(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 19, 2004.)
I'm trying to convince my wife that we need a dog. I grew up with dogs, and am comfortable with their ways. If we're visiting someone's home, and I suddenly experience a sensation of humid warmth, and I look down and see that my right arm has disappeared up to the elbow inside the mouth of a dog the size of a medium horse, I am not alarmed. I know that this is simply how a large, friendly dog says: ``Greetings! You have a pleasing salty taste!''
I respond by telling the dog that he is a GOOD BOY and pounding him with hearty blows, blows that would flatten a cat like a hairy pancake, but which only make the dog like me more. He likes me so much that he goes and gets his Special Toy. This is something that used to be a recognizable object -- a stuffed animal, a basketball, a Federal Express driver -- but has long since been converted, through countless hours of hard work on the dog's part, into a random wad of filth. ''GIVE ME THAT!'' I shout, grabbing an end of the Special Toy. This pleases the dog: It confirms his belief that his Special Toy is the most desirable item in the universe, more desirable even than the corpse of a squirrel. For several seconds we fight for this prize, the dog whipping his head side to side like a crazed windshield wiper. Finally, I yank the Special Toy free and hold it aloft. The dog watches it with laser-beam concentration, waiting for me to throw it ... waiting ... waiting ... until finally I cock my arm, and, with a quick motion I ...
... fake a throw. I'm still holding the Special Toy. But WHOOOSH the dog has launched himself across the room, reaching a velocity of 75 miles per hour before WHAM he slams headfirst into the wall at the far end of the room. This stimulates the M&M-size clump of nerve cells that serves as a dog's brain to form a thought: The Special Toy is not here! The dog whirls, sees the toy in my hand and races back across the room. Just as he reaches me, I cock my arm and ...
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... fake another throw. WHOOOSH! WHAM! The fake works again! It will always work. I can keep faking throws until the dog has punched a dog-shaped hole completely through the far wall, and the dog will STILL sprint back to me, believing that THIS time I'm going to throw the toy. This is one reason why I love dogs.
My wife is less impressed. She fails to see the appeal of an animal that appears to be less intelligent than its own parasites. Oh, I've tried to explain the advantages of having a dog. For example:
A DOG IS ALWAYS READY. It doesn't matter for what: Dogs are just ready. If you leave your car window open, the dog will leap into the car and sit there for hours. The dog knows that sometimes the car just starts moving, and you have to be ready! Usually the dog will sit in the driver's seat, in case (You never know!) the dog is called upon to steer.
A DOG IS VIGILANT. One time, on a movie set, I watched a small dog walk past a line of six metal light stands. When the dog came to the sixth light stand -- which was EXACTLY the same as the other five light stands -- the dog stopped and began barking furiously at it. Clearly the dog had detected some hostile intent in this particular light stand, something that we humans, with our inferior senses, were not aware of. We humans were thinking: ''What's WRONG with that dog?'' Whereas the light stand was thinking: ``Whew! That was close!''
These are just a couple of examples of the practical benefits provided by dogs. I have tried pointing them out to my wife, but she doesn't see it. This is why, in our house, we have fish. They're nice fish but they're not a whole lot of fun. Although they are excellent drivers.
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