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A dog's life, then and now
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I used to see those people who catered shamelessly to their dogs and snidely chuckle into my sleeve.

My first experience with such a pathetic creature happened when I was but a runny-nosed urchin of 7. My dog, Marty, was my best friend and a wonderful addition to our family -- but she hated other dogs. The day she charged out of the garage and chomped the preciously clipped and ribbon festooned tail of a toy poodle being walked by a prissy and elderly owner became an immediate object lesson. First, the old bat threatened to sue us for all we ever had and would have in this world. Then she went on to wail about her mental anguish, as her baby, “Poopsie,” had to spend its birthday in the vet’s office getting stitches on the end of its tail.

After Dad apologized, agreed to pay Poopsie’s bill, and offered to shoot our dog, the old lady was a bit more mollified but no less obnoxious.  I swore, even at that tender young age, that I would never be one of “those” people.

Nearly four decades later, it still mildly astonishes me that, despite the fact that my Beloved and I own a king-size bed with the approximate acreage of, say, a football field, I still somehow wake up every morning teetering on the very far edge, one good snore away from a crash landing into a magazine basket below. That’s because it’s mildly astonishing how much room two corgis can take up in one bed. By the end of the night, you feel like you slept with a pack of wolves.

Actually, the ’70s power pop band “3 Dog Night” got its name from an Australian reference to how cold the nights on the open range get. A three dog night is very cold, since the cattle drover or shepherd needs to bed down with at least three of his dogs to keep from freezing to death.

Around our house of late we’ve been experiencing two dog nights. Hey, it’s not spoiling; it’s a matter of survival.

It’s funny how attitudes toward dogs have changed, not just in my family but also in society in general. When I was growing up we had big, rangy, buck-wild, stinky bird dogs. They ate the cheapest dry dog food Dad could find and whatever table scraps we had, from green beans and boiled potatoes to leftover fried chicken bones. There was never any concern that the bones might splinter, never any worry that a spoon full of bacon grease would do anything more than “make their coats shiny.”

They would self-supplement their diets with landscaping, garbage, road kill, and the occasional tin foil pie plate.

In short, they ate everything -- animal, mineral or vegetable -- and didn’t seem to suffer any more ill effect than an over-productive gastric distress. As their pen was 100 yards away from the house and had its own septic tank, the only one who truly suffered was me, since it was my job to hose out the pen every day.

Today, you stand a better than even chance of a visit from the nabobs at PETA if you feed your dog, say, leftover vegetable soup instead of prescribed measure of scientifically designed chow pellets.

These days, my Beloved and I carefully select only the most nutritious, hound-healthy food for our four-legged children. They have the run of the house, luxuriate freely on the couch and sleep in our bed more than we do. True, they shed like crazy but they make up for that in sheer personality.

They get a carefully measured morsel of wet dog food to help flavor the dry. They go on long walks and car rides nearly every day. In fact, it’s safe to say we stay in shape because they require a two-mile hike every day, rain or shine, winter, summer, fall or spring.

We cheerfully put up with the sudden explosions of barking throughout the day -- they want you to know they are always on the job, whatever that job actually is -- and deal with the fact that there is not one thing we own that does not have dog hair on it.

We even plan vacations and family visits around the dogs -- in fact, I’m starting to get to know every pet-friendly hotel, motel, mountain cabin, and beach house in three states.

But our dogs are not spoiled. Oh, no; I’ll never be one of those people!