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The Idle American
"Don't Sell Dogs Short..."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 • Posted November 6, 2013

Dog-fanciers, present company included, have only themselves to blame. Our pets didn’t ask to become family members. However, we have freely elevated them to such status, and they’ve accepted our invitation, happy to partake of courtesies consistent with favored treatment.

Though invitations have been extended in inches, our canines have taken miles. They’ve come a long way from a half-century or so ago when most dogs lived outdoors, subsisted on table scraps, chased small wild animals and considered pats on the head enough affection for a week.

My Uncle Mort remembers that during his youthful years of poverty, his family brought their dogs inside for the night when thermometers plummeted toward zero. “But this was self-serving,” he admits. “When we shivered in bed, we simply pulled up another dog.”…

    *****

Ah, yes, our dogs have done the “knickknack” and “paddywhack” things—and consumed more than their share of bones. Beyond this, they’ve keenly mastered—perhaps simply by observation and our habitual patterns— what our moves mean. In a flash, they know whether to head for the feed bowl, the car or the hills.

At the risk of raising the dander of cat lovers, I strongly believe dogs are preferred by most pet owners. For starters, they are more demonstrative in expressions. Their eyes, velocity of tail-wags and volume of yips and yaps and whines say much—particularly the eyes. I can barely stand it when one of our rescue dogs “tucks tail” and retreats to another room, maybe even to under-the-bed darkness.

What can I do to make up? A treat maybe—when my wife isn’t looking. (She’s more concerned about their weight than mine, and that’s saying quite a bit.) Or, maybe a ride in the car….

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Little wonder, really, that dogs have taken what we’ve given them, always with paws out for more.

Granted, their interpretative skills are many, and we haven’t even mentioned how their ears perk up when our conversations involve them. Often as not, their heads cock immediately sideways. They understand more than we know.

There is “mucho” trouble ahead if they learn to read, because exploits of talented pets—particularly dogs—splash regularly across pages of books and newspapers. And don’t we always open those emails with “really special” dog pictures?...

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If they could read, dogs would have good reason to be as “full of themselves” as they are dog chow (carefully formulated, mineral-enriched and allergy-fighting for large, medium-size, small and miniature dogs).

They’d puff up with pride, bragging about the canine that pushed a wheelchair- bound woman to class, and upon graduation, her accepting THEIR master’s degrees! Others rescue owners from floods, sniff out drugs, guide the blind, round up farm animals and bark to high heaven when danger threatens. And at San Jose, CA, airport, they offer a roaming golden retriever whose ONLY job is to be available for folks who “need a buddy, a belly to rub or a paw to shake.”

Yes, we’ve come a long way from Lassie, and from that nameless doggie in the window who chewed the price tag off his collar….

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If our dogs could read, they’d have insisted on participating in the “Harbor Howl-O-Ween” for “frightfully furry fun” at Lake Ray Hubbard. There, a “Lick-or-Treat” dog costume contest was featured.

In Dallas, a “blessing of animals” celebration was conducted; all species of pets were invited. If potential celebrants had other commitments, owners could bring collars, toys or favorite photos for blessing, something like “in absentia” diplomas presented at graduations.

Such celebrations are not uncommon.

Holding same on the lawn of a mausoleum—and I don’t mean a pet mausoleum—seems beyond the pale, however….

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Our pets—Sadie and Sailor—both are of unknown parentage. The latter, though, looks far more like a purebred dachshund than the former does a Jack Russell. Still, they suit us well in this season of life, vet bills be hanged.

The other day, they raced through my study with pads and pencils in clenched teeth. Immediately, I envisioned their drawing up plans for a “bobble-head dog.”

Following them, I learned otherwise. One had chewed the pencil down to a nub, and the pad looked like it had gone through a shredder. Sometimes, dogs will be dogs….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerkdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury.

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