Friday, April 28, 2006


One Tired Pup

Last night, while the family went to a potluck supper at Sarah's school, Oreo had a three-hour playdate with Mickey. I wondered if the two of them could play at their usual pace for that long. Well, it turns out that they can't. When Cheryl picked up Oreo at Mickey's house, Mickey's owner said that they would play, then rest for awhile and then play again. So even one-year old dogs apparently have their limits.

When Oreo arrived home, he was one tired pup. Dishevelled and lacking in energy, he spent most of the evening just lying around. Every night when I'm sitting on the sofa watching TV, Oreo will come around with his chew toy and insist that we play tug-of-war and fetch for awhile. Last night was no exception but the poor pup didn't have his heart in it. When I threw the toy to the other end of the room, instead of bouncing over to get it like he usually does, he slowly walked over to pick it up. And instead of the usual two dozen rounds of "fetch the chew toy", last night's game ended after three tosses.

Oreo's playdate with Mickey definitely took its toll. Long before his usual bedtime, I spotted the pooped pup curled up asleep on his dog bed next to the piano. The lights were still on but for Oreo it was definitely lights out.

Last night underscored my dad's favorite maxim: "Raising kids is much like raising dogs." There's a lot of truth to that observation. If you want your kid/dog to go to bed early then run him ragged and he'll be asleep before you know it. The problem is that if you have to be the playmate, you'll be in bed by 9 o'clock, too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Dog Bites Boot

Like death and taxes, it was inevitable. Oreo just destroyed his first pair of footwear. Luckily for me (and him), the footwear was not mine. Sadly for Sarah, it was hers.

Apparently Sarah forgot to put her fancy new black boots back in the front hall closet. And that's all it took to tempt Oreo. By the time his misdeed was discovered, the boots were history. Not both boots, mind you. Just the left one. But he might as well have devoured the pair whole considering the damage he did.

At first glance, it looked as if there was just a minor tear on the left boot. But on closer inspection, it turned out that the minor tear severed one of the zipper tracks. I suspect that the cost of repairing the tear and replacing the zipper would be more than the original price of the boots.

Sarah is upset and disappointed. I think she was even a little angry at Oreo. But, of course, her anger didn't last. She truly loves her dog.

I, on the other hand, am now living in fear. Like a vampire's first taste of blood, I suspect that a dog's first mouthful of shoe leather just whets his appetite for more. Starting today, I am redoubling my shoe surveillance efforts. I know Oreo will strike again; I just don't want to be his next victim.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Support Your Local Vet

My daughter Sarah is ten years old but is already wise beyond her years. For the last few months, she has been carefully mapping out her future life. She already knows what size house she wants (three bedroom), where it will be located (in our current neighborhood) and what type of furniture it will have (probably IKEA).

As part of this ongoing exercise in planning, Sarah has also considered what career she should pursue. So far, she has thought about becoming a lawyer, a personal shopper, a professional dancer and an aesthetician. Her latest career choice is pediatrician.

All this is fine and good. But after last week, I am strongly urging Sarah to become a veterinarian. Once again Oreo made a trip to our local vet. It seems part of his recent scratching episode was due to an ear infection.

Cheryl took the pup to the vet last Friday. This time it was for what I assumed would be a quick diagnosis and some medication to put in Oreo's ear. So I was surprised to learn that the bill came in at $220.

It turns out that the latest bill also covers costs for some ongoing medications that all dogs need. But still, most of the cost was for spotting and treating a simple ear infection.

In a little over a year, we've already racked up vet bills totalling about $1,500. And it's not as if Oreo has experienced anything that unusual. There was the neutering operation and the stitches for his puncture wound. But everything else was just routine puppy medical maintenance.

