The other person who lives at our house (called TOPWLAOH for short) and I are getting very, very close to probably (maybe, anyway) getting a dog.

You may have noticed that I have couched this in extremely cautious terms. That is partly because we don't do anything too rashly. In fact, any time I actually do go out and buy something, it is later referred to as "that time you went off half-cocked."

I will have you know I almost always go off fully cocked, never just half.

After many years of "debating" this matter, I finally relented a year or two ago that, should we acquire our own little house beast, I would do my part in the walking, feeding, petting, talking to, asking questions of and, yes, loving it.

The length of time we've spent discussing the pros and cons of dog ownership, really, are in the same time measurements they use to gauge glacier melting and progress of peace talks in the Middle East.

Since this is a relatively new topic for this forum, allow me to bring you up to date on how it's gone so far.

First of all, the other person who lives at our house and I got married in 1967. While I was away in the war (protecting the Aleutian Islands from the Viet Cong), TOPWLAOH acquired a toy poodle, which she named Gigette. (French, get it?)

But then I got orders to Memphis, Tenn., and then to Pensacola, Fla., where I would spend 2½ years protecting the Deep South from the Viet Cong, so she left her dog with her parents, who promptly renamed it Jet or "Jetty," on accountahow people in the Alsea Valley are kinda creeped out by dogs with French names - or, for that matter, any dog that isn't a black, brown or yellow lab - and they never gave her back.

We never owned another dog after that, although we had a couple of cats and eventually started registering ourselves on official forms and documents as "cat people."

I'm still basically a cat person (you can leave 'em alone, they take care of themselves, they catch mice, they're really clean and they're about 50 times smarter than dogs).

Buut we can't have a cat now because the other person who lives at our house is allergic to cats.

As a matter of fact, she's also allergic to dogs - but not all dogs.

She can have one of those hypoallergenic type dogs, and there are a lot of them. A lot of terriers are hypoallergenic, which basically means they don't smell like a dog.

Poodles are a good example of the smell thing. Sniff a poodle some time and you'll see what I mean. They smell like a synthetic shag carpet.

Now, I'm all for having a dog that doesn't actually smell like a dog because, let's face it, dogs - especially wet dogs - smell real bad.

But I don't want one that's too big, because I can't afford to feed a big dog on a newspaper writer's salary.

I'm also a little bit intimidated by the big standard poodles. They're as big as people and, I'm pretty sure, just as smart as some of us. And I refuse to have a dog that's smarter than me.

Fortunately, they keep crossbreeding these things, so we've found ourselves kind of settling on the poodle mixes - you know, the labradoodles, and the golden doodles, the snickerdoodles and cockadoodles.

All of those non-smelly, semi-smart dogs are good, I think.

Then I found out what they want for some of them. The last labradoodle I read about was $2,000.

For that kind of money, a dog should not only be toilet trained and disease-free, it also should have a chauffeur's licenese and be able to fix our dinner and do our taxes.

Like I said earlier, we've been talking about this for a long, long, long time. I've already agreed that I will walk our new dog every morning - and that the other person who lives at our house will walk it in the evening after work.

I know you didn't actually hear her say that, but I think I'm gonna have to insist that you're all my witnesses because I fully expect us to end up before Judge Judy at some point, with her saying, "I never said any such thing, your honor!"

Well, she did.

Earlier in the debate, her strongest argument had to do with friends of ours.

"Mark walks Janet's dog," she said.

"You know as well as I do," I would fire back, "That there was specific language in their wedding vows requiring Mark to walk Janet's dog. He could not refuse, under penalty of law.'

I would like the record to show that my brothers and I had lots of dogs growing up. We had two or three dachshunds and a couple more weiner-dog mixes. We had a boxer and border collie and a rat terrier or two as well.

Why so many, you ask? We lived on Highway 34, one of the busiest, most dangerous roads in the free world.

We not only had log trucks racing up and down the road in both directions, there were also giant rock trucks hauling house-size boulders to the Yaquina Bay jetties in Newport.

Dogs only lasted a few months on that highway, and we witnessed the demise of almost all of them. A kid can grow up tough in a world like that.

No wonder I've resisted getting another one.

(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections, puts together the Living Here section and contributes a regular column.)

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