Pet Talk-Jan. 15, 2004

True confessions of a pet owner

By: Dr. Daniel Eubanks
   Almost all pet owners have at least one tale to tell of their pet’s misbehavior, some humorous recollection of a pet’s propensity to make trouble.
   Some of these tales are too embarrassing to confess as we don’t care for others to know how unruly our pets truly can be. Most of them, at least in hindsight, are just plain funny.
   Through the years, I’ve heard plenty of these stories from my clients. This one guy in particular tells a few that I’d like to share with you.
   Seems years ago he had a most defiant dog named Schultz, who did every thing in the book to earn his way back to the pound. Schultz would regularly bulldoze his way through the screen slider to escape. He didn’t meticulously chew or claw his way through. He "four-corner tear" exploded his way through. The door frame was into Niece’s so often to be re-screened they just left the owner’s name tag on the frame rather than re-applying a new one each week.
   One day, the owner received a phone call from the next-door neighbor, threatening charges of "breaking and entry." Schultz had exploded through the neighbor’s screen door to get inside at the neighbor’s dogs!
   This dog would simply not obey the command "come," which compounded the consequences of these escape episodes. The owner used a remote-controlled electronic training device to teach Schultz to come when called. Eventually, a trust was established, and the owner could actually walk him off lead, but only while carrying a small fishing pole held upright like an umbrella. The dog perceived the antenna facsimile as representing the all-too-familiar training sessions and would heel like a seeing eye dog. All this guy had to do was parade through the neighborhood walking his dog while carrying a fishing pole.
   One Christmas morning, Schultz contributed to the gift-giving tradition by barfing what looked like the entire hindquarter of over-ripe deer remains all over the living room carpet. The cat thought it smelled so "gamey" in there he must be outdoors so he proceeded to back into the curtains and spray.
   Later that year, Schultz decided to celebrate Easter morning eight hours early by discovering the children’s hidden Easter baskets and consuming their entire contents.
   The following year, the owner took everyone’s advice. He and Schultz spent the day at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital Behavior Clinic seeking professional help from a "doggy shrink."
   Schultz eventually passed on (from natural causes, surprisingly) and immediately was succeeded by Buster.
   Buster was best described as obstinate and bull-headed. Early one morning, Buster chased the septic truck driver in the backyard as he prepared to pump out the underground holding tank. The owner, barely able to hear the screams of the septic guy over the truck’s engineer and vacuum, tried to assure the man the dog wouldn’t harm him.
   Quickly, the owner realized from the man’s hand gestures the dog had actually disappeared down the 3-foot extension pipe into the holding tank. The owner, donned in bathrobe and slippers and in a pure adrenaline rush, ran to the site, crawled halfway down the pipe and pulled the dog out by the collar.
   Buster literally "shook it off" and was fine, despite narrowly escaping dying. The septic man suggested the owner might want to "take the dog to the vet, though, just to check."
   The owner frequently took Buster to the park to let him "run off some steam." Buster would get so excited upon their arrival he would run full speed, 30 yards or so in radii out from the owner and there loop back at full speed, passing very close to the owner’s path, and then out and back, again and again, each pass narrowly avoiding collision with his owner.
   One time Buster’s aim was a little off, and he blindsided him at full throttle. The owner went airborne and came down hard, breaking three ribs. The dog was fine and even seemed apologetic. An observer ran to the site to assist and exclaimed he’d "never seen anything quite like that before, this large man on in the middle of a soccer field simply disappeared from view."
   This guy’s tales go on and on. He had a dog named Buddy, who used to attack bicycle and lawnmower wheels while they were in operation! And then there was the time his cat sprayed his brother’s suitcase just as they were exchanging farewells after a weekend visit.
   What’s wrong with this guy? Is he a born loser or a masochist? I think neither. He simply enjoys his pet’s companionship and thinks it’s worth it.
   Our pets can be somewhat like our kids. They can commit the most atrocious random acts of misbehavior, and yet we just fix it, usually laugh it off and move on. You see, the minister’s kid’s aren’t perfect just because daddy is clergy, and the vet’s pet’s aren’t models of discipline just because their owner is a vet.
   Yes, you’ve probably guessed it. "This guy" telling all of the above tales is me. That’s right. Yours truly!
   Go ahead, confess it. I’ll bet you, too, have some beauties to tell, some almost embarrassing tale of your pet’s misconduct.
   These tales simple illustrate the lengths we pet owners will go to enjoy our pets’ companionship. We look back at these moments, have a good laugh, shake our heads in disbelief and move on.
   Fact is, I wouldn’t like to think of a day without my pets, or maybe, not more than a couple of days!