Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's time the pets provide for me

We're thinking about getting a dog. Her name is Faith (pictured at left). Taking on a new pet is always a gamble, but I figure that even if she is a terrible dog, and craps on the carpet, barks all night, kills the cats and chews up my cowboy boots, I can at least write a bestselling book about it to defray some of the expense. Hey, everybody else does.

Look at John Grogan. A few short years ago he was toiling in obscurity as a third-tier columnist for my old newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now he has become the Thomas Kinkade of dog writers. The man is everywhere: Marley and Me; Bad Dogs Have More Fun; Marley: A Dog Like No Other; Bad Dog, Marley; The Marley Code; Marley and the Deathly Hallows; That Darn Marley!; and, due out next spring, The Marley Secret: Spinning Dog Feces Into Gold.

Strolling through Border's the other day, I noticed that Grogan's success has not been lost on other authors. Anna Quindlen has weighed in with Good Dog. Stay. Dean Koontz has Life is Good. Ted Kerasote is raking it in with Merle's Door: Lessons From a Freethinking Dog. And I couldn't help wondering: What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to assume custody of two worthless cats?

I'm looking at them now. Their names are Nick and Nora, but they share none of the traits of the detective duo. One has commandeered my favorite recliner for another 12-hour nap; the other is curled in the corner, having deduced early on that if he uses the litter box, that's pretty much the extent of his responsibilities. I like cats, but they're not proving to be a rich lode of inspiration. After the chapters on them destroying the sofa and licking their butts, what else is there? Where are the life's lessons? Where is the heartwarming devotion, the amusing antics? These cats are clean and good eaters, but that's about all they are.

Which brings me to the dog. Our vet found her a few weeks ago, starving in an abandoned home, and when we went to check her out yesterday, she eyed us warily for portents of further misfortune. She didn't bark or leap for my jugular, which I took as a good sign, but she didn't look as though she were ready to start imparting insights, either.

I don't know. Having a dog is a big responsibility. If I'm going to bend over backward for this mutt, there'd better be a payday at the end of it. John Grogan would expect no less.


Peter said...

I have two words for you regarding your bad investment in cats just as the value of dogs was about to shoot up on the literary stock market: Trade up.

Oh, for a minute there I thought you wrote that Grogan was a columnist on a third-tier newspaper.

I am at Charles De Gaulle airport now, mourning the end of my stay in Paris. I cannot tell you how good it feels to know that I will be back at your old newspaper tomorrow. The latest thing that makes the Philadelphia ******er so much fun is seeing which staff member who was laid off but got his or her job back nonetheless showed what he of she thought of the ******er by leaving for a new job. You're lucky to be a former employee.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dave Knadler said...

Well, look at it this way: You'll always have Paris. Ha ha.

I envy your trip. How long were you there? I trust the strikes and the riots were not a problem. And how about that exchange rate?

Jessie K said...

Congrats, dad. Theresa was asking me about dog advice yesterday and I forgot a really good nugget of wisdom that I learned from Jake (which he picked up from 4 years at VMI).

When trying to train a dog (or child, or employee, or soldier):
The first time you want her to do something, ask her to do it.
The second time, tell her to do it.
The third time, make her do it.

This method teaches dogs that's it's more physically comfortable to follow your commands the first time themselves, instead of waiting for you to force pressure on them to complete the task, causing discomfort.

So you never want to drop a training lesson midway through. For instance, if she won't sit even though you keep telling her to, don't throw up your hands and move on to something else. MAKE her sit (press her butt down), and then praise her for it. Not only does this instill discipline but you reaffirm yourself as the ultimate lord and master i.e. if she doesn't listen, there WILL be some discomfort.

Peter said...

He's getting together with Mitch Albom (with whom I went to college. I remember the "Tuesdays With Morrie" professor's name from course catalogues. How do I manage such almost-associations with the great weiters of our time?) to produce The Five Marleys You Meet in Heaven.

The strikes were suspended just before I arrived, and the disturbances were safely out of the way in the suburbs. The exchange rate was such that I could not boast when I got back how cheap wine was in restaurants. And if one cannot boast, what the hell is the use of travelling?
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"