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The ins and outs of pet ownership

September 09, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

Ogden Nash defined a door as something that the dog is always on the wrong side of. Ogden Nash didn't know the half of it.

Look, I've had dogs before, I know they always want to go out and -- depending on where they perceive the action to be -- sometimes want to come in. But Opie, the bouvier, and Hannah, the bulldog, raise the bar. Juliet, the Siamese cat, is worse than both.

Remember the first time your dog scratched on the door to go out? And you thought it was cute? Oh, he's so smart.

He might be smart, but we're not. When our animals needed to come inside, which they were frequently reluctant to do, we got in the habit of rewarding them with treats. "Come in and get a treat," we'd say.

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Opie was sitting hungrily in the kitchen one morning and you could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. He walked over to the door and I dutifully let him out. He stood on the porch for what he reckoned was a dutiful amount of time -- which was about six seconds -- and then scratched to come back in. And get a treat.

I might as well have taken the dog do obedience school and taught him to chew my arms off. Dogs might be fast learners, but they are slow dislearners. Even though we have abandoned the practice, Opie to this day associates door usage with food.

The other problem is timing. If you own a dog, you might be familiar with this script: "Opie, do you want to come in?" Opie does not want to come in. "Opie, are you sure?" Opie is sure. So we go into the living room, settle into our easy chairs and -- scratch-scratch-scratch.

Hannah's issue is that she wants to, as Beth says, "Be with her people." If you have watched a dog show, you know that a bulldog is not in the hunting class, herding class or working class, they are simply listed as "companion dogs." This means they have no discernible, professional contribution to society. In the human world, they would be known as "consultants."

So "being with her people" is all fine and dandy, unless one people is inside and the other people is outside. Hannah is the only dog I know who can scratch to go out at the same time she's scratching to come in. This results in her standing astride the threshold, confused on matters of egress and ingress.

The flies and stink bugs are not confused, however, and 14 metric tons of them generally come rushing in while she's standing there making up her mind.

But at least the dogs have their reasons; the cat does not, other than the fact that watching us bounce up to get the door is good sport. Like the old cat Tom Quartz in Mark Twain's mining town, Juliet "never kitched a rat in her life -- 'peared to be above it."

But this does not stop her from engaging in fantasy safaris, which apparently make her quite thirsty. She will squawk to come in, take exactly one lap of water and then squawk to go back out and resume the hunt.

Finally, it all came to a head. I sat the three animals down and explained the situation to them. From now on, they each would be allotted three coupons a day, each coupon being good for one exit and one enter.

Opie used up his first three coupons in about 10 minutes. He then tried to trade two of his next-week coupons for one of Hannah's today coupons. Hannah asked for a clarification. Did it count if her head and shoulders were out on the porch while the balance of the dog remained inside?

I'm pretty sure both are considering taking the matter to court -- if someone will let them out.

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. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under www.opinion@herald-mail.com, on www.antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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