Thursday, July 15, 2010


by Paul Coates
for the Los Angeles Times some time in 1965

There is an aged theory (probably first advanced by Dr. Ross for his own selfish reasons), that you can always trust a man who likes dogs.
And they also argue that every boy should have one.
It builds character, they tell us.
That is simply not true.
Perhaps it builds character for a dog.  But it does nothing for a boy.
This is, of course, a highly volatile statement.  And I would not make it if I were not fully prepared to back it up.
Just look at me.
And be honest about it.
Am I the sort of person you would want to buy a used car from?
Yet, I have always had a dog.  And a grandmother who thought canine stories would keep me from falling into a life of sin.
At Christmas, when other youngsters were getting Lucky Lindy aviator caps or nifty 98 cent periscopes you could use to peek in windows without being caught, I was getting books with such racy titles as "Bruce, A Shropshire Lad, And His Collie."
Our first household pet was an unkempt Poodle named "Poodles," which will give you some idea of the rich vein of creative thinking that runs in my family.
If he had been a Scotch terrier, I'm sure we would have held a brain-storming session around the kitchen table, and finally decided to call him "Scotch Terrier."
Anyway, "Poodles" was a Poodle.  And, from the first time he chewed up my left sneaker, I hated him.
In fact, I have been very cautious about showing affection to any dog, ever since.
And right now, a state of open hostility exists between me and the dog in my life.
For the past 15 years, I have grown up with an utterly supercilious, smug Dachshund named, for some unfathomable reason, "Friendy."
He is an arrogant Aryan with all the unpleasant attributes of a scar-faced Prussian general.  His haughty military bearing makes me feel like a mere ober-gefreiter in my own household.  And, while that is an impressive sounding title, it just means corporal.
The difficulty in dealing with Dachshunds is that they will not take orders - only give them.
Through the language of a nerve shattering whine he can command us to put on a coat and follow him on a forced march from pillar to post in the dead of night.
For a number of reasons, I resent being taken out for a walk by a dog.
In the first place, it brings you into contact with other pet people, who speak a special terminology that is mystifying and very upsetting to the digestive system.
Nothing can ruin my appetite quicker than to have a matron on the other end of a Pomeranian's leash take me for a kindred soul and confide:
"You know our little baby has been a sick girl.  We had to have her wormed."
Another hazard of these forays into the night is that our little baby will not suffer the indignity of wearing a leash.  So I am forced to plead with him to come home.
This reduces me to his level, which with a Dachshund is way down there.
The other night he disappeared into the darkness again.
"Friendy," I shouted.  "Where are you?  Kommen sie here."
I caught a quick glimpse of him trotting away.
"Achtung, dammit!"  I yelled.  "Get back to the house."
When he didn't show up in 10 minutes, I returned to the apartment without him.  A short time later, the girl on the switchboard called.
"Friendy is in the lobby," she said.  "Shall I have him come up?"
"No," I whispered, cupping my hand over the phone.
"No what?" my wife demanded.
"How do you like that dog?" I said bitterly.  "Now he's got to have himself announced before he'll come up."
When he arrived at the door, I opened it, greeting him with a low bow and a sweeping gesture of welcome.
"Come in, come in," I said.  "My home is your home."
But the sarcasm was completely lost on him.  German dogs have no sense of humor.  He just sniffed my ankles, rubbed his back on our expensive white carpet, yawned and loped off to the kitchen, leaving a wake of paw marks.
Towards dawn, I was jolted from a sound sleep by an eerie whimper.
"Hark!" I hissed, digging my wife in the ribs.  "What's that?"
"Friendy," she explained.  "He's under the bed and he's talking in his sleep.  Isn't that cute?"
And I know just what he was muttering in his sleep: 
"Today, the fire hydrants.  Tomorrow, the world."


Unrelated vintage 1930s photo source unknown.

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