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Top dog? Bite me!

February 22nd, 2005, 05:10 PM,1,4678769.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=2&cset=true

By Charlie Madigan
Tribune Senior Correspondent
Published February 16, 2005, 11:41 Am CST

CHICAGO--Now it's time to do something here on the Internet I swore I would never do in the newspaper because it's such an immense cliche. I am going to write about my dog. My top dog.

Actually, it's your top dog and everyone else's top dog who has a dog.

Whatever dog you have has to be the top dog. It's the unwritten part of the dog-human contract.

Word arrived that the Westminster Kennel Club had decided that a German shorthaired pointer named Carlee was America's top dog.

Let me say this about that.

"Bite me, Carlee and the Westminster Kennel Club!"

I own the top dog.

He is a mutt. My last dog was a mutt. The dog before that was a mutt and the first dog was a mutt, too.

I have had 34 years` worth of mutts and all but one of them is gone. Their ashes sit in nice little cans or pots on a bookshelf. Every once in a while, one of the containers catches my eye and I find myself saying, "That was a great dog," even about the one who was crazy as an outhouse rat. The first one, who went to live with the mailman when I moved to Russia long ago, seemed to understand nothing but peeing and chewing up apartment quarter round, which he meticulously removed and diligently placed in piles. He lived a long and happy life on a farm.

I am writing this not because I have anything against Carlee and the Westminster Kennel Club. Those are beautifully kept and well-trained dogs, the top of the pyramid of American dogs in some ways.

But they are really no better than a vast collection of other dogs.

If the Westminster Kennel Club is one side of the world of dogs, the other side, by far the sadder side, is all around us, no matter where we live. Head on over to the local humane society or dog pound and there you see them, lined up in cages, many dogs caught in a hopeless bind because they don't seem cute, don't seem puppy like, don't seem pretty.

This then, is something like a Rambling Gleaner public service message.

Don't forget about those dogs. The inclination may be to run out and buy a German shorthaired pointer because Carlee looks so lovely. Fight that thought for a bit.

I think we should have a contest, a reality-based contest, for those other dogs. It should all be televised, elimination rounds and whatnot until we find the perfect animal shelter dog.

That dog would get to go home with someone.

Everyone else in the contest would be put down by injection, right then and there on television so we could all watch. Did you ever have to do that, put a dog down? There are harder things, I suspect, but not many. The feeling stays with you quite awhile, and then you start to understand what being with this dog, this top dog, really meant.

That plan for a contest sounds harsh, doesn't it?

Actually, a day doesn't pass without that kind of event playing out someplace. Some pup wins the affection contest and goes home, and some other dog doesn't and moves, in many cases, one slot closer to the needle. It's not televised, but you can rest assured that. in a lot of places, that's exactly what happens.

Not all pounds execute dogs, of course. Some try to take care of them for life. It's a nice thought until you march along the rows of pens and look into the dog eyes and see some of them staring back. What's in there? I don't know, but it doesn't seem very happy. There may well be no bad dogs. From some of them, though, you can know for sure there are bad people who once had them. Now, in many cases, those dogs are going to live and die in a cage.

Should you run out and get a dog now?

I don't know. That depends on how you feel about having furniture chewed up, puddles on the floor, little piles of dog log surprises and lawn bass until you get that training thing worked out and the obligation to take interest in something that can speak, at best, only with its eyes.

Obviously, too many people went out and got dogs and didn't live up to their part of the deal, which is why so many of them sit around in pounds waiting either for a final moment or for kindly visitors.

It's just something to keep in mind when you look at Carlee, a spectacular dog by anyone's measure.

They are all spectacular.

But most of them are never going to hear someone say, "Top Dog! Right here!"

February 23rd, 2005, 11:23 AM
Well said. I like it; made me tear up but not much doesn't on this site.

February 23rd, 2005, 11:45 AM
Truer words have not been spoken or written