67: Tim Russell Is in Hiding

67: Tim Russell Is in Hiding

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

Tim Russell Is in Hiding

Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement.

~Charles M. Schulz

The phone rang. I did not know it was for the dog so I answered it.


“Mrs. Russell?”

“No.” Usually only telemarketers called and asked for Mrs. Russell; my name is Farmer.

“Is this the residence of Tim Russell?”

“Tim Russell is my dog.” I spoke the truth. Our secondary phone line was listed under our Jack Russell’s name so we could avoid paying the phone company’s unlisted fee.

“Your dog?” The rude person did not identify herself.


“I see. You named your dog Tim Russell?” she laughed suspiciously.

“Yes.” I was aggravated.

“May I speak to him?”

She must be kidding, I thought, “Sure.”

How was I to know she was not a telemarketer?

“Timber!” I yelled and laid the phone on the floor. Timber ran over and loudly snarfelled the receiver, expecting it to be a treat. I resisted the urge to command him to speak. Leaving the phone on the floor, I continued with my e-mails. Tim went back to his nap when he discovered the phone was not food. Eventually a tone emanated from the receiver so I hung it up. Whoever it was did not call back.

Originally I thought it was a brilliant move to list our secondary phone line under the dog’s name. I got a kick out of handing it off to him when unwanted callers asked for “Tim Russell.” Lesson one was never underestimate the absurdity of this world. Someday I may learn that others are more practiced at absurdity than I am.

Tim Russell is now in hiding. It is not a good idea to let your dog talk on the phone. A month after the last doggie phone chat, he received a bill from a local hospital. I laughed and then shredded the bill. Surely reality would triumph.

The next bill came from a collection agency. I wondered if I should respond. I wondered if my dog’s credit rating would be ruined if I did not. I wondered if I could get credit cards in his name and run up the bills. With credit, could he get a mortgage for a luxury dog house? I wondered if a dog owner is responsible for the dog’s credit because the owner is the dog’s legal guardian or if it was because the dog was under eighteen. I was confused. Admittedly, I was amused the dog was getting a bill.

Out of politeness and naïveté, I called the collection agency to explain that the only hospital my dog had visited was Dr. Dan’s Vet Clinic and that we did not owe him anything.

Lesson two was never call a collection agency out of politeness. I was in tears of frustration trying to explain that Tim was a dog. How many different ways can one state a simple, uncomplicated truth? He is a dog. He barks. He chews on bones. He chases cats. He even eats dog food. During the whole conversation, Timber sat and watched me intently, no doubt wondering why I kept repeating his name into the phone. I did not let him talk!

Evidently I did not do a good enough job explaining as we continued to get billed for some other Tim Russell’s unpaid hospital visit.

Vainly trying to be a good citizen, I called the hospital and explained the problem. I pleaded for them to get the collection agency off my back. The billing clerk was very understanding. She even got a good chuckle from the mistake. She said she would gladly correct it.

Collection agencies are the Pit Bulls of the money world. We continued to get threats and collection notices. I disconnected the phone number listed under the dog’s name but the notices continued. I wrote nasty letters to the collection agency. That did not help.

As a last ditch attempt to stop the collection agency harassment, I sent them a picture of Tim, a copy of his AKC registration and a copy of his latest vet bill marked PAID. I suggested that they call the vet if they had any further questions. Perhaps if they called Doctor Dan, he could more clearly explain that my Jack Russell Terrier is a dog and that it was unlikely he had been treated at the local hospital.

Finally, we moved. The move was totally unrelated to Tim Russell’s $165 hospital bill. However, I did not request Tim Russell’s mail be forwarded. Our new phone is not in his name.

I have not heard from the collection agency since. My only fear is that they will put out an arrest warrant for Tim. No doubt they will send a canine unit.

~Jane Marie Allen Farmer

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