Even some bad dogs get treated well

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Being a dog lover doesn’t mean today what it might have meant before people started buying clothes for fragile little canines that will know no life beyond serving as a fashion accessory.

Dogs have long been a part of our society. They can be hunting partners, guards, companions or pampered accessories. People can make a living off dogs by breeding them, fighting them illegally, being their doctor or inventing things for them to play with. Some people rely on dogs to be their eyes; others use dogs to sniff out bombs or drugs.

As useful and beloved as dogs are to some, many just aren’t “dog people” in the way that term has come to mean those that regularly give an animal Eskimo kisses. We’re not talking people that kick puppies for fun but those that would find a dog using the bathtub, well, unacceptable.

My parents would probably fit in this category. Neither is unaccustomed to dogs being around the yard, but, as a youngster, none of my mutts were allowed anywhere near the house. That all changed with Lucy, a chocolate Labrador retriever. Labs have a way of working themselves as close to their owners as possible, so Lucy was hard to keep out of our den, a room shut off from the rest of the house and where a few hairs on a sofa might be overlooked.

We lost Lucy one year and one month ago, and I convinced my semi-retired dad that he needed another dog to keep him company. Molly, a 10 1/2-month-old yellow Lab, is everything sweet-natured Lucy wasn’t. Molly still nips when she’s excited or in the mood to play, her bark is ear splittingly high-pitched, she picks up socks and prances around like it’s going to get her a treat and most of the time she cares little for affection.

But before we can get too mad at her, Molly will have one of her moments, laying her head on my dad’s lap or sprawling out on her back to get a belly rub. Those moments are enough to get Molly pretty much anything she wants from two people that probably wouldn’t have imagined doing such things a decade ago.

The prospect of freezing temperatures Sunday night, for example, earned Molly, an outside dog 90 percent of the time, a chance to sleep in the den. The only problem was that not even cold weather keeps Molly out of a pond adjacent my parents’ house, so she was too smelly to come inside.

Molly got a warm bath in my parents’ tub. Then, she suffered through the blow-dryer. I cleaned up the hair and dirt left in the tub and the water left on the bathroom floor, but my parents agreed Molly would get no more baths inside.

But left with a choice between another mess or a shivering dog, I think I know what they’d pick.