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Youth is valuable, even for puppies

September 03, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

I never had any kids of my own, so I never knew the joys of watching a little tike learn to walk, talk, sign complex sub-prime mortgage lending documents, or any of those other joys that make parents wipe a tear from their eyes and say, "For this I missed a European vacation?"

So I have to take my pleasures of young life where I can find them - such as the day the bouvier de Flandres puppy named Opie learned to lift his leg. Yes, today he is a man.

All right, so it's not learning to ride a bike, but it's something, OK?

Frankly, I never knew that young, male dogs - when they had to water the tulips, so to speak - did not lift their legs from birth.

I feel so isolated. And it's something you just don't stop to think about. You never hear a co-worker say, "I need that report on my desk by tomorrow morning, and by the way, did you know that boy puppies shake the dew off the lily in the same manner as girl puppies until they are several months old?"


But it's true. And it seems that this represents some sort of milestone in male puppyhood. Beth, who had previous experience in these manners, ran breathlessly into the house the other day and exploded forth with a joyous, "Opie lifted his leg!"

"He which?"

"Lifted his leg; you know, like a big dog."

"Oooohhhh, he lifted his LEG. Why that's just - just ..." Words failed me at that point. I felt as if I ought to do something like, I don't know, bake a cake. Or at least feel a little more excited about the event.

I mean, lifting their legs is kind of what dogs do. It's not like he divided pi or anything.

Besides, I rather felt bad for the pup. Because, if my life is any indication, lifting your leg (symbolically speaking, of course) is just the precursor to greater, and not always pleasanter, responsibilities.

Responsibilities of which Opie, as of now, has exactly zero. We try to correct him, but it's always a failure. You shake your finger at him, all he does is lick it. He will learn in time that a big dog that can lift his leg will be expected to perform other duties, such as refraining from grabbing one trailing end of the wisteria and running until the entire plant - trellis and all - follows him off into the distance.

When he has learned to lift his leg, he will certainly have to learn that not everything in life is a joke. For the Siamese cat named Juliet and the Bulldog named Hannah, this revelation cannot come soon enough.

These two animals are older and wiser and as older and wiser animals know, there is more to life than fun and games - most notably, sleep. Which, of course is out of the question when the BDF pup is going full Sandy Duncan, spreading his brand of energetic pixie dust throughout the house and yard. They want to sleep. The try to sleep. They have just gotten to sleep ... when 50 pounds of coiled spring lands squarely on their midsections, producing an exhalation of wind with an audible oomph. After which, Opie jumps in the air, whirls a 360, bobs his head and waves his paws at the great gag he's just pulled.

I had not previously, that I know of, seen a bulldog and a Siamese seriously contemplate murder. Now I have, and it's not pretty. Hatred, then indignation, then resignation drip from their eyes as they can tell that the youngster will not be disciplined until he's older - until he learns to lift his leg.

Which, as of this writing, Opie has stopped doing.

To our knowledge, he only successfully mastered the exercise three times, and hasn't done it since.

Maybe he senses something. Like he realizes his youth is too valuable to be lost for such trivial an accomplishment as an upwardly poised hindquarter.

I began to admire him. "You are right, Opie my boy," I told him. "Do not let your youth slip away easily. Hold to it with all your strength. Stay young. There is nothing so free as a puppy chasing butterflies, nothing so innocent as a warm tongue licking your cheek. Do not be quick to take on the burdens of the world, for it awaits all too soon with its troubles, as surely as the robin arrives in the sp ..."

At this point the dog named Opie threw up a hairball.

Oh well.

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

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