I am locked in a titanic struggle with my new dog Fido. At stake is nothing less than who will control the house.
Las Vegas wise guys, obviously privy to insider information, have established Fido as the prohibitive favorite. And why shouldn't he be?
My entire day is spent catering to Fido's needs—real and imagined.
I am Fido's third owner in an equal number of years. Trust me. In a lifetime that now spans over five decades, nothing is clearer to me than how Fido, a rescued English Springer Spaniel, exhausted three masters before he landed at my house.
Fido is the single most demanding dog I have owned. Within my four walls, he is a mere blur. One way Fido amuses himself is to grab whatever may be within reach and run around tossing it up in the air, then catching it. To Fido, socks, pencils, newspapers, ice cubes—even a jalapeno pepper once— all give him the same pleasure.
My Fido-created problem is that to survive the madness, my floors must be totally picked up at all times. That's a tall order for me.
Throw him outside? Easy for you to say but Fido is just as content to gnaw on grass, leaves, tree bark and last night's charcoal briquettes.
Fido simply cannot be worn out. In the morning, he goes to Lodi's dog park for a long romp. Then at noon it's off to the irrigation canal for non-stop swimming and frolicking in the cornfield. Late in the afternoon, Fido fetches tennis balls. If I pause even slightly, Fido gives me a hard nudge with his snout.
Fido induced frustration is a constant. Sometimes at the park, kids will run up to Fido to hug him and say, "You're so cute. I wish I could take you home with me."
Normally, a dog owner's buttons would burst with pride knowing that his pet is the object of such affection. But instead, I find myself muttering, "If only you knew what headaches Fido would introduce into your young and happy life."
When I bemoan existence with Fido, my friends have the same comment. "Why do you complain so much about Fido? He is a young dog. Things will improve."
That's like saying, "Why are you worried about the 49ers? Sure, they're behind. But the game is only in the first quarter."
Yes, it's true that Fido and I are also in the first quarter of our relationship. But the score is Fido, 38; Joe, 0.
I've probably had 25 dogs in my day. I've never had fewer than two and not long ago had five.
Without fear of contradiction, I can tell you that Fido ranks 25th
I ask myself if I expect too much from Fido. Although he doesn't know it, Fido has big paws to fill. Over the last couple of years, four wonderful dogs passed on. All of them— Loo-Loo, Spot, Russie and Howie—were wonderful. Each lived into its teens and died peacefully surrounded by adoring pals.
And there's another reason Fido and I have to make it work. Fido may be my last dog. By the time he reaches his teens, I may be ready to shift to less troublesome cats.
So a few nights ago, I decided to let Fido sleep on the bed. Although all my dogs end up sleeping with me, I wasn't quite ready to give Fido that privilege. I considered the bed to be the hallowed ground belonging to those who preceded him.
Not surprisingly, the project got off to a rocky start. Even though Fido's measurements are 3 feet long by 2 feet high by 6 inches wide—plenty of room for both of us—he impossibly he took up the entire bed!
Fido watched me intently while I got ready. And once I joined him, he went out like a rock. Fido slept so soundly—sawing wood the whole time—that I could not budge him. I poked him. I prodded him. But his eyes never opened. The whirlwind had been stilled.
As I pondered Fido, I thought that maybe all his antics are his way of proving to me that he is too cute not to keep around. And I suppose if I had had a new master in each of my first three years, I'd want to find a home I'd be welcome in for the rest of my days.
So for better or for worse, it's Fido and me together as we walk toward the territory ahead.
JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS:
I hope you enjoyed reading about Fido. Life with him and my black lab Lily is a gas.
While I was writing my column, the Los Angeles Times published the very troubling story ("Mexican Puppy Mills Breed Grief in Southland", July 26, 2004,By Richard Marosi,) about a Mexican puppy mill dumping terminally ill dogs into southern California.
Humans cannot sink much lower than these groups who sell sick dogs to the unsuspecting. Lured to an out of the way location and told to bring cash, the buyers end up with dogs with distemper or other visually hard- to- detect diseases. And good luck in trying to find the sellers.
The Border Patrol has added sick puppies to its list of contraband items it looks for when searching vehicles.
Said John Carlson, director of San Diego County's Northern Regional Animal Shelter:
"There is no such thing as an ugly puppy. It's almost like drug peddling except that it's not illegal to possess a young puppy. But it is illegal to be selling young puppies that are sick."