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June 23, 1976 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-23

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Ode to an unruly retriever

By JIM TOBIN
T BEGAN AS a winter's
dream come true as the
trees turned green and the
stubborn Ann Arbor climate
began to soften with the ap-
proach of spring and the end
of classes. It was to end less
whimsically.
Who among us, strolling the
city's streets on those first
days of the March thaw, can
watch without envy the new
swarm of dogs and masters
out in the mild morning air?
Certainly I could not this past
spring. I would watch the
army of collies, Labradors,
spaniels, Irish setters, and -
most charming of all - Golden
Retrievers - prancing down
South University, playing at
their masters' feet, waiting
outside stores in faithful attend-
ance. I was insanely jealous
. of the masters, not the
dogs; while a dog's life is not
all bad, leash laws and such
make it, so to speak, a dog's
life. No, I envied the masters
who had that faithful, furry
friend waiting outside Village
Corner. As the March snow
crackled under my feet on my
way to the Diag, my mind
drifted away from the ice and
slush to a summer dawn when
my dog and I would launch off
to the Arboretum for an early-
morning adventure.
That did it. As soon as I
stepped out the door of Angell
Hall after my last accursed
final exam, I started scouting
around for the finest Golden
Retriever pup in seven coun-
ties. I made the fateful deci-
sion in the exhiliaration of
spring, fresh air, and my exit
from Angell's hallowed halls.
It was not a mood of wisdom,
I was to find out soon enough.
Scanning the classified ads
for several days, I found no
retrievers listed, but one morn-
ing I saw what I had waited

for -"Golden Retriever pups;
AKC registered; six weeks;
shots; 338-9794." My adrenalin
surged; this was my chance.
All I could see was a fine-coat-
ed retriever at my side, fully
trained, of course, fully -house-
broken, finely mannered, wait-
ing outside my classes for me,
sleeping quietly at night. My
house already had a dog-house
out back; I'd get the dog used
to that in a day or two, leave
him on a long leash attached
to a pulley attached to a long
clothesline so he would have
plenty of space to roam about
the yard while I was gone.
Y PARENTS and friends
were somewhat less excit-
ed. "Are you sure you're will-
ing to give up the freedom?"
asked a skeptical friend. "Look,
you have to make sure you do
what's right for the dog," my
mother told me, sounding un-
mistakeably like a mother. But
I wasn't some eight-year-old
dragging a flea-ridden, balding
mutt into the house by the
neck, yelling, "Mom, Mom,
can I have a dog?" No, I was
a college student, self - reliant,
ready to accept the responsi-
bilities of training and owner-
ship. There was a lot of self-
image tied up in this, too;
man, I'd look great with a dog
at my side - rugged, indepen-
dent, cool. Yes, I admit it
freely; my St. Bernard-sized
ego was a sly partner in the
decision to buy.
A woman's voice told me
over the phone that yes, there
were still puppies left unsold,
and yes, there were two males.
I was to follow this road and
that through Saline and Adrian
to a town named Jasper near
the Ohio border; on the corner
of Cleague Road and something
else - you couldn't miss it.
I did miss it the first time,
but the skeptical friend and I
finally made our way down ther
back roads and farm lanes

