Why I have 3 cats....

These are essays by Dave Barry that were written in 1986 & 1987.
Note: these are insulting to those of the canine persuasion.  If you
are a dog, you are advised to stop reading now.

Subject: Dave Barry -- The new dog

  We have a new dog, which means we're going through this phase where we spend
a lot of time crouching and stroking and going "Yessss! That's a GOOD girl!"
and otherwise practically awarding the Nobel Prize to her for achievements such
as not pooping on the rug.

  Her name is Earnest, which I realize is not a traditional girl's name, but it
describes her very well. Most dogs are earnest, which is why most people like
them. You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look
that says, "My God, you're right! I never would have thought of that!" So we
come to think of dogs as being understanding and loving and compassionate, and
after a while we hardly even notice that they spend the bulk of their free time
circling around with other dogs to see which one can sniff the other the most
times in the crotch.

  We are not sure yet whether Earnest has a working brain. You can't tell,
early on, with dogs. When we got our previous dog, Shawna, we thought she was
smart as a whip, because she was a purebred German shepherd who had this
extremely alert look. At first we took this to mean that she was absorbing
every tiny detail of her environment with her keen senses and analyzing it with
computerlike speed, but it turned out to be her way of expressing the concept:

  Shawna would be sitting in our yard, looking very sharp, and a squirrel would
scurry right past her, a squirrel whose presence was instantly detected by
normal, neighborhood dogs hundreds of yards away, causing them to bark
rigorously, and also by us humans, causing us to yell, helpfully: "Look!
Shawna! A squirrel!!"

  After a few seconds of delay, during which her nervous system would send the
message via parcel post from her ears to her brain that something was going on,
Shawna would turn in the exact opposite direction from whichever way the
squirrel was, adopt a pose of great canine readiness, and go: "What?"

  The only dog I ever met that was dumber than Shawna belongs to my editor.
This dog, a collie named Augie, also looks smart, because you tend to think
collies are smart if you grew up watching "Lassie."

  Lassie looked brilliant, in part because the farm family she lived with was
made up of idiots. Remember? One of them was always getting pinned under the
tractor, and Lassie was always rushing back to the farmhouse to alert the other
ones. She'd whimper and tug at their sleeves, and they'd always waste precious
minutes saying things: "Do you think something's wrong? Do you think she wants
us to follow her? What is it, girl?" etc., as if this had never happened
before, instead of every week. What with all the time these people spent pinned
under the tractor, I don't see how they managed to grow any crops whatsoever.
They probably got by on federal crop supports, which Lassie filed the
applications for.

  So anyway I thought Augie, being a collie, would have at least some
intelligence, despite the fact that when my editor and I would walk into his
house, Augie would not notice us, sometimes for upwards of a half hour. When
she finally did notice us, talking and drinking beer, she would bark as though
the Manson gang had just burst in, so my editor would have to go over and sort
of say, "Look! It's me! The person you have lived with for 10 years!" This
would cause Augie's lone functioning brain cell to gradually quiet down and go
back to sleep.

  But I still thought she was roughly on a par with Shawna, IQ-wise, until the
night -- you may remember that night; it was the longest one we ever had --
that I slept on my editor's couch in his living room, which is also where Augie
sleeps. Only she doesn't sleep. What she does is, first, she lies down. Then
she scratches herself. Then she engages in loud personal hygiene. Then she
thinks, "Maybe I can go out!" and she walks across the floor, which is made of
a special kind of hard wood so that when a dog walks on it, it goes TICK
TICK TICK TICK at exactly the volume you would use to get maximum benefit from
the Chinese Ticking Torture.

   When Augie gets to the front door, which is of course closed -- it is always
closed at night; even the domestic insects have learned this by now -- she
bumps into it with her head. Then she backs up and bumps into it with her head
a couple more times, in case there has been some mistake. Then she senses,
somehow, that there is a person sleeping on the couch, and she has the most
innovative idea she has ever thought of, which is: "Maybe HE will let me out!"
So she walks over to me and noses me in the face, using the same nose she uses
for hygiene, and I say, "Dammit, Augie! Go to sleep!"

  So she lies down for one minute, which is how long it takes for her brain
cell to forget everything that has ever happened to her since she was born. And

  I don't know yet about Earnest. One day soon I will give her the dog
intelligence test, where you show her the ball, then you put the ball under a
blanket, and then you see if she can find the ball. Shawna could never find the
ball. I doubt Augie could find the blanket. I'm hoping Earnest does better, but
I'm not counting my chickens.

  I am also not looking forward to receiving a lot of violent letters from you
dog lovers out there, the ones with the "I (heart) my (breed of dog)" bumper
stickers, asking how dare I say dogs are stupid when your dog can add,
subtract, land the space shuttle, etc.

