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Field notes on Harry, a dog

Readers often have asked which column was my favorite. Here's a contender from May 8, 2000.

I still miss him.



1. Introduction

2. Physical description

3. General attributes

4. Behavior toward dogs

5. Behavior toward cats

1. Introduction. The dog Harry was acquired 3/25/00 in the manner by which cat owners often come into dogship, which is to say, nuptially. It was a package deal. My intent now is to provide useful and empirical description of this new species.

2. Physical description. The animal is 75 to 80 pounds in weight. His solid coat is the color of a medium to dark mustard. By ancestry he is one-half yellow Labrador, roughly 40 percent German shepherd and the rest generic dog. He is 5 years old.

3. General attributes. The dog's main activities are: whimpering, barking, wagging, prancing, chasing and sleeping. The first three are a prelude to taking a walk. The next two occur during a walk. The last occurs after a walk.

The dog is quite protective and capable of fierce displays to intruders. However, in the company of known humans, the dog Harry possesses a vigorous wag that may be invoked by the mention of his name. Continued stimulation makes this motion more pronounced. Putting on sneakers results in a full-scale, sine-wave gyration of the torso.

This wagging phenomenon also is exhibited upon the reunion of the dog Harry with a human after a separation. Plotting wag over a month's time yields the formula:

W = 15X - (T - 70)

where W equals degrees of wag-arc, X is the number of hours of human absence, and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (wag is dampened by heat).

Unlike cats (see note No. 5 below), the dog Harry desires for humans to throw objects a distance so that he may run to them eagerly, take them in his mouth and return. Return is usually immediate, unless the dog encounters another dog (see No. 4) or becomes tired, in which case he drops the ball adjacent to a tree and "accidentally" marks it, too, resulting in the end of the game.

4. Behavior toward dogs. The dog is the owner of a nearby city park. Other dogs are permitted, provided that (1) he may inspect them, in the customary fashion, and (2) he gets to mark the closest tree after each encounter, re-establishing his legal claim.

5. Behavior toward cats. The dog Harry was introduced into a new home and fenced area also housing a female house cat and her two adult male sons. As a mountain dog, Harry's history with cats consisted of chasing them joyfully, which as far as he knew, was equally fun for all parties. Observation suggests an additional formula:

S = 1

where S represents the number of cat-swats across the nose the dog underwent before ceasing to chase cats.

The dog Harry thus embarked upon his own study of cats, learning that they do not play fetch, do not chase balls, and do not covet his chewable pig's ear, no matter how temptingly he drops it at their feet and begs them to try to snatch it. However, they do consent to an occasional lick and rub against him in return. This far exceeds the original, pessimistic predictions.

Field notes on Harry, a dog 05/16/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 16, 2011 6:42pm]
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