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Bouncing takes a back seat to, well, the back seat

October 21, 2008

It wouldn't be a complete lie to say that Opie was on his best behavior last Saturday. But there is such a slim line between the animal's best behavior and his worst behavior, that it's almost hardly worth making the distinction between the two.

The bouvier des Flanders was the grand marshal for the Washington County Humane Society's Bark in the Park event at Doub's Woods (my request to the school board to ceremonially change the name of Emma K. Doub elementary to Emma K-9 for a day went unanswered).

Getting there was no problem at all. He loves transit. If a car door at our house is accidentally left open for more than a few seconds, we will find Opie sitting in the back seat awaiting taxi service. And he will not leave; he has more patience than Cubs fans and will wait all day in the back seat, if that's what it takes.

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He weighs close to 100 pounds, so there is no dragging him out. If he doesn't want to budge, he will remain budgeless for as long as it takes. Nor can he be lured out for treats or any other positive incentive. Conversely, insults and abuse are pointless. To him, there is no such thing as a discouraging word. He thinks "moron" must be human for "greatest dog ever."

So to extract him from the car, there's only one method that will work: I have to get in and drive him somewhere. Anywhere is fine with him. So I drive him two-tenths of a mile to the church and back. He thinks that's great, and will come bounding out of the car as if he's just traveled through the Rockies on the Royal Canadian Pacific Railroad.

Under his own power, however, things are not always as predictable.

Bark in the Park organizers asked if Opie could walk on a leash. I told them the truth. I said, yes, of course he can walk on a leash. He can also walk over a leash, under it, through it - until he is more tangled and hog-tied than Sarah Palin responding to a question on the International Monetary Fund.

As a matter of fact, the only thing he cannot do with a leash is be led around on one, like a normal dog.

So Opie's grand run at the head of the Parade of Dogs was something of a disappointment. Outside of Hannah, he doesn't see other dogs much, so he wasted no time trying to introduce himself to every other creature on the path. And by "introduce," I mean "wrestle."

And by "creature," I do not limit this to the four-footed variety. He's just as happy to give any man, woman or child a full, leaping bear hug, just to show his love. People who weigh 140 pounds or so can usually handle the impact, but more diminutive folk usually are sent flying into the nearest tree. More than once he forced Beth into nervous laughter with her stock apology: "Well, they don't call them 'bouncing bouviers' for nothing."

About our only other recourse would be to tether him to the ground with a number of lines, much like what they use to hold down Underdog in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Fortunately, these were all dog people, so they understood, mostly.

Still, I feared that Opie might be wearing out his welcome sooner rather than later. This called for extreme action on my part. I didn't want to do it, but there was no other choice: I opened the car door.

Sure enough, he bounded right in and stayed there, planted to the rear seat, for the duration of the ceremonies.

But there is no pride, no sense of victory, in taking advantage of a brain so small.

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

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