Surely you've heard of Pavlov's dogs, now there's well-trained Pavlov kids

February 13, 1997|By KEVIN COWHERD

A FEW YEARS ago, the three children who live in our house asked if they could have a dog, which immediately sent me to the refrigerator for a beer.

"I will walk the dog every day, morning and night, long, brisk walks to keep him peppy and trim," the oldest child said.

"I will make sure the dog always has food and water, a balanced diet with the requisite proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc.," said the middle child.

"I will brush the dog every day until his hair is shiny and manageable and he is the envy of all our neighbors, whose own dogs' hair will seem dull and matted by comparison," the youngest child said.

By this point, my eyes were brimming with tears.

"How could we deny such wonderful children the pleasure of a pet?" I said to my wife.

So we went out and got ourselves a dog. And sure enough, the kids were great with their new pet.

They walked the dog. They fed the dog and made sure he had plenty of water. They brushed the dog religiously.

This lasted approximately 24 hours.

"Time to walk the dog," I said to the oldest child the next day.

"You know, it's a little cold out there today," he said. "How 'bout if I just play with him right here, horse around and wrestle with him and whatnot, where the temperature is a comfortable 72 degrees?"

Then the middle child said: "There are animals -- your hyenas and orangutans come immediately to mind, along with certain sub-species of groundhogs -- who typically go three, four, five days without food and water. I don't see what's so special about a dog that he has to have fresh food and water every single day."

"I said I would brush the dog, and I meant it at the time," said the youngest child. "But have you thought at all about carpal tunnel syndrome, which, as you know, is a common disorder caused by Pressure on the median nerve, often as the result of repetitive wrist motions such as brushing?"

After listening to all this, I went into my office, closed the door and stared up at the ceiling for many minutes.

Then I got the dog and carried him to where the kids were watching TV.

"Say goodbye to Pudgie," I said.

"Where is Pudgie going?" they asked.

"Since no one here cares about the dog," I said, "I am taking him to the pound. There, he will be adopted by a stranger who will no doubt pretend to be kind and attentive to animals, but will bring Pudgie to an underground laboratory, strap him to a gurney and conduct cruel medical experiments on him for a major pharmaceutical company.

"Many of these experiments, by the way, are said to involve removal of the corneas. And, of course, anesthesia is rarely used."

At this, the three of them lunged at me, whimpering and scratching and trying to rip Pudgie from my arms.

"I will walk the dog starting this very minute, taking him on 30-minute jogs -- no, make it 45-minute runs! -- through pastoral settings that will both invigorate and relax him!" the oldest child cried.

"No more commercial dog food for Pudgie!" the middle child said. "From now on, I will personally prepare all his meals daily using only the finest cuts of beef, vegetables and milk byproducts. If doggie breath is a concern, I will run down to the pantry right now and fetch him a biscuit to neutralize the odor!"

"Brushing him once a day is not good enough!" the youngest said. "I will brush him twice a day! And every third day, I will bathe him in American Kennel Club-approved shampoos and unguents, so that he is clean and sweet-smelling and a pleasure to be around!"

Hearing this, I was again moved to tears, for if these were not the three finest children to ever walk the planet, then I didn't know who could be.

"Kids," I said, "you have saved Pudgie's life. And for that you're to be rewarded, possibly in the form of a McDonald's Extra Value Meal No. 3, without cheese. Now I see by the clock that it's time for the dog's walk."

"Can it wait until after this show?" the oldest said. "This is the one where Urkel fends off the playground bullies, two strapping thugs whom he outwits with his superior intellect and only a passing knowledge of kung-fu. It's very, very funny."

"Come, Pudgie, we're off to the pound," I said. "Look on the bright side: That mean old man from the pharmaceutical company probably won't be there 'til tomorrow."

"Fine," said the oldest, "I'll walk him now."

And he did. And since that time we've never had a problem with the kids helping out with the dog. Something I felt you should know.

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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