  So please note, dog lovers: I never said your dog is stupid. I said my dog
might be stupid. I know for a fact that she can't be too intelligent, because
here I've written a fairly insulting column about her species, and despite the
fact that she's lying right at my feet, it hasn't occurred to her to pull the
plug on my word processor. 

Subject: Dave Barry -- Canine role model earns bark of approval

  The March 15 deadline is almost upon us, and my guess is that you haven't
voted for Dog Hero of The Year.

  When people ask me: "Dave, what is WRONG with this country, anyhow?" I am
forced to reply: "What is wrong with this country is that people would rather
sit in front of their television sets watching Joan Collins reveal herself than
vote for Dog Hero of the Year."

  As usual, you think I am making up the whole concept of a Dog Hero of the
Year election, and as usual you are wrong. I have a news release right here
stating that this is an actual event sponsored by Ken-L Ration Co., which has
been honoring America's Most Heroic Dog for 32 years.

  The release also states that last year's winner, Leo, a white standard poodle
from Texas who saved two children from a snake, "became a national celebrity."
The release does not state whether this means Leo was on TV with Merv Griffin,
or dated Elizabeth Taylor, or what. But whatever it means, I think we can agree
that dogs, especially today's dogs, need a celebrity role model to look up to,
and we should all, as citizens, do our part to elect the next Dog Hero, based
on heroic achievement in 1985.

  Here are some rules:

  1. This is for dogs only. No cats. You would have to have a completely
different set of standards if you wanted to detect heroism in cats. Like, the
winning cat would be one that came across a man who had fallen and broken his
leg in a remote mountain area, and the cat, realizing the man was totally
helpless and would probably die unless someone found him, nevertheless
refrained from taking his wallet.

  2. You have to vote for one of the eight finalists selected by the official
Ken-L Ration panel. Write-in dogs are not permitted. If they were, I would urge
you to vote for my own dog, Earnest, who on two separate occasions, without
hesitation and without concern for her own safety, tried to kill the Federal
Express man.

  But the Ken-L Ration panel came up with some pretty darned heroic dogs, too.
I'll review them briefly here, so you'll be able to make an informed voting
decision in the great and free democratic tradition. Then I'll tell you which
one to vote for.

  The finalists are:

  -- BOOMER, a miniature poodle who "aroused (his mistress) from her slumber by
licking her face and pulling her ear" to alert her that her elderly mother had
been "knocked to the floor by a falling suitcase."

  -- BOOTS, a Shetland sheepdog who alerted her family to "high levels of
carbon monoxide gas in their home" by "barking, pawing and licking."

  -- DUNCAN, a golden retriever who rescued his young mistress from an
alligator attack when he "barked fiercely, causing the alligator to retreat."

  -- FRISKY, a Pomeranian who led its owner to his wife, who had fallen on an
icy road. The release further states: "The spunky dog also helped stop a
passing car by jumping up and down."

  -- GEFFY, a bull mastiff who towed his mistress, her friend and "a pug named
Beaner" to shore when the current off the Florida coast got too strong for them

  -- RASTAS, a Weimaraner-Doberman who works on Joe McKenzie's charter boat,
which is a good thing because Rastas has towed in "several near-drowning
victims," several "divers who found the current too strong" and "both of
McKenzie's grown sons on separate occasions."

  -- SAM, a German shepherd-border collie who, when a mail carrier had an
automobile accident, rupturing her spleen, "was alert and began barking" and
then led his owners to the scene.

  -- TANGO, a border collie-Australian shepherd owned by Al Choate of Port
Townsend, Wash., who "saved his master when he stopped the brutal attack of an
angry cow last August. When a cow with a newborn calf attacked Choate, Tango
bit into the cow's lip and held on, allowing Choate time to crawl away."

  OK, voters. We face a difficult decision here. I know I speak for all of us
when I say I'd be proud to have any of these fine animals hold the title of
America's Bravest Dog. But when we take a moment to paws (ha ha!) and reflect
upon what this honor really entails (whoooeee!), we have to admit to ourselves
that the dog most deserving of our support, especially if we are aware of the
magnitude of danger represented by an angry cow, is Tango.

  I was so struck by Tango's deed that I called his owner, Al Choate, to ask
him about it, and he said that Tango bit the cow more on the cheek than the
lip. "A cow's lip would be hard to bite," he pointed out. But other than that,
he confirmed the whole story.

  "I thought I was a goner," he said, this being probably the first time that
expression has been used in the past 40 years outside of Gunsmoke.

  Tango is getting old, Choate says. She is 13 now and semi-crippled. He gives
her aspirin. Her herding days are almost over. "She goes and gets the calves
every night," Choate said, "but not the cows. I can't let her get the cows
because they get her down and beat her up."

  So my position, fellow voters, is this: By all means, make up your own mind,
but anybody who doesn't vote for this brave, sick, aging dog who gets beat up
by cows is a Nazi.

