Teaching A New Dog Old Tricks

I emerged from three weeks of a sugar-free, fat-free, protein-free waterlogged dieter's cocoon. I was eight pounds thinner, looked the same as ever, and all of my teeth were loose.

"See anything different?" I asked.

A friend made note that my face seemed a little thinner. After three weeks of starving and an eight pound loss, I was hoping for a more encouraging accolade than "Are those your cheekbones?" (No, I rented them.) I was aiming for sexy, not a zoftig pillowy body topped with a three ounce dried walnut of a bony head. This meant I would have to fall back on emergency dieting measures that strike whole orchestras of horror in my soul. I knew I was going to have to exercise.

I hate exercise. The thought of joining the ranks of formidable, resolute power walkers, crazed joggers plugged into Susan Powder tapes, jumpy Richard Simmons fanatics and iron-thighed, terryclothed tennis players gives me hives. I'd rather clean house than exercise. If you saw my house, you'd know that is saying a lot.

I had it on the advice of a thin-minded person that the painless answer to my weight problem would be getting a dog. "Walk it four or five times a day," he said, "The weight will drop off."

So I was off to the store for a sweat suit, running shoes, industrial strength socks and a dog-training book called "Super Puppy." Yes Daniel, I am pushing your book.

Hence, Holly came into my life. Holly, a Lab/Dalmatian mix from the dog pound. Holly--ne้ Hollywood, dubbed by virtue of her pooping on the Hollywood Pet store logo. Her first walk concluded with her discovery of the lake, then her, swimming for an hour in lunatic circles trailing her leash, ducks and feathers scattering. Picture a wet, zoftig, walnut-headed woman--me--lurching around the sucky mud-bottomed lake, lunging for a leash always just a little out of reach. If the leash hadn't caught on the north end of a southbound statue of Robert E Lee, we'd still be playing ring around the rosy round the Holly of the lake. Holly caught nary a duck. Fortunately ducks swim a whole lot better than Hollies or she would be spending her nights in doggie jail.

We walked home with clothespins on our noses. Neighbors and strangers crossed the street when they smelled us coming. Holly and I reeked of river-bottom-mud and duck do. At home, we took down the hard plastic swimming pool and filled it to the rim with water and honeysuckle shampoo. I took a shower and picked pin feathers out of my ears, hoping Holly would take to tap water like she does lake water.

She didn't.

We couldn't get her in the pool.

Then, abruptly, the Labrador half of her was so interested in hunting the pool's 6 inch "head" that we couldn't get her out. She kept trying to paw away the bubbles to get at the water, but by the time she planted her face down far enough to get a drink, the gap would close back up and she ended up with a noseful. She came up sneezing foam with a little Genghis Khan goatee, growling and nipping at the bubbles like they were THE ENEMY about to be intimidated by her martial barks technique. I won't go into drying her off, except to say it was an ugly sight. One day she may learn the difference between a bath towel and a tug toy but I would not bet money on the possibility.

Before my hair was even dry, the wallboard repairman let Holly out. She went charging east on the westbound side of the main street dodging rush hour commuters, buses and semis, leaping small buildings, pedestrians, several firemen in a reading circle in front of the firehouse, and a preoccupied ornithologist studying tree swallows in the police department's underground garage. A caravan of pizza delivery men blocked off traffic and tried to corner her but she slipped between a lady's legs into the post office, and out through the automatic doors. By then she was being chased by me in my muddy running shoes, a weight watcher recruiter, a man with kibble, two post office officials, three post office civilians, and four pizza delivery men with anchovies. Holly thought tag was great fun and charged blindly into traffic for another round of dodge-em cars, leaving behind her a trail of wrecked BMW's, a corvette in a ditch, and a knocked-over twenty-five bicycle display. She stole a linen-wrapped package of lutefisk from a large Nordic woman dressed like a Viking. The package slowed her down enough that the pizza guys were able to herd her into the nearest public bathroom, but she escaped through a window.

It was the Dalmatian half that finally trapped her. She found the firehouse. One look at the fire engine and she dropped the lutefisk. Her ears perked. Her licorice stick of a tail stood on end. She leapt to the fire engine cab, parked herself in the passenger seat and started looking around for an ignition switch. I suppose it all worked out. The Weight Watcher lady gave me a coupon for a free meeting. And the eight off-duty firemen who had been watching Holly were so entertained they gave her temporary Mascot status and offered to dog sit while I went to Weight Watchers.