lined with acres of wheat and
corn to a tri-level house with a
dog kennel at the side.
We pulled up the drive to be
greeted by the puppies' mother.
We expected a jovial, licking
welcome; she practically tore
our pants off. Moving for the
car at full speed, head bent
low with sinister intent, she
sent us scurrying for shelter
before we had barely stepped
from the car. Sent from heav-
en, her master called her off
from the garage. Perhaps it
was an omen.
Sound asleep, the puppies
were no more friendly than
their mother. They wouldn't
follow the script. How do you
choose one dog from another
when both are sound asleep,
rolled up together in a nonde-
script ball?' The owner's wife
came out and made a desperate
attempt to rouse them, but
they only rolled over, squinted
up at us with puppy eyes, and
went back to sleep. Finally,
after being carted into the kit-
chen and dumped ingraciously
on the floor, they started to
stumble around, unhappy that
they could sleep no longer but
somewhat curious about the
two strangers in their midst.
Picking out a puppy, a pros-
pect I had relished, soon de-
generated into my trying to de-
cide which of the two would be
less hurt if I didn't pick him.
That was no fun and even less
productive, so I chose the larg-
er one and avoided the hurt
stare of the smaller. I couldn't
pick him up for a few days, so
the owner tied a rather unso-
phisticated piece of baby-blue
yarn around my new ward's
neck to set him off from the
others, and we left.
All that week was anticipa-
tion, a seven-day-long Christ-
mas Eve. Another friend was
as excited to see the dog as I
was, so on that fateful Monday
night she and I piled into the
car for another jaunt down to
Jasper through the rolling,
green hills south and west of
Ann Arbor. After another testy
greeting from the puppies'
mother, we sat down to talk
with the owner's wife,
My grand idea of the pulley
and rope affair was abruptly
shattered - she gave us a
stern lecture about leashes, ad-
vising that the first time you
left a dog on a leash you could
expect to come home to a dog
that had neatly hung himself.
Eyes wide, my friend and I
looked at each other; terrific,
I thought. All I needed was a
stuicidal dog, asd no one to
blamebut myself for leaving
the poor devil to himself on
that evil rope. So now I had to
build a kennel. Alright, I said.
Like my mother had told me,
you have to do what's right for
the dog. A little extra work,
but that was okay.
le was very good on the way
home, a little whimpery, a lit-
tle confused by this long car
ride, but fairly trusting. Most
puppies aren't suspicious sorts;
they only learn that after their
masters try to hang them with
leashes.
[E MADE A FINE impres-
sion on the Daily staff, then
got carted over to my house to
meet a new crop of strangers.
I was very much the beaming
new father, taking all credit for
my puppy's cuteness; if he let
go of his lunch all over the
floor, well, it wasn't like I
hadn't expected it.
But that first excretory acci-
dent was a problem, I must
admit There it was on the
floor, and everybody said,
"C'mon, you've got to disci-

pline him." He looked from the
floor to me. I looked at his sad
brown eyes, then at the mess
sitting offensively at his feet.
I knew I had to do it, so I
turned him around, pushed his
nose in the direction of his de-
bris, patted his rear end a
couple of times, and said in
the fiercest tone one could
muster when speaking to a
seven-week-old, sad-eyed puppy
who doesn't know any better,
"Bad dog . . - Bad dog." I
don't think he was convinced.
It appeared that I, like the
brand - new teacher who is
frightened by her boisterous
first - graders, had a discipline
problem.
The first night was even
less auspicious. I made my un-
named companion a comfort-
able, well - newspapered bed
in a corner of my room, sur-
rounded by a pen made of
window screens. He seemed
happy enough, and I drifted
off to sleep. But not for long;
it turned out he was none too
satisfied with a fence around
him and the lights off, and he
let me hear about it. While he
hadn't found his bark yet, he
was fully acquainted with cry-
ing. Barely awake, I grudging-
ly tried to comfort him, but
when I turned the light off he
was back at it. I finished the
night in another room, telling
myself that the damn dog had
to get used to being alone some-
time, and it might as well be
the first night.
His personality developed
fast. When he was ready to
take walks after a couple of
days, he soon found that the
outdoors was far preferable to
the bland Daily offices, and he
tried to prolong his urinary
forays as much as possible. It
wasn't long before he was
sneaking out the door on his
own.
Much as he liked being out-
side, he still preferred to re-
lieve himself within the Daily's
walls - something secure about
the hard floor under his rear
end, I suppose. They tell you to
housebreak a dog by getting
him on a schedule. I don't buy
it. Mine had his own schedule;
every time I brought him in-
side from his inevitably unpro-
ductive bathroom walk and de-
posited him on the floor, he'd
sniff around, throw a glance in
my direction, then let his blad-
der do its thing. He would in-
variably act hurt when I swat-
ted him for it, so I began to sus-
pect that each accident was
retribution for the last punish-
mnt. It was a-hard pattern to
break.Infact, I never did.
AND ALLt THAT FREEDOM
that one so blithely gives
up with the purchase of a pup-
py is suddenly more attractive
than one ever thought possible
before. A friend asked if I could
take him home to Detroit one
weekend. Well, sure, I said, if
you don't mind taking a dog
along. No problem, he replied,
hut he changed his mind once
a fully awake, eight-week-old
Golden Retriever scrambled
into the car on top of him,
studded paws trampling his
lam. By this time the scoundrel,
still unnamed, was full into his
teething phase, and my friend
had an armful. Banned to the
floor of the car, he _wandered
around my feet, sticking his
nose in hack of the accelerator,
untying my shoes. I was tempt-
ed to shove him in the glove
compartment, but my patient
friend was good enough to put
us with puppy teeth for awhile
untilvthe miscreat drifted off
intoa doze.
In fairness to the demon I

