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He's guilty of not warning victim

February 08, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

If I haven't written about this sooner, it's been out of guilt. On one hand, I want to close my eyes, ignore it and pretend it never happened. On the other hand, if I do that, someone else might make the same mistake.

Several weeks ago, perhaps you noticed a letter to the editor from a very nice woman named Rosemary Redding who wrote that her family had read about the lawless Jack Russell terrier named Jake Biscuit and decided to obtain a member of the breed for themselves.

I so wish she had contacted me prior to the acquisition so I could have performed a canine intervention.

My first word of advice would have been "NOOOOO!" and if this argument needed to be strengthened, I would have added "NOOOOOOOOO!"

Don't do it. As a rule of thumb, it is good to have a dog that spends more time on the ground than it does in the air.

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It is good to have a dog that will sit still every once in a while. I would have settled for 10 minutes a day. It is good to have a dog whose diet does not make a goat look like Morris the Cat. It is good to have a dog that does not view "come," "sit" and "stay" as just suggested behaviors.

One that does not have ADD (Attention Dog Disorder), one whose motto is not chaos, whose philosophy is not "I chew therefore I am," one for whom theft is not a virtue and pranks are not the keys to doggie heaven.

But I was too late.

In a separate letter, Rosemary sent me a photo of their pup Jacob. "We tried to take a Christmas picture, but he grabbed Santa by the throat and dragged him down the stairs," she wrote.

As evidence, sure enough, there is Jacob under the tree with one paw planted firmly on the jolly old elf's throat and his jaws clenched around Santa's dome.

The other shot is equally priceless, showing Jacob (in what doubtless is a rare moment of inaction) staring plaintively at a stuffed snowman on a sled. It's like the animal is savoring the moment before the final attack. Or else thinking, "So many figurines, so little time."

Yes, the dogs are cute. I get that. But so was Lizzie Borden. Sometimes cute just isn't worth the cost.

Look, I can't tell anyone not to go out and get a Jack Russell. It's just that anyone who is tempted needs to be solidly versed in the facts.

The dogs will slow down, with age, but it didn't happen fast enough for me. They hold onto their pogostickism for years. If you can locate a Jack Russell that is 47 years old, that might be about right.

Jake Biscuit, into his eighth year, was finally starting to figure out that he had slowed down to the point where he had no chance at catching a rabbit or squirrel. (He never was, really, but it took eight years for him to noodle this through.)

So he decided to employ strategy. This was difficult for a dog whose default mechanism was action and whose brain - there is no other way to put this - must be about the size of a walnut. Thinking is not his strength. It is like asking Mike Tyson to conduct a cerebral fight.

So, if he were 40 feet from a squirrel, he (Jake, not Mike Tyson), would slowly commence to stalk a wide circle around the critter. It was a deliberate, measured approach and you could see that the entire time he was immeasurably proud of this cunning technique. Five, 10 minutes he crept in a big, wide arc around the quarry - thinking to himself the entire time, "I am a freaking genius."

Unfortunately, and perhaps the failure was mine for not teaching the animal that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, he would eventually end up right back where he started, having circled the squirrel completely. And, of course, no closer to the squirrel than he had been at the beginning of the venture.

Clearly, he took this as a massive blow. For the life of him, he could not understand it. All this investment of strategy, time and effort with absolutely no change in circumstance.

It did tend to amuse the squirrel, however, who would watch the entire production out of the corner of its eye with no small degree of interest. It must be a lot like the time I watched "Survivor." I could see what they were doing, but why?

So I am sad to report, Rosemary, that it is unlikely to get better. In fact, there might be worse times to come.

If only I could have reached you sooner. I do apologize.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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