Dog days

As Christmas approaches, my thoughts turn to my animal companions. The cast of critters-arranged in order of usefulness-are: basset boydog Rufus, designer cat Sassy, and generic cat Ivory.

Since I wrote about Rufus' struggle with a barking addiction a few weeks back, I've been blessed with a lot of helpful e-mail, most of which carried this message: Rufus belongs in the house, because he needs to be with his pack, which consists of Rufus and the Jowers humans. Well, since we're just one happy pack of equals, I guess I'm going to have to give Rufus a set of house keys, a four-poster bed, a closet full of dog clothes, cable TV, a cell phone, and an Internet connection with shortcuts to dog porn. I'm told I also need to send him to school, where professional dog educators will teach him Dog Latin, and how to use a finger bowl. I'm told that if I fail, Rufus will go tail-chasing, butt-gnawing, head-shaking dog-crazy, and it'll be all my doing.

I sure am glad I learned all this stuff when I did. Clearly, I've got some giving to do. Maybe, if I handle Rufus' first Jowers Christmas just right, I can save him a trip to the nervous-dog hospital.

I guess I'll start with the house keys. All I need is a PetSafe Electronic Dog Door, which I'd insert into the old-fashioned human door that opens to the Jowers backyard. The keys would take the form of an electronic gizmo on Rufus' collar. When he gets within two feet of the door, the door will unlock and let him in. When (well, if) he goes back outside, the door will lock behind him. I could get this done for $84.95, plus labor.

Here's the catch: As soon as Rufus gets in the house, the first thing he'll do is run down and eat cat Ivory, who is morbidly obese, and very slow afoot. Now, before any of you cat people start in on me about cat diet, you should know that poor Ivory was born with a vestigial thyroid gland, about the size of a hackberry. So, for every pound of food Ivory eats, she gains 14 ounces. If we didn't mix a half-bottle of Metamucil into her water every day, she'd explode like a piñata.

Once Rufus had Ivory finished off, he'd go after cat Sassy, who is lithe, nimble, and quick. Problem is, she has no front claws. (Don't start up with me about that either. She came that way.)

Given Sassy's preternatural leaping ability and Rufus' reckless nature, I'm sure the chase would end up with every useful thing in the Jowers house destroyed. Eventually, Sassy would miss a leap, and Rufus would polish her off like one of those one-bite frozen quiches.

So, what's a good dog caregiver to do? I could do like some of the neighbors, and make the cats live in the basement until they die of old age. But that seems a little harsh. I could give the cats away, but I'm sure no sane person would take them. That means I have to either keep the status quo, or go hunting for a soft-hearted crazy person to take the cats.

Or, maybe there's another solution. Let me suggest this: One of you entrepreneurial types should start up a little service called Catnappers. Here's how it would work: A person troubled by disappointing cats would call you, give you an address, then leave a hundred-dollar bill and a house key under the doormat. Sometime while that person is at work, you'd come to the house, remove the cats, and humanely relocate them. Of course, you'd have to be licensed, bonded, and insured, and you'd have to send pictures of the cats living in their new, happy homes, every Christmas. You could charge, oh, about $20 a year for that little lagniappe. If this sounds like a good job, let me know. I might just be able to hook you up with, say, $120 in venture capital.

Now, back to Rufus' Christmas. I can get him a four-poster bed and a closet full of clothes at www.luxurydog.com. No doubt, Rufus would enjoy the bed, but I don't think he'd wear the clothes. He likes going naked. When the Jowers women tried to put reindeer antlers on him for our Christmas card picture, he wouldn't have it.

Cell phone, cable TV, Internet dog porn, no problem. I've got all that already, with plenty to spare. Rufus is welcome to it.

Even though I appreciate all the fine advice I've gotten lately, I'm going to pass on dog school. Just about every dog-school graduate I've met either chews through table legs, pees every time a person walks into the room, or both. If I were going to send Rufus to school, I'd want him trained to hunt squirrels and possums, which are his natural prey. That way, Rufus could bring home dinner like a useful family member, and he and I could whip up a nice stew together.

I'll try to give the Jowers' animals a nice Christmas, I promise. If nothing else, there will be giblets for everybody on Christmas day-heaping piles of 'em if I let Rufus in the house.