Who’s setting an alarm for a dog?

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 13, 2003

Somewhere along the way, I was convinced dogs were an important part of human life. Maybe that’s because of my first encounter with a German shepherd named Rocky.

Through backyard battles, Rocky became a hero of sorts to me when I was five years old. He lost an eye in one fight. In his later years, he walked with a limp and probably needed to have one of his back legs removed.

That’s what a sissy dog would have done, at least. Not Rocky.

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He followed my red dirt bike around the neighborhood. He chased me down the creek, kicking mud and minnows all over the place. Every once in a while, he’d make me really proud and steal a Barbie doll from one of those nasty neighborhood girls.

As with any good dog, Rocky finally found his place in the Big Recliner in the Sky. Since then, I’ve tried to replace the old boy, maybe even with a bit of canine sacrilege.

After Rocky, I have since tried to have Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky IV. Two of them never made it through their toddler months. They were pound dogs and weren’t all that healthy to begin with. Rocky IV became a great friend for three years, but as he grew older, he also grew wiser &045; and apparently wealthier. Rocky IV saved enough money and hired a locksmith who let the dog out of my back yard every day around 11 a.m. One day, Rocky IV never came home.

Before he left for good, I realized Rocky IV and I had some marital problems. It felt like I was never home, and Rocky IV knew it. He’d call me at work, and I’d tell him I was busy. He’d cook me dinner, and I’d save it for breakfast the next morning. Then I really messed up and started dating somebody behind his back.

To make up for the problem, I bought a nanny for Rocky IV. Her name was Carolina (after James Taylor’s great song).

Carolina and Rocky hit it off for a while, but when I moved to Demopolis, I couldn’t find a house and moved into an apartment, instead. Carolina was given to a nice family in Selma and I suppose she can still see the sun shine &045; hope she doesn’t "feel" the moonshine.

All of that leads to the present. A nice couple in Greensboro had a litter of labs, and I went to buy a blonde lab three weeks ago. I came home with a blonde and a black. Neither of them is named Rocky, and neither is named Carolina. Instead, Copperline and Scout now roam around my back yard looking for birds to chase and neighbors at whom they can bark.

They are the first full-blooded dogs I have owned since Rocky I, and already I can tell a difference. For instance, the first Carolina was a knock-off blonde lab. She hated the water. Rocky IV, who divorced me more than a year ago, was a knock off German shepherd (he had some lab and some Australian Huskie and some wiener snitchzel and some squirrel in him). He didn’t bring home Barbie dolls from other peoples’ houses.

But Scout, the black lab, and Copperline, the blonde, have discovered water and won’t stay out of it. In fact, I found Scout standing in (a clean) toilet inside my house the other night. Copperline &045; the girl &045; stood there and watched with her head tilted to one side. Can’t really blame her, either. When I walked in the guest bathroom, I stood there and watched for a few minutes &045; probably with my head tilted, too.

My new family members have discovered other enjoyments inside my house &045; most notably, the corners of each room where they handle outside duties. Their habits have caused me great distress (not to mention the carpeting), and a friend recently gave me a book called "Labrador Retrievers for DUMMIES."

I read one chapter in the book and have decided I am no dummy. (Though I’m running out of space writing about dog memories, the book is the actual reason I’m writing this column.)

Among the tips for training a dog include the following:

Another tip encouraged the following: "Set an alarm in the middle of the night so you can take your dog outside."

And yet another instruction from this writer: "Watch your pup for signs of fatigue. Like young children, young puppies will play like mad and then suddenly collapse. Don’t let your pup overtire herself."

Based on the above stories, I’m obviously not the Crocodile Hunter in terms of animal relationships. However, I would appreciate some readers who have great dog stories to tell me if I’m crazy.

If there are people who watch their dogs 100 percent of the time during the day (or are unemployed) please tell me how I’m supposed to do that. If there are people who have a dog alarm, I’d also like to know. And finally, if there is any dog owner who doesn’t love the sight of his canine collapsing next to the recliner after a hard day of play, please tell me you’re kidding.