had taken under my wing, I
must confess that our morning
and evening walks together
were delightful. We'd stroll
down residential streets late at
night when to one else was out,
I gazing at the neat frame
houses, he racing about from
lawn to sidewalk, checking out
every aromatic detail. After a
week or two, I realized what
the charm of walking a dog is.
When we humans take a walk,
it is with slight embarrassment
that we are wasting time on
such a seemingly indolent ac-
tivity. If we pass someone else
on the sidewalk we may smile,
but underneath there is a sub-
conscious shame at our uncon-
structiveness. But a dog! A
dog doesn't give a damn about
what anybody thinks; he can
crawl under bushes after squir-
rels, gallop after interesting-
looking people, stop to relieve
himself on anybody's conven-
ient lawn, and enjoy a hundred
minute smells and sights that
we arrogant homo sapiens never
bother to acknowledge. A dog
has so much more fun than we
do; when you take your dog
on a walk, there is a vicarious
pleasure involved. He does all
the things we're too sophisticat-
ed to bother with, but we can
at least take some satisfaction
in his deeper enjoyment of the
finer details of the planet.
But the walks lasted forty
minutes at most, and they came
only twice a day. The rest of
the time my protege spent ei-
ther eating food, excreting it,
or substituting human legs for
it. I had a problem.
All you puppy purists are
shaking your heads, now, I
know. I should have been more
patient, I should have shown
the dog more love. And my
friends were beginning to sus-
pect something as well. "I find
it somehow significant that you
haven't named that thing yet,"
said one. Finally, after days of
hounding from friends and col-
I e a g u e s, after suggesting
"Ghengis" (after the Khan),
"Ben," "Amos," and a host of
others which were arbitrarily
guffawed out of contention, I
settled on the name "Shamus,"
mostly to get my cynical
friends off my back. "'Sham-
us?!"' they hooted. "What the
hell kind of name is that?" It
didn't help that they expected
the poor hound to respond to it
instantly, and they spent hours
telling me how stupid my dog
was for not knowing his own
name. Not that I wasn't a little
resentful of the fact myself.
11HE EVIL THOUGHT of re-
. selling my little Franken-
stein entered my mind one
morning as I woke up to the
sound of his 6:00 a.m. howls.
(Does every puppy wake up at
6:00 a.m.? And does each in-
sist on rousing its master with
it?) I recoiled at the thought -
sending cute puppies, no matter
how annoying, out in the cold
was simply not done - but the
idea became more tantalizing
as more urine spilled and more
shoes became destroyed under
those insidiously sharp puppy
teeth. Where was the faithful,
serene friend, waiting outside
Village Corner, of which I had
dreamt back in the spring? Did
the real puppy get snatched
somewhere along the way, re-
placed by this fiendish little
coyote-in-disguise?
It was the beginning of the
end. Though I agonized over the
decision though I swayed to
See ODE, Page 6
Jim Tobin, co-diretor of /the
summer editorial page, looks
forward to ot ning a cat.

The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Wednesday, June 23, 1976
News Phone: 764-0552
A vote for unity in Italy
ONDAY'S NATIONAL ELECTION in Italy failed to
solve that country's pressing leadership dilemma.
The Christian Democrats, who have ruled since World
War II, won a plurality of the vote, edging out the Com-
munists 38 to 34 per cent. With neither side showing
convincing support, it would seem that the situation re-
quires a coalition government.
The country's economic situation has been, at best,
precarious under the Democrats' rule, while the Demo-
crats have been accused of a conservatism verging on re-
action, in part credited to their ties to the Catholic
Church. The Communists, on the other hand, have of-
fered a streamlined and progressive social and economic
administration.
the point is this: the essence of democracy, which
the U. S. supports, is that every segment of the people in
a representative government, must be heard. Shutting
the Communists out of the new Italian government, a
move favored by the Christian Democrats and the U. S.
government, would be an absurd contradiction of these
ideals we claims to hold so dear.
Do we still hold with the outdated notion of Manifest
Destiny? The stand of the U. S. on this crucial issue of
western Europe is an embarrassment to every American.

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