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Dog gone it, daily grind got the best of me

June 19, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

Beth and I were driving past Beer Belly Lane in Sandy Hook on Saturday while listening to NPR (I am aware of the incongruity) when the radio-show host started talking about something common in most every dog owner's experience.

This is the propensity of a dog to create an irrational spite against some mechanical device, often a vacuum cleaner, and express this dissatisfaction through maniacal barking.

The radio reception wasn't great, but if I understood correctly, the cure for this is to discipline not the dog, but the vacuum cleaner.

To wit, speak sternly to the vacuum cleaner and show the dog that you are in control of the situation. Demonstrate that you are on to the vacuum cleaner's tricks, and you will in no way permit illegalities by a household appliance.


I gather this is of comfort to the dog, who might fear that the vacuum cleaner is trying to attack you or is in some way a threat to health and home in general.

This assigns a lot of logic to the thought patterns of a dog, an enterprise that to my knowledge has made no person rich. But I was willing to hear the man out.

Far as I know, the bouvier des Flandres named Opie does not have it in for vacuums - I've never used one in his presence, or anyone else's, for that matter.

This is a dog who is not afraid of anything, a dog who thinks everything and everyone is just great. Opie loves the world. With one exception - the coffee grinder.

Every night when I grind the beans for the morning brew, he goes ape - howling, whining, barking, crying - and scampers with agitation around the kitchen, banging into things and knocking over anything that isn't bolted to the floor.

Scolding doesn't work. Letting him sniff the grinder doesn't work. Holding him by the collar and making him sit doesn't work. Counseling doesn't work.

I hit the button and he goes berserk.

It can't be the size; the gizmo is 6 inches high and 3 inches wide. It can't be the noise; Opie will lie right next to the circular saw when I'm buzzing 2-by-4s. I was desperate for ideas, so when I got home that night - well, let's just say I'm glad there's no videotape of what happened.

When he heard the rustle of the coffee bag, Opie was in the kitchen, and he grew more and more restless as I loaded the beans. Then, I employed the strategy.

Timidly at first, I looked at the machine and said, "bad coffee grinder." Then louder, "BAD BAD coffee grinder."

I have to admit, this knocked Opie off his stride. Instead of barking, he cocked his head. So I decided to go for the whole enchilada.

I flipped the switch and as the motor kicked in, I began slapping it and yelling at it, "Lousy, nasty, EVIL, coffee grinder. I HATE you. You are more obnoxious than NANCY GRACE! You PATHETIC, despicable, COMMUNIST coffee grinder."

I got into it. I grabbed the machine and shook it. I yelled, cursed the coffee grinder's ancestors and smacked it across the lid. I told the filthy coffee grinder it was not the boss of me. I violently took the cord and - at this point, I turned to see the dog's reaction.

Opie wasn't there. Beth was.

I'm going to stop writing now.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at

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