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My next dog.

The companionship of a pet in one's waning years can do marvelous things. I see the results in my own dear wife, who remains reasonably under control by stroking Lump, our spoiled, overstuffed white cat (which she has cleverly named "White Cat") that claims her lap whenever she sits and turns obscenely belly up (we're talking about the cat, now) beside her when she lies down.

My good old dog companion, however, is now chasing angel rabbits in a much fairer land than this. Although Brutus was a bully, always wanting--and having--his own way, I miss him. And after a long and lonely year, I know he'd forgive me if I welcomed a replacement. But this time, I will be in command. I will lay down the rules. And my new dog can like it or leave. Period.

Friends, of course, have sought to ease the loss of Brutus by offering to unload a puppy on me. No way. Nor have I taken a dog off the street. This time I am going to a pet shelter and pick out just the right dog. Should it require more than one trip, so be it.

If I come to a cage where this dog sticks his muzzle through the bars, I may stop and let him lick my hand. But that's it. He'll be wasting his saliva, I can tell him that. Nor is he going to con me with that plaintive, lost-puppy look. Oh, I suppose if he whimpers a plea that goes something like, "Please, sir, will you get me out of this stir? There's a rumor going around that my future here isn't all that bright. And I'll be your friend for life. Please, mister..." then I might take the dog home. But only on a trial basis, understand.

The first thing this dog is going to learn is, no begging at the table. Let him turn those soulful eyes up at me all he wants; I'll pay no attention. This dog is going to learn discipline right from the start. Of course, if he gives me that look and then puts his paw on my knee, indicating terminal malnutrition, that's a different story. No one wants to see a dog keel over right there at a bountiful table when a few pieces of chicken or maybe a chunk of cake might save him.

And late-night snacks are out. I'm drawing the line here, too. It's for his own good: weight control, strong teeth, shiny coat, and all that. If he is awakened by the aroma of burgundy cherry frozen yogurt, he can go right back to sleep. Unless, of course, trying to eat with his paws on my shoulders becomes tedious. In which case I might break down and give him the last hair of the dish. But no more than that, definitely.

As for sleeping on our bed, not this dog. I'm putting my foot down here as well. Once he hits the scales at 100 pounds, he's on the floor. Except for cold nights, of course. Our floors are somewhat drafty. And how can a man sleep with a dog lying on a drafty floor whimpering his farewell before rigor morris sets in?

Which reminds me: this dog is not coming in every time he yips. Dogs were made for the outdoors. Let him scratch on the door all he. likes; he'll be wearing out his nails for nothing.

If his yips turn hoarse, of course, that's something else. Not that he's going to the vet at every sniffle. Not this dog. Dogs in the wild have a way of healing themselves, and this includes the common cold. Should the cold be uncommon, however-- sneezing, coughing, and redness of eye that tells you he could go at any minute--only then will I lug him to the car, hoping to get him to the clinic in time.

And if this dog is slow on the tick when it comes to learning tricks, it's back to the kennel, I can tell him that. Not that I expect him to shake, sit, or roll over right off the bat. I'm asking only that he show promise by coming to the doggie dish when he's hungry, wait until we leave the house before sleeping on the sofa, and learn that he's safer under the bed during a thunderstorm. In which case I might have a little patience.

This dog will not be luring me back to the woods on the pretext of having treed a moose. Oh, perhaps if I haven't had my power walk for the day... but I'm definitely not following him through the brush-- unless he barks "HELP," that is.

One more thing. No rounding up a posse or phoning an ad for the "Lost and Found" column if this dog disappears for an hour. A dog needn't be right under your feet every minute. If the time stretches to two hours, however, that's another matter.

When he finally does show up, he'll be in for a good lecturing. And while I'm at it, no more digging up the lawn under the pretext of hunting for moles, no more sleeping in the salvia bed to escape the sun, no more using the birdbath for a bathroom, and so on.

Unless, of course, the poor thing comes home exhausted, perhaps even limping. But after I have fluffed up his bed and examined his feet, this dog is going to hear from me. If he gives me that look that in canine language means "I'm sorry," okay. I might let him off the hook this one time. But no more. And he'd better remember it.
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Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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