Saturday, June 16, 2007

Frankly my dogs don’t need to eat Ken-L-Ration to feel superior

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My wife and I are going on vacation in a few weeks. It never matters what exotic locale we go to or how relaxed we are when we’re there — three days in, all we’ll do is worry about the dogs back home, sitting in the kennel.

They’re the best dogs ever. You heard me — I promised myself I wouldn’t get controversial this week, but that’s just how I roll. My dogs are better than Lassie. Amateur. Miles ahead of goddam Rin-Tin-Tin, which is to Lassie what the Go-Bots were to the Transformers. That dog from the Ken-L-Ration commercial jingle isn’t fit to eat my dogs’ shit. Only my dogs can do that.

I hate to be a pest, but could you baby-sit them? I’d owe you a big favor. A humongous favor. A ginormous-sized chocolate-dipped favor. With sherry-marinated maraschino cherries inside and frothed over with whipped cream — I’ll even use the good stuff, not the spray can.

You would? You’d take care of my two dogs? Boy, what a pal! Seriously, it’s no bother? Just tell me if it’s a bother. Gee, thanks, chum! Say, you don’t know what a load off this is! A professional kennel’s great, but I feel better knowing my two dogs, my two darling baby children that sprang from these very loins, metaphorically, are in your capable hands while I’m away.

Here’s what you’ll need to know about them:

• The little black one is Myrna. She’s a border collie and lab mix. She’s smarter than both of us — trust me.

• The big brown and white one is Stanley. He’s a pointer. He requires more than an hour of exercise a day, or he will destroy things. Bad things. Expensive things. Irreplacable things.

• They eat three meals a day at exactly 8 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. Just one minute later and they’ll let you know you screwed up.

• They sleep in crates. Inside each crate: no fewer than two (2) comforters, a bone, a thinner blanket and various other toys of their own selection.

• They will chew the comforters and consume the batting inside. Keep a few spare comforters lying around. Ocean State Job Lot has them cheap at $20 each.

• Wake up early. If you’re a late riser, like 7:02 or after, Myrna will make retching noises until you jump out of bed and let her out. She doesn’t really have to vomit. She just tricked you. Like I said, she’s smarter than you are.

• If you ignore the retching noises for too long, she will actually throw up, though.

• That’s assuming they both don’t choose to sleep on your bed with you. They might do that.

• If they do, you’ll need a queen-sized pillow-top mattress. They’ll want to go under the sheets, and they’ll hog the pillows.

• When they eat breakfast, Stanley gets three (3) scoops of dry food and Myrna gets one (1), and they both split a can of premium wet food. No goddam Ol’ Roy or whatever’s cheap — premium, I said. Myrna will try to eat Stanley’s food, because he is a slow eater. Also, sometimes when you put the bowl down, he won’t eat it right away if the wet food is in a lump. You’ll need to mash it up and mix it with the dry food into a relatively even mixture.

• Sometimes he won’t eat it even then. That’s when you put a dollop of creamy-style peanut butter in it. Not chunky. Creamy-style. Mixed in evenly.

• Mix it unevenly, and he’ll eat the peanut butter but not his food.

• Fill two Kong toys. These are hollow rubber bouncy things you pack with food. Jam inside them some creamy-style peanut butter and a biscuit. After they eat, give the Kongs to the dogs as a treat.

• You have to pack Stanley’s Kong toy so it’s very easy to lick the peanut butter out of, or he will get bored and gallop around the house in endless circles, destroying bad, expensive, irreplacable things.

• But you have to pack Myrna’s Kong toy so it’s very difficult to lick the peanut butter out of, or she will finish it too fast and then try to steal Stanley’s.

• Myrna will probably steal Stanley’s anyway, so nix that last bit.

• Just let them nap on the sofa. At some point, they’re going to force their way up there anyway.

• Or, Myrna is going to trick her way up there. You’ll be sprawled on the comfiest part of the couch, and she’ll pretend like she has to go to the bathroom. When you stand up to let her out, she’ll jog over and steal your seat. She does a variation of this with your food, too, and always wins. Remember: she’s smarter than you are.

• Myrna likes to spend a few hours a day staring out the window and barking at shifty-looking people who walk past. And the mailman. While I’m on the subject, cancel your mail delivery while they’re with you. It’s just easier.

• Stanley likes to spend a few hours picking up toys from around the house and putting them in other, inconvenient places, and eating your shoes.

• When you take them for a daily walk — you are taking them for a daily walk, correct? — Myrna will walk behind you and pull you back home. Stanley will walk in front of you and pull you forward. Some simple shoulder exercises can keep you from dislocating something.

• Then, they will walk around you in opposite circles.

• Stanley can run for 12 miles at a time. Myrna’s good with an amble around the block. Somewhere in between 12 miles and one block should do it.

• Myrna shits in the street gutters, which is convenient, but sometimes when she’s perched on her haunches and pinching one out she’ll shimmy into oncoming traffic. So watch for that. Stanley only shits on the plushest, greenest lawns when the owners are home and sitting on the porch.

• Remember: Stanley is a pointer, a dog bred to hunt birds. If he sees a bird, he will stop walking and point at it with his nose. You have two choices: wait him out, or shoot it.

• Don’t shoot it. Loud noises scare Stanley.

• He can stand there pointing like that for half an hour, often more. I’m not kidding.

• Yes, even in the rain.

• He will also point at things he thinks are birds, but which aren’t, like lawn ornaments or empty Dorito bags the wind is carrying down the sidewalk.

• Both of them will go to the bathroom many, many times a day. Whether or not that’s inside your house is anybody’s guess.

• Myrna has escaped from leashes, collars, head halters, crates, locked porches, cars, child-proof gates, and out dining room windows — and once, when she was a puppy, we left her locked in the basement on a 20-foot leash attached to a body harness strapped around her chest. When we came home, she was at the front door. No leash, no harness, no locked basement. She’ll escape from you, too, if you’re boring.

• This is 100% true: Just as I wrote that, just now, today, I looked outside my window because I heard her collar tags jingling. Myrna, who was supposed to be in my yard safely behind my padlocked six-foot wooden board fence, was wandering down the street instead. Back in a jiffy.

• At night, the dogs require several hours of TV with you on the couch. Tuck a comfortable blanket over Stanley — he can’t nap if there’s too much light in the room — and watch shows they like, shows that are easy for a dog to understand, like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Top Model.”

• If you sit next to Stanley, don’t touch him with your feet, especially if they’re bare. He gets cranky during prime time and can’t stand bare feet touching him. He takes after me this way.

• Pet them thoroughly and tell them how good they are.

• That’s assuming Myrna lets you pet her.

• Stanley will pet you back, by jumping up and whacking you in the groin.

So that’s their average day. Pretty easy. Just memorize that stuff and you should probably be fine. I think.

I have two cats, too. Look in on them for me? You can? Say, you’re a real compadre! Just dump food in there, I don’t care how much, check that the water hasn’t evaporated, et cetera. As long as they’re not dead, I’m cool. Pet them if you want, but if you do, they’ll want you to pet them for, like, minutes at a time. Seriously, they’re wicked high-maintenance.

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