down on his tail as he scurried across the living room floor. Peep kept moving, but his tail stayed behind. The next day Peep Four came to live with us. After the canaries, I moved on to the Georges, a series of blue parakeets. They would not speak, or do any of the tricks the library books professed they could be taught. I played them birdsong records endlessly trying to get them to imitate other birds. There were a couple turtles in the mix, and I think there might have been a kitten, but I don't really remember. All I know is that I really wanted a dog, and my parents just keep showing up with other critters.

Dynamite Marilyn was my first dog. When I wore my parents down, they found a poodle breeder and made arrangements for me to pick one out when the litter was old enough to move on. I didn't want a poodle. Too, fussy. Too fancy. What I wanted was a wiener dog, that is, until I spotted a puny mutt getting beaten up by a bunch of hoodlum dogs in the window of the Colonial Pet Shop on 8th street. Before long, I was the proud owner of Dynamite Marilyn, the $8.00 wonder dog.
TNT was the best. This dog was so patient, although most people interpreted her patience as slowness. When she wanted a belly rub, she ambled up to the nearest arm and placed her front paw on it. There she would wait until some gratuitous rubbing ensued. She would wait endlessly. Dynamite had OCD and cleaned compulsively. I never saw an animal wash as much as she did. Her daily bath began with the outside parts she could reach, followed by the undercarriage areas, then the face. She would lick her paws, and rub then over her face again and again and again. When she finished cleaning herself, she started in on the furniture. At bedtime, the cleansing of the sheets ritual began. For nine years, my dog, my house and yes, even me, were spit polish clean. Was she my best dog? She definitely was one of my best.
Bandit arrived soon after Dynamite died from a long, drawn out ordeal with cancer. Just horrible. The poor girl looked like an anatomy chart the last six months of her life. Half of her body was shaved for surgeries, the other had a beautiful, blond coat. Bandit, I learned shortly after her purchase, had been bred in a puppy mill. She was great the first 24 hours at home, then she just laid down, and seemed determined to die at 6 weeks old. I packed the little three pound Shi Tzu up and off we went to the vet, who found three parasites in her intestines; she was also loaded with nits. His staff stayed overtime that night to pick hundreds of nits from her coat. Then he began a crusade to shut down the Green Bay pet shop where I purchased her. He was successful.
Bandit was a lovey puppy. Contentment, to her, was sitting on my lap, or laying tight against me as I read, watched TV or slept. Some of my fondest memories of her are from Heart-A-Rama writing on Sunday afternoons. More often than not, Marilyn Lloyd would grab the wicker chair near the fireplace, put her feet up on the footstool, and wait for Bandit to slip into place across her ankles. The two of them spent many Sunday afternoons that way - Marilyn helping write song lyrics and one-liners for the show, and Bandit, snoring on her feet. Bandit took a special liking to Jim Jansen, who you might remember a the little person from the DMV. Jim had a severe allergy to dogs, and even though Shi Tzus generally are OK for most people, he would wind up sneezing. Wouldn't you know, Bandit adored him. Jim, too, wrote for Heart-A-Rama, and Bandit was always happy to see him. She snuggled with him, and even accompanied him to the bathroom. He tried to reason with her, but that didn't work. Bandit lived nearly 18 years. Most of them were pretty good for her, despite the loss of hearing and eyesight toward the end.
Now I have Mrs. George Burns (GB), and this is a whole new experience. We have been together nearly seven years, and she still doesn't like me all that much. She prefers the neighbors. I am utilitarian to her. Food. Minimal play (her choice, not mine), and opening the door so she can rush into the backyard to empty out. Other than that, she lives her life, and I live mine. I'm not sure what to make of it, exactly, and I keep hoping that she will grow up to be Bandit. GB isn't very bright. When she wants to avoid me, she hides in full view under the coffee table. She sits under the skylight and watches air. GB has a single communication technique - kicking her back legs out behind her like a bull preparing to change. This means "I am thirsty, hungry, have to go outside, bored, tired, can't find a toy..." I get to guess. Despite it all, I like her just fine, and know that as long as she is around, I am guaranteed to laugh several times a day. Our favorite friend outing is going to the vet. It's always fun to watch heads turn when the vet tech comes into the waiting area and hollers," George Burns, you can see the doctor now."
I didn't make her holiday haircut appointment early enough this year, and so she looked a little like a Rastafarian until Jan 6th, when she finally was groomed. Here' s a picture of her (before haircut) in a new jacket my neighbors bought her.

Here's this week little chuckle:

What do you get when you cross a pit bull with a collie?

A dog that rips your leg off and then runs to get help.

And... in keeping with out goal to make you all smile more each day, go to Yahoo or Google, and type in "Cute Things Falling Asleep." Guaranteed to make you smile.

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