  Send your ballots by March 15 to Ken-L Ration Dog Hero of the Year, P.O. Box
10446, Kansas City, Mo. 64111. Then, if you drink beer, have a beer in honor of
Tango. And a hamburger.

  Send your ballots for Dog Hero of the Year by March 15 to Ken-L Ration Dog
Hero of the Year, P.O. Box 10446, Kansas City, Mo. 64111.

Subject: Dave Barry -- Dog-in-Microwave Tale Fuels Meaty Issue

Today we begin a popular feature wherein we will address the major
ethical questions of the day, starting with: Is it OK to devour your

ANSWER: No.  Not here in America.  Oh, sure, most of us have heard the
story about an American who COOKED her dog in a microwave oven, but this
was not for the purpose of eating it.

What happened (according to the story) was, this American had one of
those little rodent-size dogs whose main purpose in the Great Chain of
Life is to wet on people's ankles, and it got wet in the rain, so the
American quite naturally did what any normal person would do if he or
she had one lone kernel of candy corn for a brain, namely stick the dog
in the microwave oven to dry it out, but apparently the oven was on the
wrong setting (it should have been set on "Dog"), so the dog ended up
getting dried out to the point of Well-Done.

The story always stops right there, so we don't know what happened
next.  We don't know whether the spouse came home from a hard day at the
office and went, "Mmmmmm!  Something smells deeeeeelicious!  I'll just
look inside the microwave here and GAAAACCCCKKKKK!!!"

Of course, this needless tragedy could easily have been prevented via
legislation requiring that microwave ovens carry a stern federal message

On the other hand, this could be one of those stories that everybody
tells even though they're not true, like the one about the teen-age
couple who are parking on a lonely country road and hear on the radio
that a homicidal maniac who has a hook instead of a right hand has
escaped from the mental institution, so the boy real quick starts the
engine and drives right over Reggie Jackson, who was walking his
Doberman because it was choking on an alligator from the New York City
sewer system.

This probably never happened.  But it is a fact that my editor, Gene
Weingarten, once ate a dog.  This was at the 1964 World's Fair in
Flushing, N.Y.  (which incidentally is how the alligators got into the
sewers), and Gene was at the pavilion of some Third World nation, and he
ordered a dish with an unusual name, and when he asked the waiter (who
spoke little English) what was in it, the waiter, in Gene's words, "made
it clear by gestures and going 'woof woof,' that it was dog."

Gene said it wasn't bad.  Not that this is any excuse.  I want to stress
that I personally have never eaten a dog, and I want to remind those of
you who have already stopped reading this column to write violent
letters to the editor that it was Gene Weingarten, in care of Tropic
Magazine, the Miami Herald, Miami FL  33101, who ate the dog.

But it is an interesting ethical question, why we get so upset about
this.  I mean, most of us don't think twice about eating cows, which are
genetically almost exactly the same as dogs in the sense of having four
legs and being pretty stupid.  Yet if somebody tried to dry a cow out in
a microwave oven, we'd all laugh like the dickens and it would get on
Celebrity Bleeps and Boners.

So this is a real puzzle, all right, which is why I am very grateful to
Diane Eicher, an alert reader who sent me an article from Nutrition
Health Review headlined "Usefulness Keeps Pets Out of Oven."

I am not making this article up.  It concerns Marvin Harris, a
University of Florida anthropologist who, according to the article,
"studies and tries to make sense of human culture."  (Ha ha!)

Harris is quoted in the article as saying that the reason we don't eat
dogs, cats and horses is -- get ready -- "These animals are just too
darned useful for us to eat."

Now I do not wish to be critical, but a statement like that makes you
wonder if Professor Harris has not accidentally been studying the
culture on the planet Zoog, because the last word I would use to
describe household pets here on Earth is useful.  I have owned a number
of household pets, mostly dogs, and the only useful thing I can recall
any of them ever doing was the time Germaine tried to bite the Amway

Other than that it has been basically a long series of indelible rug
stains.  And I defy anybody to point to a single instance of, for
example, a tropical fish doing anything useful, as in


Yet we don't eat the tropical fish, do we?  No!  Not unless we have a
very good reason, such as we have been sitting in our doctor's waiting
room for the better part of the day without food or water.  Then we
might snack on a couple of guppies, but that is as far as it would go.

And I don't even want to talk about cats.

Nevertheless Harris feels pets have many useful functions:

"Modern-day household pets can't match the entertainment value of lions
attacking elephants or people in the Roman Circus," he said, "but cats
chasing imaginary mice, or dogs retrieving bouncing balls are at least
as amusing as the late-night movie."

I think we can all agree that pets are not as entertaining as watching
lions attack humans, but I have to wonder how many of you couples out
there in our listening audience have ever said to each other: "The heck
with Casablanca, let's watch Beaner retrieve a bouncing ball."

So we indeed have a very complex ethical issue here, but unfortunately
we have run out of space, plus we no longer really care.