So from now on, when Sarah wants to discuss her future employment plans with me, I'm going to stress to her that three-bedroom homes don't come cheaply and that she might want to consider a career as a vet. Especially if she ever hopes to be able to afford to own a dog.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Mickey, The Dog Not The Mouse

While rummaging through Cheryl's photo collection on our hard drive (Is rummaging the right word for computer browsing?), I came across this picture of Oreo playing with his friend Mickey. Mickey's owners live on a nearby street and occasionally Oreo and the Mickster get together in one of their backyards for a puppy playdate.

It's a treat to watch these two overgrown pups play. They wrestle and growl and nip at one another without stopping for as long as an hour. At times it sounds like a battle to the death but for dogs, it's all in good fun. After they're finished, Oreo comes home exhausted and, because he's a furry breed, coated in dog drool. I'm fine with the former which means no need to walk or play with a tired dog but the drool I can live without.

Mickey has introduced me to another in a seemingly endless series of anthropomorphic dog activities. Not only do owners dress up their dogs, feed them human food and otherwise treat them like people. Now they also throw birthday parties for their mutts.

Oreo has been invited to Mickey's first birthday party next month. Apparently there will be a gathering of several dogs in Mickey's backyard and I believe there will be presents and perhaps even an Alpo cake. No word yet on whether an aging, alcoholic, chain-smoking dog will dress up as a clown and provide the entertainment. Stay tuned.

Update on Oreo's behaviour: Perhaps I spoke too soon the other day when I said that Oreo's a well-behaved dog. This morning I came downstairs and found a small stuffed toy mouse dangling from his mouth. The toy's right foot had been severed and the small beads from its innards were spread about the living room carpet. Apparently someone forgot to close the door to Sarah's bedroom. Oh well, this is not the first casualty from Sarah's menagerie and it's not likely to be the last. I'm just thankful she doesn't have one of those giant teddy bears whose stuffing could likely cover an entire room.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Not A Bad Dog

Although I suspect all dogs misbehave somewhat (especially those that are only a year old), I'm beginning to realize that Oreo is really not such a bad dog. Of course he manages to occasionally unwind the toilet roll and pilfer food left too close to the edge of the table and not come when called. But overall, he's pretty good.

Oreo is even-tempered, mild-mannered and reasonably well-behaved. He doesn't bark when people come to the door. He doesn't knock visitors over. And he's great with kids. That's pretty much the canine trifecta as far as I can see.

I got to observe Oreo in a social setting last night. We went to my in-laws for Easter dinner and Oreo came along. Although there were twelve people present, he didn't get overly excited or make a nuisance of himself.

At one point, he tried to snatch a game piece or two from a board game. But after several warnings, he seemed to get the idea that swallowing a Trivial Pursuit wedge wasn't a good idea for us or him. One other faux pas ('faux paw?') occurred when someone left their piece of cake unattended on the dining room table. Oreo managed to get in a couple of good licks before the cake was rescued.

Oh yes, there was one more minor violation of the social code. Generally hosts expect their guests not to lick the silverware. But when a dishwasher door is opened and no one is looking, it's hard to blame a doggie for wanting to help with the cutlery cleaning. Oh well, at least I won't be eating there tonight.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Fleas, Please

Here's a photo of Oreo from his extra-cute puppy days. As with children, one tends to occasionally get nostalgic for those supposedly simpler times. Except that they weren't simpler times. Puppies and babies are pretty much the same. They eat, poop, cry and sleep and the sooner you can get them past that stage, the better.

But there is one thing about Oreo's puppyhood that I miss: the absence of scratching. For some reason, the poor guy has taken to scratching himself frequently of late.

Cheryl says she's going to take him to the vet which is probably the sensible thing to do. But going to the vet is much like taking your car to the garage. Just walking through the door is going to cost you at least a hundred dollars and, more often than not, you'll end up forking out several times that amount.

A quick trip through Googleland on the Web revealed that, as with most things canine, scratching is not necessarily a simple matter. Yes, it could be fleas. But it could also be allergies, any one of a number of dermatological ailments or even a psychological condition requiring the services of a pet psychologist and a new line of credit at the bank.

