Puppy Love: Heart-Stealing Dogs

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Reason 3

We really understand each other.

"Yoo-hoo! " I call, summoning my dog, Betty, who is right here on the porch with her back to me. "Yoo-hoooooo!!" Finally I tap her on the shoulder. She turns quickly and sees me with eyes that say, "Ooh, hi!"

Betty is 14, and while it's true she's going deaf, she is, as they say of sprightly senior citizens, still quite the whippersnapper. She can still prance and jump, steal a flip-flop and shred it to smithereens. And we still talk, the two of us -- only now we're learning a new language.

"Okay, girly," I say. I put my arms up and signal "move forward" like one of those orange-vested guys guiding airplanes. She walks toward me. "Good girl!" I shout. "This doggie sign language is really working!"

"Uh huh," my husband says politely.

At the bottom of the steps, I point upward. This means "Want to come upstairs?" Betty offers a muffled "Ruff." This means "Yes!" I wag my finger. This means "Not until you take your arthritis pills, Sweetie." She sits. "Darn it."

"Can you believe this?" I say to my husband. "Can you believe we're able to have this conversation? This is like...scientists communicating with dolphins!"

"No," he says. "No, I actually can't believe we're having this conversation."

What occurs next is a lengthy exchange in which Betty asks me to pulverize her pills and smother them in bacon grease, which I do, and then she has me make her a scrambled egg because the bacon has put her in the mood.

"Sorry, girl," I say, when she explains with tilted head that she is insulted by the dog bowl. So I put the egg on a dinner plate and place it on the first step of the staircase.

My husband looks up. "Why did you put the scrambled egg on the step?"

"You didn't see that?" I say. "She drooped her tail to say her reflux is acting up. She likes her food elevated."

He refuses to acknowledge this explanation. Betty slurps the egg. Once she's finished, I bend down to pick her up -- not an easy task, given her 46 pounds." You are not carrying her up," my husband says.

"She asked me to," I say. "Her hips are sore."

"Betty, go on upstairs!" he commands and, well, Betty does it. This act depresses me deeply. How come Betty can still hear him? Do my acts of heroism mean nothing? This is my dog. I am the only one who truly understands her, can truly make her happy, can truly lead us into the beautiful abyss of total codependency.

This is what it is to truly love a dog.

-- By Jeanne Marie Laskas

Continued on page 4:  Reason 4


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