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She only cost two-fifty!

"Guess what!" shrieked my daughter Shari, as I came slogging in from a long day in front of the typewriter, trying to link some publishable words together. Before I could take a shot at, say, her getting a passing grade in Advanced Sandbox, or her mother's shish-kabobbing the garage door on the radiator grille, this squeaky ball of brown fluff tumbled from the newspapers on the kitchen floor.

Righting itself, the brown blur immediately challenged the stain-resistant claim of our living-room carpet. I arrived just in time to have it test the efficacy of my drip-dry suit instead.

"It's a girl!" shrilled Shari. "Her name is Tippie. And don't worry, I bought her with my own money! She only cost two-fifty!"

What could a doting father do? I mean besides stand there and dote. For one thing, he could lay down a few rules, beginning with "That puppy is going to sleep in the garage!" And by golly, she did, too. For all of an hour-during which time, evidently dreaming of having her tail pulled out by its roots, she cried, moaned, wailed, sobbed, howled and tried any other sound of distress she could lay her larynx to. Transferring her to the kitchen succeeded only in raising the decibel rating to a point where it threatened the eardrums of all concerned, which surely included our next-door neighbors, if not our neighbors' nextdoor neighbors. Finally, by special dispensation "For this night only!" Tippie was allowed to sleep in Shari's room. "But not on the bed!"

After pulling the little critter off Shari's pillow the next morning, Lois (that's the kids' mother, on their side of the family) went out and bought Tippie her very own dear little blanket for the foot of the bed. At the very dear price of $8.95.

The following day, Lois "practically stole" (and I'd almost rather she had) the "sweetest little red jacket" for the price of six Titlest golf balls. In succession so rapid the figures blur came: a squeaky rubber bone; a harness; a leash; 50 feet of wire to stretch from tree to house for the little angel's leash to slide along; a pair of red rubber booties; a silver identification tag to attach to her inlaid collar; and a 25-pound sack of TV-advertised puppy pellets at least ten times what Tippie would weigh in her wet blanket, booties full of water and mouth full of puppy pellets.

"How come a dog nowadays requires all these luxuries?" I inquired, holding the kitchen door open for Shari's No. 1 doter to stagger through under her load of wire, eyebolts, hammer, drill, pliers, screwdriver and stepstool. "When I was a kid, my dog got along pretty well with only the coat he was born with. And he selpt inside only on blizzard nights. And he was grateful to the point of slobbering just to have an old rug in the woodshed to lie on."

"Hand me the drill," she said.

"My dog didn't need a name tag, either. He was smart enough to know his name...and where he lived."

"Run the wire through this eyebolt," she replied.

"And he somehow managed to get along on only the pads God gave him to protect his feet from the cruel earth."

"Hold the stool," she interjected.

The next assault on the family budget came in the form of a note I found propped against a dish of leftover spaghetti on the kitchen table. "Gone to vet," read the terse but ominous message.

And no sooner had I polished off a hearty meal of recycled pasta than they came yapping and yakking in.

"Tippie got her shots!" cried Shari. "Two! And they cost $6 apiece!"

I went to the cupboard and had one myself. "Shots for what, for gosh sakes!"

"For distemper, and in case she bites someone," explained Shari's mother.

"And none too soon," I said sardonically, hoping they knew the meaning of the word, as I looked over where the beast was mauling the dickens out of a bow of pink ribbon that had fallen from the sewing machine.

"She's getting two more shots next week, only they'll cost more," Shari blithely informed me. I had another double--just in case I bit someone.

"For Pete's sake, you didn't go to the doctor that many times when you were pregnant!" I pointed out to the head of the opposition, as soon as I could talk (having by now been reduced to buying generic booze). "And the only shots my dog ever got were from a BB gun the time Carl Harrison got mad at me. And my dog lived 15 years."

Subdued by this argument, they both went back to the car and returned with two grocery sacks filled to the splitting point. From these they deliberately removed two dozen eggs, a gallon of enriched milk, a carton of cottage cheese, three tins of beef, wheat germ, vitamin supplement and a wind-up rubber rabbit. I reached for the cottage cheese.

"That's for Tippie!" they yelled in unison. A bill for $28.17 fluttered to the floor as Shari's mother hauled out a dented can of okra and an envelope of powdered soup. "These are for us. Have you eaten?"

"If thaths what you call it," I said. "And what about that 25-pound sack of puppy pellets?"

"Tippie doesn't like them," Shari said, dumping half the carton of cottage cheese into the doggie dish.

"And there was no way of finding that out before investing in a lifetime supply?" I hoped they both knew the meaning of the word contemptuous.

"The puppies on TV liked them," explained the woman I had taken for better or worse, little realizing that it could reach the latter point.

"The puppies on TV, Mrs. Pavlov, haven't eaten for a week, and what they are after is the hamburger planted in the bottom of the bowl. My dog never got any store-bought food in his life. He ate what we didn't eat. And if we ate it all, he either went hungry or went out and knocked off a rabbit or a moose or something. And he lived to be 25."

I could have said 50, since they by now had adjourned to the living room to wind up the new toy. "And if my dog didn't have anything to play with," I called in, "he was content chasing his tail!"

"Let me do it once," came the only answer.

Except for the continuing cost of groceries, periodic booster shots and the renewing of her license, I had a foolish notion that the canine bills had run their course. Somehow I had overlooked the little matter of family vacations, those two-week sojourns that offer families the choice of taking their dogs along to throw up on the back seats and stop at every hummock along the highway, or boarding them at a kennel. At $5 per day. Worming, before admission, carries an $8 tab. Another $6, in our case, went to clear up a dose of mange.

I had also failed to consider the phenomenon of female dogs at certain phases of the moon, or whatever, competing for the title of Miss Congeniality of the county. But no piddling county honors for our Tip-pie. She had to go for the state title.

"Tippie's in heat!" Shari greeted me, as I was brandishing my brief case to clear a path to our front door.

Good Lord! I didn't know about such things until I was 27. I still managed to make a thin joke about "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" on my way to phone the vet. The operation to nullify Tippie's chances of taking the state title cost about what we would pay for an appendectomy in my dog's day. there was another 30 bucks for the crying, wetting, throwing-up doll I bought Shari as a substitute for puppies she had planned on.

"And you'd have been a great-grandfather," she reminded me, at a loss to understand how any man in his right mind could pass up such a distinction.

Today, I'm still not a great-grandfather, caninewise or otherwise. Shari, now away at college, has trusted us to board her dog. I recently figured that her $2.50 investment some 12 years ago is now worth, conservatively, around a thousand dollars. I only wish my stocks had grown apace.

So if you should happen to be in the market for an older dog to love, don't bother offering us $1,000 for Tippie. She's not for sale.
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Title Annotation:owning a puppy
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1984
Words:1428
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