All that to say that for the first time in my life, I'm hoping that Oreo has fleas. It's treatable and for relatively little expense. And in the world of dogs, that's the best that you can hope for.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


A New Dog

The photo on the left gives you a good idea of what Oreo usually looks like. He's a handsome dog with a full coat and a definite doggy-like demeanor.

Unfortunately, Oreo no longer looks like his picture. Yesterday was haircut day and our handsome PWD now looks like a cross between a poodle and an overcooked weiner dog.

It seems that Oreo's fur gets easily matted. And unless someone (namely, Cheryl) finds time to brush him hourly, he is destined to experience the heartbreak of tangled hair and probably even split ends. Not that Oreo really cares. Like most dogs, he is virtually ego-free.

But this matting business means that when Oreo goes for a haircut, the person who does the job (trimmer? shearer? stylist?) has to give him something resembling a doggy brush cut. So our once substantial, proud dog all of a sudden appears to have lost half of his mass and half of his nobility.

The final insult is that the doggy stylist leaves the end of Oreo's tail uncut. Well not exactly uncut. She forms his end-of-tail hair into a giant ball like the ones seen on poodles and certain car radio antennas.

It is a sad sight to see our once proud dog walking around half naked with a poodle puff on the end of his tail. Cheryl trimmed the ball down to a smaller size but the effect still remains. Sadly, only time will grow Oreo's fur back and restore the proud Porty we once had.

Monday, April 10, 2006


The Porty Walk

No, the Porty walk is not the Lippizanner-style prance that Oreo affects when he proudly trots down the street. The Porty walk is a monthly gathering of Portuguese Water Dog owners at the local dog run.

This event takes place the second Sunday of every month and Cheryl has been meaning to join in for some time now. Yesterday she was determined to finally take Oreo to meet his fellow PWDs. And for some strange reason, I decided that I wanted to go, too.

First off, I'd never been to the local dog run. It's a place called Conroy Pit, a name that conjures up images of an abandoned mining site or a giant chasm for disposing of dog poop. Apparently it is neither but is simply a wooded trail where dogs can run and play off-leash.

And second, I was intrigued by the possibility that Oreo might meet one of his siblings on the Porty walk. Since there is only one local PWD breeder, it stands to reason that Oreo would meet some relatives and maybe even one or two members of his litter. I was curious to see how he might react to such a meeting.

As it turns out, we didn't make the Porty walk. Other things came up including the requisite Sunday afternoon nap. So we'll have to wait for next month's gathering of PWDs and hope that we can finally facilitate a family reunion for Oreo.

Today is Oreo's grooming appointment and, since he has some matting, he's likely to be shorn to the bone. So at least by next month's gathering, he'll have some hair back and should again look like a Portuguese Water Dog instead of an anorexic poodle.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?

As I backed out of the driveway this morning, I saw Oreo looking at me through the front curtains. Which begged the question: "How much is that doggy in the window?"

Well, it turns out that I recently made that calculation. In a moment of pique after some Oreo mishap, I sat down at my desk and toted up the expenses we had incurred on Oreo's behalf over the last year.

First there was the $1700 that Cheryl spent to acquire the pup. Then there was the cost of the new backyard gate, the carpet on the stairs, the baby gates in the kitchen, the dog crate, the dog toys, the dog bowls and the dog food. In the past year, there have also been several vet visits including two involving surgery, medication and coneheads. Finally, there was the stay at the doggy resort (more about that later).

When I added everything up, I was surprised, shocked and angered to discover that we had already spent $5,000 on Oreo. This was one expensive puppy.

Just to torture myself, I imagined what we could have had this year instead of a dog for the grand sum of $5,000. A vacation? A new bathroom? A big-screen TV? Ten cats?

