2010-08-04 / Opinion

Dog days coming

by Alex McRae

The grandkids are clearly bored with the family cat. Soon, they'll be begging for a dog. This is gonna be fun.

Dogs are great for kids. And not just because they are warm and fuzzy and friendly and sometimes turn out to be a child's best — or only — friend.

Dogs can also teach kids some valuable new skills, like how to chase cars or lick themselves in seriously private places.

Dogs and kids were made for each other, but some parents aren't thrilled with the idea. They try to dampen dog-owning enthusiasm by warning kids that dogs leave an endless trail of dust, dirt, drool and noise wherever they go.

Since kids absolutely love dust, dirt, drool and noise, this makes getting a dog sound even better. Once parents realize pet ownership is unavoidable, they rationalize the decision.

They say the new dog will teach the kids "responsibility." Parents follow up by making children vow to feed, water, walk and clean up after the mutt.

Kids gladly agree and are "responsible" for about 15 minutes, after which parents assume the role of full-time pet caregiver. Once the new dog is settled in, the real fun begins. And the child's communication skills broaden in ways parents never imagined.

Since they don't watch any TV except Lassie reruns, dogs read and write much more than humans. They don't waste time on so-called "literature." Dogs specialize in personal communications.

Dogs can't type or use pencils, so they communicate by spraying messages in a stream of urine. Dogs leave messages everywhere, and once a note hits the ground, any dog within sniffing distance rushes to the spot to read the latest "news."

This is why walking a dog takes so long.

My late dog Biscuit was an avid reader. He had lots of friends. They left him messages all over the place. When he was out for a walk, Biscuit had to read every one. Sometimes more than once. After reading, he usually left a reply.

It took forever, but Biscuit wouldn't be rushed. Once he started his daily correspondence, you literally couldn't drag him away.

That kind of dedication to personal communication can't be taught. And in Biscuit's case, neither could anything else. He was the sweetest dog that ever lived, but despite minutes of effort, he never learned to "come" or "heel" or "fetch." The only command Biscuit ever mastered was "nap."

Since I didn't take well to training, either, I understood and didn't much care. But according to a recent news story, a man in China probably wishes he had adopted an untrainable dog like Biscuit instead of the monkey he rescued and nursed back to health after the primate was hurt in an accident.

"We've all heard the phrase "monkey see, monkey do." Turns out it's true.

Once Li Chun's monkey was well enough to follow him around outside, the ape watched the man do his farm chores. Then the monkey mimicked his master, with disastrous results.

After seeing Li Chun break some eggs for a meal, the monkey went back to the chicken house and smashed every last egg to bits.

Things got worse when the monkey saw Li Chun kill a chicken and pluck it.

So far, the monkey has slaughtered 80 birds. He tries to pluck them afterwards. Li Chun appreciates the animal's devotion to a task, but probably wishes he'd practiced his farming in private.

He told the Chinese press: "The lesson I have learned is to never slaughter a chicken in front of a monkey."

Amen, brother. That's a good lesson for all of us.

My grandkids may get a dog soon. When their parents moan about the misery of mutt-raising, I'll tell them to be glad they didn't get the kids a monkey. That should do it.

(Send your e-mail comments to: alex@newnan.com)

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