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Social events at our house go to the dogs

November 30, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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When normal people have guests, there are a standard number of questions to be answered. What do we serve? Which wine would be appropriate? Is the tablecloth clean? Where should people park? Do we force people to watch our stinkin' slide show of our trip to Dollywood before or after dessert?

We can't be bothered with these trivial matters because one question relegates all others to afterthoughts, and that question is: "What do we do with the dogs?"

Basically, this is an issue of limiting human-canine interface to the degree that the laws of physics will allow.

Perhaps it's because we have visitors infrequently. Perhaps it's because we have excessively exuberant dogs. Perhaps it was poor training on our part. Perhaps it's because people are always hesitant about dogs they do not know.

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Whatever the case, whenever Hannah (bulldog) and Opie (bouvier) sense new meat on the premises, the encounter almost never goes well.

We always issue the standard caveat to any new visitor: "The dogs are friendly, but ..."

The devil is in the "but."

I remember an old Marmaduke cartoon, where the postman is breaking in a rookie. Walking up the drive, he points to the animal and says, "That's Marmaduke. He doesn't bite, but oohhh brother."

In a sentence, that's Opie. Oh brother, where arf thou? At about eye level, generally, given that he's half dog, half pogo stick.

If we don't catch them in time, they're both out the door like artillery -- usually to the sound of car doors being slammed shut, as visitors consider whether our company is worth the trouble. Through some miracle of science, the word "no" has been purged from their vocabularies. We say "no jump," and they hear "jump." We say "no lick" and they hear "lick."

Even for self-described "dog people," Opie, at more than 100 pounds, can cause real problems, especially when he hits his target at 40 feet a second.

We barely have time to get out a frantic, "Opie, don't ..." before the sound of air being forced from lungs reaches our ears, followed a split second later by the sound of someone being pinned, with force, against his car. Many people have left our house with a human-shape imprint stamped into their sheet metal. If we hear a "thump," we don't worry so much. But when we hear "thump-thump" we know it's time to call the body shop.

And while Opie is working the shoulders, Hannah is taking out the knees. It's a pretty effective team, if one can appreciate it at a distance.

We have two buildings, home and office, suitable for canine incarceration, but that presents a separate risk. A forced detainment only serves to wind their springs tighter and tighter, and if by some chance we need to go inside, they'll shoot out with exponential violence, leaving the screen door impotently swaying back and forth on one hinge.

Some people are braver than others. Or less worldwise. They'll say, "Oh, don't make the doggies stay inside, we'll be fine."

Beth and I usually exchange a level glance at this point, and say, "No, you don't want that." If they insist, there's nothing much we can do except shrug and open the door to the four-footed projectiles.

We have noticed that, unlike the dogs, the people in question generally catch on to the true meaning of "no" the first time and do not make the same request twice.

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 opinion@herald-mail.com, on 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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