Actually, scratch the cats. If forced to choose, it's an easy decision: I am NOT a cat person. So, if we had to throw away $5,000, I guess I'd rather have one dog than ten cats. But, so far, I still would have preferred the big-screen TV.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Dressing Your Pet

After reading my entry for last December, my friend Lucie sent me this picture of another dog burdened with a Santa hat. I don't know if you can tell from the photo but it's clear that this poor little mutt is not enjoying the experience.

I spoke to Oreo last night about this whole treating dogs like people business and suggested that we form a new organization to fight this unwarranted harassment. I took his silence as a sign of assent.

This anthropomorphizing of animals has gotten out of hand. As Lucie says, the only thing dogs should wear is a bandana and I'm not even sure about that unless, of course, it's a macho bandana. Then again, after this spring's experience, I may be willing to make an exception for rubber boots for dogs so long as they're not pink.

I raised the possibility of making our new organization all-inclusive so that it would also cover cats and other pets. Oreo's repeated barking suggests that he is of the view that cats can look after their own.


A False Spring

I used to love spring. It was a time of rebirth and renewal and all that good poetic stuff. More daylight, more sun and warmer temperatures. What's not to like?

Well, thanks to Oreo, spring has become a bit of a chore. Actually, it has become two chores. The first has to do with what happens to the snow and the ground in the spring. That's right; the snow disappears and the ground turns to mud.

So when Oreo goes on a long walk or even takes a short romp in the backyard, he comes back in the house loaded with mud. His paws are muddy, his belly is muddy and, if he has decided to do a bit of digging, his chin is muddy, too.

What this entails is stopping Oreo at the door, holding him by the collar and attempting to clean off his paws and anything else bearing dirt. Given Oreo's reluctance to cooperate in this process, I usually have about thirty seconds to get as much mud off of him as I can.

Needless to say, this method has limited success. After the wipe down, Oreo proceeds to walk through the kitchen, the living room and the dining room. And if there was any doubt as to where he went, all I have to do is follow the paw prints throughout the house.

And when we follow the paw prints, we discover another springtime gift from Oreo: little clumps of black or white fur. One of the major advantages of owning a Portuguese Water Dog is that they supposedly don't shed. And, in fact, they don't shed. But apparently every spring they do molt.

For the last few weeks, we have been awash in Oreo fur. Every room in the house has its share of little fluffs of fur left behind by our new pet. We have quickly become accustomed to picking up these little gifts as we walk about the house. And Cheryl's once-weekly vacuuming of the living room and front hallway has turned into a daily chore.

Hopefully, this molting process is temporary and will stop. By then, however, spring will have passed. What was once a hopeful season has now become a canine-centric series of cleanup chores.

One final new sign of spring is what appears in the backyard when the snow melts. Although Cheryl is fairly good about winter poop patrols, it's impossible to find or retrieve all of Oreo's wintertime productions. Luckily, this spring cleaning task is not my responsibility.

Until the ground outside dries out, the molting stops and all the poop is found and discarded, we are destined to have rags, mops, brooms, vacuum cleaners and pooper scoopers close at hand at both the front and back doors. The once golden days of spring seem to have lost just a bit of their lustre.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The First Year

March 24, 2005

According to reliable sources, this is Oreo's birthday. Excitement mounts among two of the three Martin household members as "our" puppy's arrival is only two months away. Of course, at this point, we don't know that Oreo is ours. He is simply one of a litter of eight waiting to be chosen by Cheryl and Sarah.

April 20, 2005

Cheryl and Sarah visit the breeder and make their decision. Based on the breeder's assurance that he is not the dominant one in the litter, they choose a little black and white puppy and Sarah names him Oreo. D-Day is only four weeks away.

May, 2005

I like dogs. I really do. I just don’t want to live with one.

After years of endless lobbying by my wife and daughter, I finally relented and agreed to get a dog. Since my wife Cheryl is allergic to canines, our choice of breeds was limited. But after much research, Cheryl and Sarah settled on a Portuguese Water Dog, a non-shedding breed that I assumed, from its name, would be happier in Halifax or Rio de Janeiro than in landlocked Ottawa.

