The Canine Myth

by Bea Jay


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  Some days, when I look around my house, I wonder how I ever got into raising dogs. I am not the frivolous sort of person who tires of things easily. I started life with a few basic interests, and I still have most of those interests. So why do I occasionally find myself wanting to get rid of my dogs?

I think Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are responsible for the predicament I’m in. On screen, these dogs never slobbered, barfed, rolled in carrion, or did any of the other less attractive things my dogs enjoy doing. Rather, they were always quiet, pristine clean and impeccably well-behaved. Why aren’t my dogs like that?

Our house is set right square dab in the middle of town. People walk past our house every day—just as they have for 15 years. There is nothing strange in this. Do you think the dogs care? Of course not. All day long they bark, bark, bark.

Dogs have no brains—at least none that I know of. One of our local policemen has the same problem. Every time he drives by, which is considerable since the 7-11 is only a few doors away, he honks his horn, or puts on the siren. This stirs the dogs into a frenzy of barking, which seems to amuse the cop. They never show cops or dogs this stupid on TV.

Television is a poor conductor of odor. Dogs on TV never smell bad. Not once has anyone ever seen a canine star roll in a decayed pastrami sandwich, or a dead bird, or any of the other interesting things my dogs have rolled in. And never once have they smelled like they just crawled out of the sewer. Is this truth in advertising?

In the years I watched "Lassie" and "Rin Tin Tin," I never once saw either of them barf on screen. My dogs love to barf. Especially when we are riding in the car. They particularly like to barf in my lap, on my shoes, in the picnic hamper, or the bag of groceries, though they are not limited to these favored areas.

This leads me into my next pet peeve. Before dogs barf, they often drool, though some dogs drool as a matter of principle. Great Danes, Dobermans, Hounds, and the like, are all great droolers. Shelties are big on this too, but they only do it as a prelude to barfing. Lassie and "Rinty" would never be so vulgar.

Then there is the matter of what goes in must come out. It happens in real life, but they never show it on TV. I never once heard someone tell Rusty to go out and scoop the yard.

And worms. The first time I saw a large roundworm, I committed one of the sins I have accused my dogs of. I still go ape whenever I encounter one of these obscene creatures.

Worms are bad, but they are only an infrequent problem. Dirt, on the other hand, is a constant problem. Have you ever smelled dirt from a well-used kennel yard? Still, I could learn to live with the dirt—if I could just get the dogs to obey a few simple ground rules:

No jumping on humans, or furniture, with muddy paws.

No rolling on the ground when it is wet or muddy.

All dogs must dry off when coming into the house on rainy days—before entering the living areas.

All dogs will learn to use a hair dryer and brush to carry out Rule No. 3.

All dogs will take a full bath once a week and use deodorant as necessary.


Fleas are a problem you never see on the small screen—except in a flea spray commercial. Although I heard about fleas growing up, I never experienced the phenomena until long after I had bought my first dog. These creatures breed faster than flies and can jump five feet off the ground. They seem to prefer humans to dogs, especially humans trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Did you ever see a canine star sit down in the middle of the floor and proceed to chase a flea all over his private parts? Did you ever hear the gross sounds that result from this chase? Of course not! I really should have been warned about fleas.

Dogs on TV are always protective of their master’s possessions. My dogs, on the other hand, would hold the bag for any robber that came through the door, especially if the robber was swiping dog combs, brushes, leads, and the like. They might complain about having their dog food taken, but anything else would be fair game. I know this from experience.

Loyalty is another myth often seen portrayed on TV. My dogs are loyal to whomever has the food. They think Lassie was crazy for leaving the good life and trying to make her way back to her poor master. You would never catch any of them being so ignorant.

And so, as I consider all of these things, I wonder why I own dogs. They certainly aren’t the superb creatures portrayed on TV. Or, perhaps I just haven’t bought the right dogs. Does anyone know where I could buy Lassie?

This article appeared in the Summer ’95 issue.

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