bad dog. ................. 0 9 / 1 2 / 2 0 0 0

Hannah hurt herself, we think, some time in the last day. We believe this because she refuses to go through the dog door, but stands there and barks to be let in. And we play doggie doorman, which conclusively proves that we're suckers. But that's nothing new; all dog owners are suckers at some level. They look lovingly at us, and we feed them, too often from the table. This causes our visiting friends much consternation, as our canis familiarii expect everyone to be so inclined. Hannah presses the point vigorously home, poking a curious wet nose within a six inch radius of our guest's burrito. Our friends try to maintain their composure, grinning through their obvious discomfort, but we know better.

She embarrasses us by revealing our secret: we are far too indulgent with her.

I was not a dog person. I loved cats, loved their self-sufficiency, their aloof disdainful feminine vampiness. I didn't hate dogs, as a lot of cat people do, so much as I never thought about them. Dogs just didn't appear on my emotional Thomas Guide. We had dogs when I was a boy, but that was in the Jurassic days, during my life as a larva. We neglected one of them shamefully after the first, the mother, died. So I forgot dogs, perhaps subconciously knowing what I had done wrong.

For years, Helen asked if we could get a dog.

"You mean the kind you have to clean up after?" I responded, eyebrows in the arched-and-locked position. "The kind you have to feed and bathe? The kind that gets fleas all the time? That kind of a dog?"

Then we got engaged. For some reason, giving in on the having-a-mooch-around-the-house issue didn't seem as extreme as it once did. Nonetheless, my enthusiasm ran low when dragged to the Seal Beach pound. Helen and I test-drove three or four dogs, all of them so eager to escape their cages that they practically dislocated my arm. (Then again, they were all pit bull mixes.) Except Hannah. We barely found her, almost walking past her kennel thinking it was empty. She cowered in the far back, and when we took her outside, she kept the leash slack, meekly sniffing the ground, her head low.

Helen made the decision. I grunted vague assent.

On the way back, I named her, mistakenly assuming that that one name would suffice. Her other names became apparent to us later:

She is the most expressive dog I have ever known. She lets me know when she's ready for her morning walk by a kind of howling that borders on speech, to the limit that dogs, cursed with defective vocal chords, can attain. Well-trained as I am, we go. And once promised, she races around the house in a victory lap -- a fast trot, head and tail held high.

Confronted with the postal service or our neighbor's teenaged nephews poking their heads over the fence, she looses an angry barking storm that sends its audience fleeing for Arizona. Her vocabulary consists of about ten words -- of which she only responds reliably (but enthusiastically) to "walk". Told to sit, she mostly does -- but not if she sees a dog crossing the street, or a cat a dozen yards away. She makes an unreliable but effective exterminator. She scavenges chew toys from the kitchen and bathroom trash cans. Sold at auction, she wouldn't meet a reserve of five dollars, i.e., for all intents she has no commercial value. In short, she is a bad dog

She is, however, the best bad dog in the world.

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Last modified: Sat Jul 27 08:15:07 PDT 2002