Despite my reservations (after all, the PWD is described as a medium to large-sized dog), Cheryl put down a deposit with a breeder for one of the puppies from a recent litter. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of an ongoing series of dog-related financial outlays.

The puppy himself cost Cheryl $1700, an amount that served to immediately dilate my pupils to their maximum aperture. And, of course, there were expenditures on high-end crates, bowls, toys, treats and food.

But that was only the beginning. As with any new arrival, it’s necessary to baby-proof the house. That meant baby gates for each of the three entrances to the kitchen.

It also meant a new $800 Afghan rug to cover the five steps to the upper level. Although I’d been climbing them for years with my arthritic hips, apparently dogs shouldn’t be walking up hardwood steps. Something about bone development and possible hip dysplasia.

Not only did the house have to be properly prepared for our new pet. The backyard had to be brought up to standard, too. That meant $300 for a gate and the purchase of assorted pieces of wood to block any escape routes under and around the fence.

I didn’t recall such elaborate preparations for Sarah’s arrival nine years earlier. As I remember it, poor Sarah had to make do with a secondhand crib, dresser and change table and a small throw rug from Walmart. Then again, we hadn’t paid $1700 for her.

May 20, 2005

Finally, D-day arrived. Cheryl and Sarah headed out one sunny Saturday morning and returned that afternoon with a cute, black and white ball of fur that Sarah had christened Oreo.

Since I was the only reluctant prospective dog owner in the family, I was repeatedly asked if I liked Oreo which, of course, I did. As I said, I like dogs. And who could resist an adorable, black and white puppy even if he did bite, chew and pee at will?

July, 2005

Oreo was likeable enough but what I didn’t like were the changes that Oreo brought with him. For years, I could make a quick trip from our living room to the rec room in the basement. Not anymore.

Now that same trip involves stepping over one baby gate, navigating a makeshift extra step and undoing and re-hitching a second gate. And if I forget to bring something, I have to repeat the entire process two more times.

At one point, I sensed that Cheryl was sympathizing with my new plight. Especially when she asked if I had any problems with the new makeshift step. When I said it wasn’t too bad and thanks for thinking of me, she said that she wasn’t asking for my sake but wanted to know if it would be OK for Oreo.

Cheryl had earlier informed me that from Oreo’s perspective, she was dominant and thus qualified as the so-called alpha bitch. After her somewhat insensitive comment about the step, I was tempted to concur in that observation but ultimately thought better of it.

Which was just as well since, contrary to expectations, my predicted role as the alpha male was not coming to fruition. Oreo seemed to pay no more deference or respect to me than he did to the kitchen floor which was quickly becoming his preferred voiding area.

Instead, I was rapidly descending our household hierarchy and apparently destined for the number four position. At that point, I was just thankful that we didn’t have a gerbil or a hamster to compete with for the penultimate rung on the family ladder.

August, 2005

Despite the new inconveniences, the lifestyle changes and my many misgivings, things progressed fairly well. Oreo didn’t have any long, whiny nights and he adjusted fairly quickly to his new home. Who knows? Perhaps he is a discriminating puppy and appreciated that we had provided him with the best in dog bowls and high-end, Afghan stair carpeting.

But the expenses continue. $135 for the first vet visit, $250 for five sessions with a dog trainer who I suspect is training us, not the dog. And an unspecified future outlay for enrollment in doggie obedience school.

I’d like to say that it’s all been worth it, that Oreo is one priceless, lovable puppy. But I’m not quite at that stage yet. Hopefully some day I’ll be as attached to him as he appears to be to my pant leg and slippers.

September, 2005

I'm still not used to the idea of having a dog around the house 24/7. Like your own shadow, you can never get away. And unlike your own shadow, a dog manages to leave things lying around that you can step on and trip over.

