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My wife, Malathi, loves dogs. She calls them  "Sweetie." She also calls me "Sweetie." I don't know whether to smile or wag my tail.  

It's really confusing. The other day, Malathi  said, "Dinner is ready, Sweetie." I rushed to  the kitchen, along with the dogs. "Silly dogs,"  I thought. "You're not getting any of my dinner."  The meal looked delicious, and I would have  complimented my wife, had she not placed it  on the floor.

The two dogs got to the food before I could.  Their heads, unfortunately, are closer to the  floor. That allows them to quickly slurp food  and anything else that looks remotely like  food, such as dirty socks or tofu. If you own  a dog, you may not need a vacuum cleaner.    

Within a minute, the dogs -- a Labrador and  Golden Retriever -- had licked their bowls  clean and were looking up at us with  expressions that said, "Come on, folks. When are you going to feed us?" Even if  they've just eaten a big meal, they want to keep eating. They're a lot like me. Except  that I'm too proud to beg. When the dogs are wolfing their food, I try not to sit in front of  them and drool. Unfortunately, they never  extend the same courtesy to me. I can't eat  anything without enduring their sad-eyed  expressions that say, "Oh please, we  haven't eaten any food since last summer,  when we ate all your tennis balls. If you don't  feed us, we'll fill your entire home with drool."  

The dogs aren't ours. We're just dog-sitting,  until their owners return from vacation. Dog-sitting is a lot like baby-sitting, except  for three major differences: (1) babies have  trouble catching food with their mouths;  (2) babies are usually uglier; and (3) babies  are nicer to trees.  

Most dogs in America are so lucky. They're  fed and treated better than many children  around the world. And they never have to do  the dishes. You can't even get them to take  the trash out. They must have a powerful  union.  

My wife knows a lot about dogs. She's a  veterinarian specializing in epidemiology. It took me three weeks to learn how to spell  "epidemiology" and another three weeks to learn how to pronounce it. I still don't know  what it means. All I know is that Malathi loves  animals, especially dogs. She kisses them  and pets them and talks to them, making me  wish I had four legs.  

I think she likes dogs partly because they're  better listeners than men. When she's telling  one of her long stories -- usually about  something amazing she heard on NPR (National Public Radio) -- the dogs will just  sit there and listen attentively. I know what  they're thinking: "If we sit still and act  interested, maybe she'll feed us." Dogs are  smarter than they look.  

I don't mind Malathi babying the dogs, but I  wish it weren't so confusing. The other night,  she said, "Are you coming to bed, Sweetie?"  I rushed to the bedroom, along with the dogs.  "Silly dogs," I thought. "You're not snuggling  in bed with us. Not until you learn to use  mouthwash."

The Labrador jumped on the bed before I  could. I looked at my wife. She looked at me  with a puzzled expression that said, "Did  someone call YOU to bed?" Then she petted  the dog.  

"He's going to be with us for only a short  time," she said.  

"OK, Sweetie," I said. "I love you."    

"I love you, too," she said.  

"I was talking to the dog," I said.


 ~~Copyright 2001 Melvin Durai  

 For a free subscripton to Melvin Durai's weekly   columns, send a blank message to


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