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Jack Smith

Perhaps he can be replaced by a dog, but only at the cost of applying a primer and three coats of jade

January 02, 1986|JACK SMITH

I bought a doghouse the other day from an old man who builds them in his garage and sells them from his driveway.

It was made of plywood, with a composition roof, and it stood about 44 inches high. It was $100, including $25 extra for the composition roof.

I bought it for the dog my wife took in a few months ago. The dog was then only a puppy, but already she showed promise of becoming a very big dog. She has not disappointed those expectations.

Meanwhile, she is still a puppy, and she is teething. Her capacity for destruction is awesome. She topples potted plants, breaks pots, chews pots, chews driftwood, chews the furniture, digs up the sprinkling system, chews my wife's tennis shoes, and generally devastates the back yard.

I have been waiting for my wife's patience to run out; but evidently she loves the dog even more than she loves her potted plants.

A few weeks ago we had to go to Palm Springs overnight. The day before we left the dog got out through a hole in the fence. My wife was sick. She didn't want to go. I persuaded her that we couldn't do anything. Either the dog would come back or she wouldn't. When we got home the dog was in the dog pen. A neighbor had found her and brought her back. My wife's joy was palpable.

It is obvious that she is going to be a very big dog indeed, and I have an idea that she will outlive me.

Perhaps that was why my wife took her in against my better judgment; she did not want to be left alone.

Not that I have any intimations of an early expiration; but I'm not absolutely certain of 15 years.

During the recent heavy rains the dog had no shelter. After my Airedale died we gave his house to our son and his wife for their two neurotic Dalmatians. It was a large redwood house, and would have been big enough for both our new dog, Suzie, and our old one, Fluff, the mongrel-Yorkie.

The old man told me he didn't build doghouses out of redwood because the price was prohibitive.

"Can't get anybody to buy 'em," he said.

As for the plywood, he said it would be fine if I just gave it a couple of coats of paint.

"First you give it a primer," he said, "and then a finish."

Together we hoisted the house into the bed of my pickup and I drove it home. My wife and I managed to get it out of the truck and down onto the corner of the terrace above our pool. I wanted it to be close so Suzie could get used to using it.

"Just throw a bone inside," the man had told me. "She'll go in then."

I was eager to get the dog used to the house before the next rain. She wasn't interested. I tried to entice her in one night by putting her bowl of kibbles inside. She wouldn't go in. I got her by the collar and put her head inside and tried to shove her in from the rear. She resisted. I simply wasn't strong enough to shove her in. Disgusted, I went back inside the house and watched through the kitchen window. She ran around the swimming pool a couple of times, then suddenly went into the doghouse and began to eat her food.

So far, so good.

The next problem was to get the house painted. I have given up doing chores around the house, except changing light bulbs, for which I have always had a special talent. The gardener, an occasional handyman and my wife do the rest.

The gardener said he didn't have time to paint the doghouse. I didn't want to hire a handyman simply for a little job like that. My wife would have to do it.

But she resisted. There was Christmas shopping to do; she hadn't been able to balance her bank account for three months; and there were Christmas cards to address. She was too busy to paint a doghouse.

I did take the first step. I bought a can of primer and a can of jade paint and a can of turpentine and two brushes and left them on the kitchen cabinet top.

"We'd better get that doghouse painted," I said, "before the next rain."

She didn't get around to it until the weekend between Christmas and New Year's Day.

That Saturday morning she asked me what I was going to do. "I have to watch the football game," I said.

It was the first of the playoffs, the wild card game between the Patriots and the Jets. No serious football fan would ever miss a playoff game.

In the morning we went out to have breakfast and do our chores while the housecleaner did the house. At 1 o'clock I turned the game on and my wife went outdoors to paint the doghouse.

She got the first coat on that afternoon. The next morning at 10 o'clock I turned on the second wild card game, between the Giants and the 49ers. My wife went out to give the doghouse its second coat.

So between us we have got the job done. It isn't too good a job, being somewhat streaky, but she's going to give it a third coat.

If she has taken in a companion to replace me, she's going to have to pay for it.

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