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Thanksgiving is a day for begging dogs

November 24, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND

It is only natural that at bountiful tables across this great land of ours today, thoughts will inevitably turn to begging, and those who do not have what we enjoy.

We try not to think about it, but we must. We know it's out there, even if we do not look.

The hungry eyes.

The pleading.

The sense of utter dependency on the good will of man.

So what to do? Do you slip Rex a little piece of turkey under the table or not?

Most dog owners I know have a standard policy: They would never, ever, ever feed their own dogs at the table because they are worried about the precedent it will set.

But at someone else's table, they will stuff the equivalent of a side of rhinoceros into the grateful jaws of the family pooch, knowing they will not have to deal with the consequences.

Our own two dogs could not be more different where begging is concerned.

Hannah is a 10-year-old bulldog who does not subscribe to traditional forms of begging — which, frankly, would be beneath her. Instead, her strategy operates on the formula that humans, through the course of a year, will drop X pounds of food from the table unintentionally. It might not be a lot at any given meal, but as the months roll by it adds up, and Hannah has time.

With this in mind, the animal, who appears to be half catfish, will affix her lips to the floors, and with the power of a wet-dry vac, slurp and snort across the hardwood, sucking up even rumors of food.

It is quite a sound, really, and not everyone finds it appetizing. In fact, this might be part of the plan since more than one person has been known to push aside her plate as Hannah's nasal/esophageal complex — never the quietest of organisms in the best of circumstances — expand and contract like watery bellows, surrounding minute food particles with mass quantities of gurgling mucosa.

On the other hand, the bouvier de Flanders named Opie could not be quieter and more polite. But in some cases, this is even worse, since he uses — guilt.

The guards at Buckingham Palace have gained a reputation for patience and stoicism, but next to Opie. they are more animated than Rachael Ray. Opie will plant himself 3 feet 6 inches away, square in his victim's field of vision.

That's it. He doesn't paw, doesn't whimper, doesn't jump — just stares.

A Japanese tsunami could not move him. A can of pepper spray would not make him blink. His stare will begin to burn after a while, and the diner will find himself adjusting his chair so the dog is no longer directly in his field of vision. You can still feel him looking, though.

And, eventually, he will get up and move a couple of feet to the right or left so he is once again solidly within your general view. I know, it doesn't sound particularly offensive, but you try to eat a meal with a couple of eyes bearing their way through your skull.

Opie is messing with your head, and he knows it. He knows: One, he is within the letter of the law, so you can't yell at him. Really, what are you going to say? "Bad dog, don't look at me. Don't you have a squirrel to chase or something?"

Two, he knows that pretty soon you're going to start thinking. You're going to start thinking about how the dog can have such unwavering trust in you. You're going to think that he has such faith in the goodness of your soul that he does not even seem to consider it an option that you will fail to feed him.

With me, it always works. You can do anything you want to me, just don't make me feel nice.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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