From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Who Let the Dogs Out?

It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.

Garry Marshall

Every summer, Jim, Marsha, and I spent at least two fun-filled weeks with Aunt Erma, my mother’s older sister, and Uncle Leonard at their home in Madison, Wisconsin.

Uncle Leonard owned hunting dogs: six or so at any given time, usually beagles or Labradors. Marsha, Jim, and I were dog people. To us, dogs were part of the family. They lived in the house, ate, slept, and played with you like a friend. They may even learn tricks. After all, our dog, Chip, back home did. One summer, we discovered that this wasn’t the case with Uncle Leonard’s hunting dogs.

Diamond and Valarie, yellow Labradors, were mother and father to five puppies. They lived outside in fenced doghouses with runs where they could exercise. Diamond lived in one pen, and Valarie and the pups lived in another pen all year, even during the winter.

“Don’t they get cold?” I asked Uncle Leonard.

“If dogs live inside, they get spoiled and can’t do their work,” he replied, which didn’t answer my question about being cold. I figured that outside dogs must be stronger and tougher than inside dogs. After all, they earned their keep by being good hunting dogs. “Hunting dogs are not for child’s play,” Uncle Leonard used to tell us.

But we felt sorry for the dogs. They never got to enjoy being inside with people. So one day, we let them come inside. It was Jim’s idea. We wanted to give them a nice afternoon playing in the house, away from the heat and the flies.

“Come on,” he said. “Uncle Leonard won’t mind.”

Valarie walked in first and began sniffing around curiously. She was no problem at all. But as soon as Diamond entered the house, he immediately began to “mark his territory.” That meant he peed on the legs of every piece of furniture in the house. We were amazed by how big this dog’s bladder must be (and I guess it was full) because even though he left his mark everywhere, there seemed to be plenty to go around. First, he hit the dining-room table, then the chair next to the sofa, the coffee table, and whatever else he could leave a few droplets on as we chased him from room to room.

“You go left, and I’ll go right,” Jim said. “Maybe we can corner him in the kitchen.”

Marsha, our little sister, just sat on the sofa laughing hysterically as Jim and I chased him through the house. We learned that Diamond was really good at tag (which he decided we were playing). As we slipped on every throw rug in the house, we were fortunate that nothing was destroyed in the process. Nothing was truly damaged except our pride.

“Here comes Uncle Leonard!” Marsha cried.

That was the first and last time we saw Uncle Leonard get really mad at us. “What in the world have you kids done?” he demanded.

He mumbled under his breath as he walked to the garage and returned with two pails, a mop, and several rags. True to his gentle nature, though, he didn’t tell Aunt Erma on us. She would have punished us big time. He just made us clean every speck of pee on the floor and furniture, and figured that the clean-up was punishment enough.

We wiped and mopped for over an hour. Every chair leg had to be disinfected. Aunt Erma never knew what we had done. When she returned home, she sniffed the air and casually asked, “Why do you kids smell like Lysol?” We just shrugged our shoulders and ran quickly out of the back door.

Arlene Y. Burke

off the mark.com      by Mark Parisi

Reprinted by permission of Off the Mark and Mark Parisi. ©2000 Mark Parisi.

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