There is big news to announce from the Burn household. After nine months of breathless anticipation and expectation, we are pleased to welcome a new arrival, Max the Wonder Dog. I call him the Wonder Dog because I am already beginning to wonder why I agreed to this. According to our kids, every one of their friends and our neighbors has gotten a dog. We must live in a world of Jones’s.
My kid’s strategy to wear me down went something like this. Each morning before breakfast, the three of them would chant, “Can we get a dog? Can we get a dog? Can we get a dog?” This would be repeated approximately ten thousand times before I could make my escape out the front door to the office. They would pick up where they left off as soon as I returned home. So, after months and months of this endless haranguing, I finally relented and agreed that we would get a dog. Who can argue with such logic?
I of course omitted the part about precisely when we would get a dog. So the refrain then became, “When are we going to get a dog?”
I could only withstand two weeks of this, so on Saturday we drove out to a farm that had advertised a nine-month old, neutered, housebroken beagle, the operative word in the ad (for me anyway) being housebroken. When we arrived, we herded onto the back porch of the farmhouse and were immediately greeted by what appeared to be four hundred Pomeranian puppies leaping at the sliding glass doors in a motion that could perhaps best be described by popcorn mechanics. When the owner arrived at the door and settled the puppies down, we realized that, in fact, there were only six Pomeranian puppies that, combined, were approximately the size of your standard billiard ball, only denser.
To the chagrin of my family (and the secret joy of myself), the beagle was gone, taken by some underhanded dark fiend whose sole intent was to deprive my children of their dream dog (although to be honest, any dog, including the giant three headed dog recently featured in the Harry Potter movie, would have satisfied my children). However, the lady informed us that she had a six-month old “beagle-mix” located in one of the back buildings.
Now try to put yourself in my position. The lady emerges from a barn with a puppy that immediately races over to the children to slobber them all with doggy kisses. Try to imagine saying “no” at this point.
So now we have a dog. Being a puppy, one of the first things Max did was try to engage our cat in some friendly playtime. Our cat’s response was to hunch her back and go “Hisssss.” (Translation: This is my house. I was here first. Stay away from my food. I don’t like you. Go away.) The dog replied with “Bark, bark, bark, bark.” (Translation: Bark, bark, bark, bark.) The cat’s rejoinder to this debate was to take a swing at the dog with her declawed front paws. Thusly encouraged, Max began the arduous process of sniffing every square inch in the house for food particles.
Unlike the advertisement for the original beagle, Max has not been neutered, nor housebroken. This means that one of us has been taking the dog for a walk every fifteen minutes or so, lavishing praise on the dog for whatever he does out of doors. After extensive research lasting several hours of dog walking, we have determined that the following phrases of praise are most effective in communicating to a dog that he has done something worthy of praise: “There’s a gooood doggie. What a smart puppy. Look what Maxie did all by his little self. My brains have atrophied.”
So I am confident that we will get Max housebroken with a minimum of permanent dog-related stains on the carpets and furniture. Next, we will have to work up some phrases to enthusiastically communicate to Max the advantages of being neutered.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.