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Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001
Cue the Merrie Melodies Theme Song...

Most everybody I know has a pet, and the ones that don't are scheming for ways to get their landlord into a compromising position so that they'll have the green light on that 'Cute Doberman Who Really Won't Be Any Trouble' scenario.

My wife Ally has frequently been quoted as saying "There will never be a time when I am without a dog in the house." Friends of mine nod sagely and cast sidelong looks my way every time this little missive comes to light. Occasionally, they've been heard to mutter "You got that right, sistah."

Here at Hotel Outfoxed the pet in residence, the Master of Ceremonies is a black Lab mix that we call Flip. Now Flip came north some years ago on the Underground Railroad with Ally-Harriet Tubman while we were already housing a Lab. Only took one visit to South Carolina (she clams it was to visit with her Dad, but I know better) to accomplish this. Which would, if you are following me, make two dogs in one house. Which is double the fun for everybody. Yeah.

Flip has the gift of speech. The kids started it, speaking doggie talk to him every time they scratched his abundant rump.

"Yeah, you like that huh? Ooooooooo, feels good. Uhnnn, hunnnnmmmmmmm, like scratching don't ya Flip?"

He picked right up on that. Now, when being scratched, the moans and groans eminating from the dog sound like the orgasmic soundtrack from a porn flick. Trouble is, they never taught him any other words, so Flip walks around sounding like John Holmes on a mid-70's Euro film.

"Hey Flip, wanna go outside?"

"owooooounnnnnhhh. Mmmmmmmmnnnn. Huf huf oooooooo."

Whassamatter? Cat got your tongue? No need to mince words with me fella, say what's on your mind.

I guess I should sympathize more than I do. They all remind me that he's 9 years old, which is, let's see, 63 in relative dog years. Makes him older than me. Yep, I can relate. This surely explains why he spends 75% of his time laying on someone's bed (not mine, I draw the line at that) and the balance of the day ingesting or recycling food. Throw in a few lusty woofs at a passing car or the mailman and his day is set.

Considering that he never has been, how shall we say it delicately, deballed?, he is remarkably docile. But behind those innocent eyes lies the soul of a Harley Davidson outlaw. His one great passion comes with the invitation of the open door.

Someone, anyone, will be in our house and linger at the front door. Not knowing the Law of Flip. Which is to never hold the storm door open one second longer than is absolutely necessary for your exit. The preferred method is to open the door 8 inches, squeeze through and slam it quickly behind you. Flip will sit in the hall watching expectantly. He will never so much as twitch if he sees that there is no chance of escape. Tremendous concentration and economy of motion, he has. But the rare visitor who has not been adequately warned brings him great delight.

He'll bolt out that door in one great rush, his hip banging the door as he goes. This is no "Oh, pardon me" exit. All that snooze time on Maggie's bed has given him powers far beyond those of mere dogs. Sleepy countenance forgotten, tongue hanging and a silly assed grin on his face, Flip kick starts his motor and heads for the hills. I usually hear all this from the comfort of my easy chair, munching a bag of cashews and tipping a cold one.

Instantly, the rescue-ops team is galvanized into action. One of them will screech the alarm. "The dog's out! Let's go!" Navy Seals have not had any more intensive training than this bunch.

Beth will race down from her room blaring and repeating the summons. The other two kids follow close at hand. It would not totally surprise me to see them sliding down a pole from the second floor. Ally races to kick on her fireman's boots, err... shoes, grabs the leash and dives into the nearest car. The other three set off on foot or bicycle at high speed. As with any good rescue team, time is at a premium here. Because let me tell you, old Flip's got a one minute head start and a head of steam. Ally directs traffic with hand signals from the squad car as brush busting progeny comb the area on foot.

My duties are simple. After about two minutes of scratching my ass and checking the elapsed time, I rise wearily and fill the dogs water dish. Inevitably, after a round of peeing on every bush within a quarter mile radius, Flip will be ready to belly up to the bar upon his return.

And return he will. I have attempted to explain this. His return is assured, aided or otherwise. I mean, how could he rationalize leaving a place where his every whim is granted, where food and drink are only a throaty moan away, and where casual sex can be had by merely proferring his butt for a quick round of double fisted scratching and rubbing?

The troops return, with Flip hanging out the car window, tongue lolling and happy as a crab, having again been "captured" by the commando unit. I sit as a wizened Colonel for the debriefing.

"Hmmm...took you guys almost 4 minutes. You're slipping. How far did he get this time?"

Panting and sweating, and looking far more worn out than Flip, they all give me a dirty look and retire back to their respective bunks. Flip slurps his fresh water and ambles on over to watch some television with me. Bumps my hand with a soggy nose.

"Awww, you old sod. Have a nice run, did you?"

"Oooooooooo ohhh. Mmmmmmmm."

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