All my life, I’ve been a dog man. I love ’em all, smart and dumb, big and small. I enjoy the sight of a trembling pocketbook Chihuahua every now and then, and I’ve gotten plenty of cheap laughs from fresh poodle haircuts. Dogs have always been my buddies. And twice, dogs have changed the course of my life.
Some years back, when I lived in South Carolina, I had eight dogs at one time. The group included Josh, the mutant long-haired basset hound, and Scruffy and Slick, the brother dogs who loved each other like prison lifers. In the summer of 1980, I ran over a football-sized pile of Josh crap with the lawn mower, and the disgust triggered a chain reaction involving everything about where I was and what I was doing. I decided right then and there to leave South Carolina and move to Nashville.
Then irony struck. Even though I’d played guitar for a living since the age of 12, I made only 50 lousy dollars playing guitar in Nashville. I should’ve seen that one coming, considering I’d rather have my spleen out than play a note of country music. When my guitar-playing career died, I started fixing up old houses and writing about it, and that got me a job at Old-House Journal in New York City.
My first day in New York, I stepped in a fresh pile of sidewalk dog crap and tracked it onto an Oriental rug in a million-dollar brownstone. I wrote my friend Jim Draeger about it. He sent me back a postcard with this one line: “How do you know it was dog crap?”
Jim had a point. In New York, the odds were no better than 50/50. This put me to thinking: Why is it that a whole lot of dog owners think it’s just natural, and perfectly fine, for their 80-pound dog to drop a load on your lawn? They figure, Oh, it’ll weather away naturally, no big deal. But how would they like it if you sent your 80-pound fifth-grader over to their house to return the favor? Don’t you know they’d be calling cops to arrest you and calling social workers to take away your kid?
Dog owners, listen to me: A load is a load. If it ain’t grass you personally cut, your dog ought not be crapping on it. And if your dog accidentally lays one down in somebody else’s yard, or on the sidewalk, you ought to pick it up and take it back to your own house. If you think this is too much trouble, or an unbearable gross-out, give the dog to somebody who lives way out in the country and get yourself a goldfish.
Another thing: No more weapon dogs, OK? Last week, the AP reported that dog bites that require medical attention increased 37 percent between 1986 and 1994, partly because people are buying more ferocious dogs for protection. Rottweilerstop-of-the-line bad-ass dogswere responsible for about half of the dog-bite deaths during this period.
Rottweilers run about 200 pounds, which, if I remember my comic books right, is just about the size of Conan the Barbarian. I say if you’re so paranoid that you can’t rest without a fanged monster guarding your door, either sleep with a double-barrel 12-gauge under your pillow, or get a prescription for Prozac.
One last thing: When you’re out walking the dog, whether you’ve got an Achilles-tendon-snapping dachshund or a slobbery-kissing golden retriever, hook the leash up to the dog, OK? No more of this walking around with the dog 100 yards ahead of you, bounding through the neighbors’ gardens, chasing cats and children, while you walk along with a leash in your hand oblivious to it all. What’s that leash for, anyway? If your dog gets into some serious cat- or child-chasing, are you suddenly going to become the world’s fastest human, swoosh up to the dog, and attach the leash before any damage is done? That won’t happen. The leash is there so we’ll think you just let the dog loose 10 seconds ago.
But we know better. You hook that dog up and keep him hooked. Carry a scoop. And look into basset hounds, my personal favorite. Even a child can outrun ’em, and they’re too lazy to bark or bite.
Visit Walter Jowers’ Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense/.