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House rules (01/23/2013)
By Frances Edstrom


“Well,” I said to the dog-who-must-not-be-written-about, “I think it’s time for your annual review.” He didn’t lift his head from his pillow, although his eyes were open.

“I don’t remember this happening before,” he said. “Are you sure this isn’t some kind of trick?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “this will actually be the first annual review, and I think you will find it informative and life-affirming.”

“Why does this sound like I’m in trouble?” he asked.

“I certainly don’t know why you would find this threatening,” I said. “This is an opportunity for me to tell you how I think you’re doing as the dog around here.”

“And of course I will have the opportunity to tell you how you are doing as the…”

“As the owner of this house you live in? Of the room you sleep in? Of the yard you feel free to use as a toilet? You will be given time at the end of our meeting to express your thankfulness to me for allowing you to live in the lap of luxury.”

“I see,” he said, and put his head down on his paws and closed his eyes.

“Perhaps you had better come into the den for our meeting,” I said. “It will be more conducive to listening than your bedroom.”

“I’m comfy here,” he said. “But at least you heat the den.”

“Exactly,” I said.

We walked into the den, where he threw himself down on the carpet and began chewing at something on his leg.

“First,” I said. “I should tell you that I am pleased that you don’t shed.”

“Don’t thank me,” he said. “It’s a characteristic of the breed, and is completely involuntary.”

“Fine,” I said, “I won’t thank you. They always say, though, that you should start with a compliment.”

“Is that all you could think of?” he asked. “In our nearly three years of living together all you can say is thanks for not shedding? Wow.”

“It’s a biggie,” I said. “That said, there are a few things I think we should work on changing.”

“Big surprise,” he mumbled.

I pulled out my list, and he groaned. “It’s not that bad, I write big,” I began. “Let’s talk about barking. Specifically barking at things that aren’t there.”

“You just can’t see them. There are all sorts of menacing things in the dark. Coyotes! Don’t you hear them at night? They make the hair on my neck stand up!”

“I’ll give you coyotes,” I said. “But what about all that barking at nothing when it’s daylight? What about barking at the bird feeder?”

“You didn’t see that squirrel? I am saving you a bundle of money in birdseed by scaring him away. And while we’re on the subject, have you ever thought that birds are perfectly capable of feeding themselves?”

“Like you?” I asked, lacing it with tons of sarcasm. But then I thought better of it. I didn’t want him foraging for his own food. It always ends in a mess. “Speaking of which,” I said, “I didn’t appreciate your stealing that piece of fish from the counter.”

“Well, I found out I don’t like sushi. Let’s cook our food from now on.”

“This is rule number one: No stealing my food from the counter.”

“Well, then, put it on the floor, where I can get it without having to jump,” he said.

“No. You don’t eat my food, period!” I said. “And you don’t eat out of the wastebaskets, or from the bedside tables. You don’t lick my coffee cup, and you don’t steal food from little kids!”

“You try existing on dry kibble!” he whined.

“No, I won’t,” I said. “That’s why they call it dog food. It says so right on the bag. But now we come to the real reason for our little talk. I want you to stop barking after I have put you in your room at night, turned off all the lights, set the security system, and gotten into bed. It is just plain mean. It makes me think the crazy killer is in the house!”

“Psych!” he said, guffawing.

“Nosiree Buster!” I said loudly. “You listen to me. There is no reason for me to have a dog around who scares me. I’d be better off alone. And don’t you forget it! I’m the boss around here, and you’d better shape up!”

“I’m glad you got that off your chest,” he said. Then he added in a small, pathetic tone as he walked away, “I thought we were friends…three years means nothing to you?” 


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