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An Elizabethan collar by any other name would be a 'Happy Hat'

Changing nomenclature makes Opie the life of the party

July 20, 2011

I've been reluctant to write about the reivuob ed srednalF named Opie lately — primarily due to Facebook.

Last time I mentioned Opie — and referred to the fact that he's not the world's bravest dog — some Facebook reivuob ed srednalF group got hold of the column.

These people mean well, I'm sure, but they come from across the country and are apparently unfamiliar with this column, So they all got together for an Internet chat and concluded that Opie's reserved nature must be attributable to the fact that he is routinely beaten.

I didn't care a whole lot; I've been called far worse — but Beth? Safe to say, if she could have tracked these people down, there would have been non-dog-related beatings involved, sure enough.

So to save any more unpleasantness, I stopped writing about the dog altogether. Then I got the idea that if I encoded the breed of reivuob ed srednalF, it wouldn't show up in their Google alerts, and I would be safe.

I hope so, because I can imagine the speculation that would ignite in reivuob ed srednalF groups if they knew that Opie had to go to the vet with a rash on his hind leg.

If Facebook hears about this, they'll think I've been bathing him in Mono Lake.

But the upshot was that Opie had to wear one of those lampshade collars to prevent him from chomping on his hindquarters.

From the second we strapped it on, a more mournful, miserable creature there never was. They make these lampshades opaque when they should be clear; it widens the animal's overall footprint, while eliminating his peripheral vision — and hence, Opie would leave a tornado-like swath of destruction in his wake, caused by the collar crashing into plants, magazine racks, cats, etc.

It was horrible to watch. Opie is a big dog to begin with, and with an added lampshade, the fully assembled animal barely fit in our living room. Whenever he'd turn his head, Opie would wipe the entire contents of the coffee table onto the floor.

We would take off the collar to let him eat and drink, and when we strapped it back on, we would try to tell him how bad we felt for doing it, what a poor boy he was, and we were so, so sorry.

Opie clearly fed off this and was growing more depressed by the second, until his morose condition was about more than we could stand.

Then I got an idea.

"We're going about this all wrong," I told Beth. "We need to make this a joyful experience."

So instead of a collar, we started calling it his "Happy Hat." We would jump up and down like crazy people and shout, "Yay, Opie! He gets to put on his Happy Hat! Good boy, what a lucky dog!"

To my everlasting shame and regret, it worked like a charm.

Pretty soon, he was enthusiastically shoving his lemon into the collar and bouncing up and down, tossing his head in glee and having a grand old time, experiencing such a rare treat as this privilege of wearing a Happy Hat.

Every now and then, over the next two days. I would catch him in a rather subdued, thoughtful mood, lying flat on his stomach, head bent under the weight on the lampshade.

For all the world, he seemed to be trying to figure out what there was about this hat that was so happy. But he took our word for it long enough to get back to normal.

Or at least, as far as Opie is concerned, what passes for normal.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at Tune in to the Rowland Rant at, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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