But despite my ambivalence about Oreo's presence, this month I really did feel some empathy for the poor mutt. This was the month that Oreo got, as the vet euphemistically put it, "neutered."

Neutered somehow doesn't quite capture what happened to the poor guy. What happened, of course, was that he had his two testicles lopped off. Well, to be more accurate, he had one lopped off and the second, undescended one required an extra incision or two to get at. I don't know who was more upset, Oreo at losing his not yet realized manhood or me after discovering that the extra incisions added about $200 to the vet bill.

November, 2005

As part of the ironclad contract that I entered into as part of getting a dog, I made it clear that I was not obligated to do anything. That meant no feeding, no brushing, no walking and no poop patrol.

But, like most ironclad contracts, this one seemed to have a lot of flexibility built in. So, over time, I started taking on some minor duties. Since I was the early riser in the family, I would let Oreo out to pee and then feed him. Then I'd let him out again and track down the inevitable pile of poop somewhere in the back yard.

On occasion, I even agreed to walk the dog. If Cheryl and Sarah were away, I would take a short constitutional with Oreo complete with the mandatory plastic bag to collect any of his leavings. I continued to ask myself the philosophical question: "How far has man really advanced when he now has to stoop and collect canine feces with a plastic bag?"

One cool November evening, I was obliged (or more accurately, reluctantly agreed) to walk Oreo since Cheryl and Sarah were out shopping. In a rush to get this chore over and done with, I quickly grabbed the leash and a plastic bag but forgot to take my keys.

Once we returned from our walk, I discovered my oversight. Never mind, I thought, I'll just retrieve the spare house key from its secure, ten-year hiding place. Except when I checked in the secure, ten-year hiding place, the key was gone. The surrounding signs suggested that someone had recently moved it.

As the temperature dropped and Oreo grew restless, I contemplated my dilemma. Cheryl and Sarah wouldn't be home for at least two hours and I had no desire to stand outside in the freezing weather any longer than I had to. So I put Oreo in the backyard and prevailed on one of my neighbors to use their phone to call my in-laws to rescue me.

And rescue me they did. My brother-in-law kindly drove over with a spare key and let me in the house where I spent the next two hours fuming about my lockout. And when Cheryl got home, she confirmed that she had moved the spare key but had forgotten to mention it to me. She and Sarah and (I suspect) Oreo had a good laugh over my mishap as I stomped off to bed muttering about my dog-besotted life.

December, 2005

Over and above the usual stresses and strains of the yuletide season, this year we have to endure doggy's first Christmas. Much like having a new infant in the house, everyone wants to live the holiday season through the eyes of the newcomer.

All of this added celebration is not much of a strain on me. After all, I'm not picking out Christmas tree decorations for Oreo or agonizing over what chew toy to put under the tree for him.

But one thing did disturb me. It's not that Oreo and I had become that close. But this was kind of a guy thing. Oreo was being made to wear a red Santa hat when he went out for his daily walks. Maybe he and I didn't always get along but this was not fair and someone had to defend the poor guy's honor.

Cheryl and Sarah, of course, thought it was "so cute" that the poor bastard had to wear a Santa hat. They never stopped to imagine how it must have been for Oreo to meet other dogs in the neighborhood and look like a fool.

While Cheryl and Sarah continued to dress up the dog, I continued to stand up for his right to walk down the street with at least some modicum of dignity. Finally, after pleading his case for a week, they relented and packed the Santa hat away. Sadly, unless I can find and destroy it, I suspect it is destined to become an annual ritual.

January, 2006

I love roast beef. Next to slow-barbecued ribs, I think it's my favorite meal in the world. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me that dogs like roast beef almost as much, if not more than, I do.

As I often do, one Sunday night I cooked up a delicious sirloin roast for dinner complete with vegetables, potatoes and gravy. And, as I always do, I put out my large cutting board on the kitchen counter to cut the roast.

