Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tarpon Springs fire chief to retire in September after 39 years

    Local Government

    TARPON SPRINGS — When Richard Butcher got involved with Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue in 1978, he had just moved down from Ohio.

    Tarpon Springs fire Chief Richard Butcher is retiring after 39 years of service.
  2. Seeking change, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn goes outside for new fire marshal


    TAMPA — Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed has been hired as Tampa's new fire marshal, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he wants Reed to shake up Tampa Fire Rescue's building inspection bureau.

    Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed, 53, will make $118,310 a year as the new fire marshal for the city of Tampa. [City of Tampa]
  3. Ruth: Trump is no Boy Scout in speech to scouts


    It could have been worse. At least the Boy Scouts of America didn't invite Dennis Rodman to address its 19th jamboree to discuss American foreign policy with North Korea and the art of nose piercings.

    President Donald Trump addressed the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree in Glen Jean, W. Va.
  4. PSTA, wary of future cuts, keeps property tax rate steady

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority stands to lose $2 million a year if voters approve an expansion to Florida's homestead property exemption on the 2018 ballot.

    One of The PInellas Suncoast Transit Authority's hybrid busses. The PSTA's governing board voted Wednesday to maintain the current property tax rate. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  5. Rays power way to 5-1 win over Orioles on eve of crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]