“Dear Sean,” the letter began, “there’s a dog in my neighborhood who was lost and followed me home.
“We think he is an Irish Setter, and he has an owner already but she is an old lady who can’t take care of him any more. She says I can have him but my mom says I should ask you because its a lot of responsibility for a 10-year-old to have a dog she said.”
The letter was signed Ellen.
Dear Ellen, first off, your mother is right. Having a dog is a huge responsibility. I should know. I have three huge responsibilities.
My dogs are: Thelma Lou (bloodhound) and Otis Campbell (alleged Labrador). My third dog is Marigold, the blind coonhound who is 60 pounds. They are all curled at my feet right now as I write this daily column.
A typical day with dogs goes like this: You wake up. You feed your dogs. Then you let them all outside to go pee. Then you let them back inside.
After which you will attempt to go about your day. You will get maybe 7 minutes into your workday before there is a violent scratching noise at the back door, which is the sound of a 90-pound responsibility alerting you that you need to open the back door and let your responsibility out to go pee again.
So, even though there is a doggy door installed in this door, a door which took roughly eight hours to install because the instructions were printed in French, German, Japanese, Swahili, Hindi, Cherokee, and Pig Latin—but not English—your dog still wants you to open the door because, by in large, dogs have the intelligence of—and I am not being negative here—Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
You will then be forced to get off your Blessed Assurance and open the back door because if you don’t you will hear scratching for the next three to 19 hours until three said dogs detonate on your floor.
This scratching will not stop until you open the door. The scratching never stops. After they bury you, you will hear scratching on your tombstone.
Dogs can be strange creatures. One of my dogs, for example, loves cattle bones. So we give her lots of beef femurs which can be purchased from your local Pets “R” Expensive store for the same price as a nuclear aircraft carrier.
Every time I give my dog a bone, she refuses to chew it. She promptly carries the bone into the backyard and digs a hole which is approximately the same size as the Panama Canal. She drops the bone into the hole, then covers it by kicking dirt. Whereupon, she forgets about the bone for the rest of her life.
We have 12,028 bones in our backyard. My dog never digs them up again. She has no recollection that they are even there. Sometimes we save time by buying a bag of cattle femurs then throwing the bones out the vehicle window into a shallow ditch.
But this is all part of dog ownership.
Dogs are also bad about barking when postal carriers come to your door. I am always getting deliveries at my house. And each time there is a knock at the door, all three of my dogs bark at a volume loud enough to alter the weather, jumping on walls, salivating, and just generally going insane. This is because my dogs are defending our house from Bad Guys.
This is a dog’s job in life. They are constantly on the lookout for Bad Guys. If ever Charles Manson came to our house, my dogs would bark loudly until the door opened, then heroically charge past him looking for more Bad Guys.
But the true fun of owning a dog is taking your dog for the Nightly Walk. Whenever you take your dog on a summer stroll, it will usually be during the cool of the evening, when every dog owner in the United States is taking their dog on a walk, too. Which means there are millions of dogs all walking at the same time.
Dogs are social creatures. They are not content with simply seeing local dogs and letting these dogs go ungreeted. Thus, your dog will yank the leash hard enough to dislocate your shoulder, dragging you toward the other dog so that they may engage in sniffing each other’s butts; dogs love to sniff butts.
“Sniffing butts just relaxes me,” says my dog.
In my neighborhood, we often see random dogs sprinting down the street with leashes dragging unattached human arms, on their way to sniff an unfamiliar butt.
So anyway, I could go on and on about dog ownership, Ellen. But I’m out of room here.
So I’ll simply end by saying this: There is no feeling—no feeling on earth—like having three huge responsibilities curled up at your feet as you write your daily column.