All was going well. The vegies were done, the potatoes were cooked and the gravy was almost perfect. I carved slices off the roast and made three plates for us to enjoy dinner in front of the TV.

As I carried the plates downstairs to the rec room, I heard a slight thump from the kitchen. Almost immediately, I knew what had happened.

I dashed up the stairs to find Oreo with the remains of the roast in his canine clutches. I yelled the univeral dog command "Drop it!" as loud as I could and lunged for my remaining roast.

Luckily, I caught him just in time and managed to wrestle the beef from his mouth before he devoured it. And since he had only managed to get one small bite from the roast, I sliced off the chewed end, ran the remainder under the faucet and packed it away in the fridge. All of which proved to me that, in fact, I did love roast beef more than Oreo.

February, 2006

Just when I thought that the doggie expenses had slowed, Oreo created a new way to put a dent in our bank account.

Somehow he managed to get a puncture wound in his side. It turned out that it wasn't a dog bite. But whatever it was, it required an emergency trip to the vet for some stitches and a $300 bill.

As with his "neutering" operation, this medical procedure resulted in a return visit of "Oreo the Conehead." Most dog owners will be familiar with this device - a plastic cone that fits over the dog's neck to prevent him from licking and/or eating his stitches to hopefully avoid another trip to the vet.

All I can say is that I was glad for the advances in conehead technology that had apparently taken place between the time of Oreo's de-nutting operation and his current medical procedure. Whereas the first cone required strings to be tied in an awkward fashion, the new, improved cone had Velcro straps for easy installation.

Even with the Velcro straps, the cone was no treat. It was clearly no fun for Oreo but it was even less fun for us. Taking off the cone was not a difficult task but trying to put it on a reluctant dog was somewhat like trying to thread a needle underwater.

Oreo was supposed to wear the cone for three weeks but we gave up after two. I figured if it required an extra vet bill, at this point, it was almost worth it.


The Story Begins

January, 2005

Two years ago, I caved in to the plaintive cries of my wife and daughter and agreed that we could get a dog. Cheryl promptly proceeded to put a deposit down on a yet-to-be-born Bichon Friese, a small, dog-like creature that seemed more stuffed toy than canine. Seven-year old Sarah was thrilled and couldn't wait to have her own doggie.

Luckily for me, at the last minute, Cheryl got cold feet and backed out of the whole venture. The loss of the deposit was a small price to pay for the incredible relief I felt at having avoided dog ownership. The downside was how to placate Sarah. I came up with the brilliant idea of getting her a fish tank and some fish to put in her room. This managed to stem the tears and allowed us to "move on with our lives."

Over the following year, one of the Neons in the fish tank died, a probable victim of the blue Beta fish. The Beta was subsequently separated from the remaining Neons but met his own demise when he somehow jumped out of the temporary container Cheryl put him into and presumably made his way through the grates of the heat vent in Sarah's room and on to a likely dessicated end somewhere in the heating ducts of our house.

When the remaining Neons finally bit the dust, I dismantled the fish tank and associated apparatus and stored them in the basement. The fish-owning stage of our family history was now complete and nothing remained but to live out my life in pet-free bliss.

But things have a way of happening when you're not paying close attention. Cheryl and Sarah re-started their dog-acquisition campaign and, in a moment of weakness, I again relented. And this time, Cheryl decided not to go with the small, yappy, dog-like creature called a Bichon Friese but instead opted for a Portuguese Water Dog.

The irony of the situation is that both Cheryl and Sarah are allergic to dogs. But that didn't stop them from pursuing their demented dream of dog ownership. According to doggie legend, there are two so-called hypoallergenic breeds that allergy-prone people can tolerate - the Bichon and the PWD.

So here I sit anticipating a new chapter in our family life. Cheryl has paid the outrageous sum of $1700 to claim one of the upcoming litter of Portys which will soon be available at a local breeder. As the excitement mounts in the Martin household, I await future events with a silent sense of foreboding.

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