Caution: Proceed only if you are a fan of dogs and or old situation comedies.
I cannot wait to file my 2006 income tax returns. I am in no hurry to part with the money, particularly given some of the things the current administration is spending it on, but I finally have an interesting answer to put in the space reserved for occupation. I am an animal wrangler. Alas, I am not one of the highly paid professionals that work on movie sets. In fact I am not paid at all, but it is where I spend much of my time and meager talents.
When we moved from Minnesota in Clampett family style, we brought Stella the insane boxer, who is best remembered for breaking my nose in a sledding accident in Lowry Hill (see HLP March, 1998). Moving to California, the formerly allergy-plagued, ravenously hungry, Prednisone-dependent dog went cold turkey, and was reborn. Shedding the demons that plagued her, she has emerged a mellow, well-behaved, loving, and mature pet. Taking advantage of the climate and a fenced-in back yard, Stella moved outdoors. Against our better judgment we adopted Cowboy, a rescued boxer, to be Stella’s (un) stable mate.
Last summer our daughter married Daniel, a wonderful young New Zealander. I was pleasantly surprised that while he had no strong feelings about the designated hitter rule, or why Pete Rose did not belong in the Hall of Fame, we did share an enthusiasm for animals. During their engagement, Daniel spent a lot of time playing with Stella and Cowboy. I figured that he was just being polite and that wrestling with the dogs was easier than listening to me talk about American politics. Still I could not help but be impressed with my future son-in-law’s rapport with Cowboy who, in California-speak, exhibited serious trust issues. Only Daniel could lure Cowboy out of hiding and get him to play.
JoAnne and I were nevertheless surprised when the newly married couple announced they were planning to add to their family. Within a month of the wedding, they had adopted Sunny Bear, a Chow/Shepherd/Lab mix. Sunny is a sprite, a wholly benign but mischievous spirit who immediately won over Cowboy and Stella. A month ago the kids again returned from the shelter, this time with a portly, jolly, full-grown yellow lab they named Cooper.
Because the kids travel a lot, we frequently have all four dogs. We are fortunate to have a decent sized yard and a dog door, but still there are challenges. Cowboy, like Radar O’Reilly, can sense Sunny’s arrival. The buzz and subsequent hysteria she unleashes (no pun) creates a fervor usually reserved for aging rock stars or banana republic dictators. Sunny quickly gets caught up in the madness and responds by leaping wildly and licking everyone in sight. Soon all three dogs are rolling around and speaking in tongues.
Suddenly the revelry is interrupted as Cooper appears. Cowboy is Barney Fife to Stella’s calmer Sheriff Andy Taylor. To Cowboy, Cooper is Lee Harvey Oswald. JoAnne and I need to escort him passed the barking blur. There is chaos, snarling, and threats. Relations are getting better, but we need to make moves that Boris Spassky would envy in order to give everyone bathroom breaks and meals. When the doorbell rings all bets are off. Each dog responds as if the Spanish Inquisition has made a house call.
All this reminds me of a favorite moment in the old “News Radio” episode in which eccentric billionaire and station owner Jimmy James (Steven Root) is bankrolling and starring in a vanity project, a film purporting to tell The Jimmy James Story. The station manager asks how the filming is going. Jimmy responds that so far they have three hours of him feeding his dogs. “Three hours of you feeding dogs!?” exclaims an incredulous and skeptical Dave. Jimmy responds matter-of-factly, “I got a lotta dogs.”
Our lives are busy and fulfilling, and the only way to make them better would be to add you, my friends and the great folks from the neighborhood that will always be our home.
Tom H. Cook remains in exile in Redondo Beach, CA, despite the lure of the new Walker and “coming” improvements to the path on Lake of the Isles. Watch for Sunny and Cooper’s parents on the TNT miniseries “Into The West” this June and July.