You can always count on a canine

December 19, 2004|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder / Tribune

I'M TRYING TO convince my wife that we need a dog. I grew up with dogs, and am comfortable with their ways. If we're visiting someone's home, and I suddenly experience a sensation of humid warmth, and I look down and see that my right arm has disappeared inside the mouth of a dog the size of a medium horse, I am not alarmed. I know that this is simply how a large, friendly dog says: "Greetings! You have a pleasing salty taste!"

I respond by telling the dog that he is a good boy and pounding him with hearty blows, blows that would flatten a cat like a hairy pancake, but which only make the dog like me more. He likes me so much that he goes and gets his Special Toy. This is something that used to be a recognizable object -- a stuffed animal, a basketball, a Federal Express driver.

"GIVE ME THAT!" I shout, grabbing an end of the Special Toy. For several seconds we fight for this prize. Finally, I yank the Special Toy free and hold it triumphantly aloft. The dog watches it with laser-beam concentration, his body vibrating with excitement, waiting for me to throw it ... waiting ... waiting ... until finally I cock my arm, and, with a quick motion I ...

... fake a throw. I'm still holding the Special Toy. But whooosh the dog has launched himself across the room, an unguided pursuit missile, reaching a velocity of 75 miles per hour before wham he slams headfirst into the wall at the far end of the room. This stimulates the M&M-sized clump of nerve cells that serves as a dog's brain to form a thought: The Special Toy is not here! Where is the Special Toy??

The dog whirls, sees the toy in my hand and races back across the room. Just as he reaches me, I cock my arm and ...

... fake another throw. Whooosh! Wham! The fake works again! It will always work. This is one reason why I love dogs.

My wife, who would not touch the Special Toy with a barge pole, is less impressed. Oh, I've tried to explain the advantages of having a dog. For example:

n A dog is always ready. It doesn't matter for what: Dogs are just "ready." If you leave your car window open, the dog will leap into the car and sit there for hours. Usually the dog will sit in the driver's seat, in case (You never know!) the dog is called upon to steer.

n A dog is vigilant. One time, on a movie set, I watched a small dog walk along a line of six metal light stands. When the dog came to the sixth light stand, he stopped and began barking furiously at it. The dog would not stop. Clearly, the dog had detected some hostile intent in this particular light stand, something that we humans, with our inferior senses, were not aware of.

These are just a couple of examples of the practical benefits provided by dogs. There are many more, and I have tried pointing them out to my wife, but she doesn't see it. This is why, in our house, we have fish. They're nice fish, but they're not a whole lot of fun. Although they are excellent drivers.

--Knight Ridder / Tribune

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