Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's a Dog's Life

I have nothing against dogs. We had one, a friendly, gentle, not-too-bright Golden Retriever called Murray. That’s him, all muddy and disheveled, with an equally muddy and disheveled Lucy, after they had been swimming in Lake St. Clair off Lake Shore Drive in the up-scale area where there are signs saying “No swimming, no fishing, no picnicking.” I think that even then it was all about the photo shoot for Lucy, because everyone would agree that Murray was mostly Andrew’s dog. Andrew took him off to Iowa one summer where he was able to run free and pick up all kinds of ticks and general nasties. Murray, that is.

We had made the executive decision that the kids could have a dog when they were old enough to look after it, without realizing that a healthy dog was going to be remaining at our house long after the kids departed for college. By default I became the dog walker, which probably resulted in a lot more exercise than I would have undertaken without my canine buddy. It also resulted in a broken wrist, when I took Murray out one icy evening in February. It was certainly winters that were the most problematic, because Murray was an “outside” dog. In the summer there was almost always someone in the yard to throw a ball or pat his head as he curled up under the picnic table. He could amuse himself for hours chasing the squirrels as they ran along the electricity cables way above his head. I often wonder whether he seriously expected to catch one. In the winter he had a wonderful kennel in the garage, insulated by straw. He was warm enough (in fact, after one of those “bring your pets inside” advisories when the weather turned particularly vicious, we tried to lure him into the house, but he wasn’t having any of it.) I just felt that he must be bored, especially when Ernie and I left for work and he had no one around.

All this is to say that I wish dogs well (not to the extent that Bev Sykes
does as she lovingly fosters and hand-rears puppies.) I’ve changed enough diapers: I don’t want to be scraping that stuff off the floor.

I know that my children have based some purchasing decisions on whether a car can accommodate four child seats (the Honda Odyssey does particularly well), but I have learned that 47% of dog owners think of their pets when buying a car. Consequently the car companies are paying attention to the needs of a dog ferrying public. According to an article in Marketwatch, Volvo is advertising features specifically for dog hauling, including a vertical divider ($157) “if you don’t want pooch to tear into the groceries.” The article continues:

Some dog owners who travel a lot use airline crates to keep all the accoutrements of traveling with pets—the wads of hair, the canine slobber, the unfortunate results of queasy stomachs—contained.
There’s a lot more on the practical features for man’s best friend (washable urethane flooring, plastic ramps to help arthritic dogs into cars) and then we move on to the luxury items. We have dog booster seats and slings. “The latter attach to a car’s headrests and look a bit like the vinyl lunch boxes office workers carry. Pampered pets can sit in sheepskin, their harnesses attached to seatbelts.” And for the dog who has everything? Doggles, of course—goggles that fend off flying rocks, insects and harmful rays when the dog sticks his nose out the window.

Somehow I can’t see Murray in doggles. I like to remember him chasing squirrels through my flower beds.

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