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Zan Thompson

Watchdog's Owners Get the Message

February 23, 1986|ZAN THOMPSON

It was dark in the canyons of Studio City and the rain was sweeping across the streets like the grand drape in a theater, accompanied by the rumble of thunder. It was a night for snuggling by a fire, a night to stay inside away from the dark dangers that roiled down from the hills.

The Cohns, Jackie and Bud, my true-blue friends, were exercising their usual good sense and were snug in bed, sleeping peacefully to the accompaniment of the rolling rain.

Jackie and Bud have a bouvier des Flandres, one of those handsome dogs that look as if they were upholstered with black ribbons. Her name is Gigi and she is the same kind of dog as Lucky, who is owned by President and Mrs. Reagan. However, Lucky did not take kindly to the protocol of the White House, and the roar of the helicopters gave her a headache so she elected to go to the Reagan ranch in the mountains behind Santa Barbara.

Gigi is a big girl, weighing in at 100 pounds with blood as blue as her case full of ribbons. In 1981 and 1982, Gigi went Best of Breed at the lofty Westchester Dog Show in Madison Square Garden.

On the rainy night just gone, Gigi began to growl from the foot of the stairs. Bud and Jackie both sat bolt upright in bed. As all of you dog owners know, dogs have distinctive barks and growls. There are growls which are nothing more than conversation and then there are growls which mean it's time to turn on the lights and call the law, and take the musket down from the wall. Gigi was using the latter growl.

Either Bud or Jackie, they don't remember which, said, "There's someone in the house," and the other agreed.

Gigi will not come upstairs. Though she is brave and determined, she is not stupid. While the Cohns were having the stairs carpeted, Gigi slipped and fell all the way down the bare stairsteps and she never since has gone above the ground floor.

Then Jackie and Bud sat up in bed and listened. They could hear voices in the house. First, the breathy voice of a young girl who seemed to be complaining about something and then wheedling. Hers was followed by the dignified voice of a man, speaking quietly but with authority.

"They are upstairs," Jackie said.

The Cohns decided that the intruders were brazen, indeed, because they were making no effort to lower their voices. Bud got out of bed and started for the upstairs hall. The voices were still talking in turn. Bud turned to Jackie and said, "She just said that."

Indeed, that seemed to be the case. The voices were beginning to follow a pattern. Either they had been invaded by the two chattiest burglars since Jimmy Valentine or they just didn't care who heard them.

The Cohns have two sons. The older, David, is at Arizona State and John, 20, is taking art classes in the Los Angeles area. Bud has been heard to remark that John only seemed to take classes that deal exclusively with nude people.

As Bud walked out into the hall, he realized that the voices were coming from John's room, although neither one belonged to John. Bud threw open the door and said over his shoulder to Jackie, "I am going to kill that kid. What we are hearing is his telephone answering machine. He is calling in for his messages."

All of this was delivered in a firm, clear tone of voice in order to be heard over Gigi, who had now worked herself up to a full-fledged bark as soon as she realized she had Bud on her side.

Jackie and Bud stood together in John's room and heard the voice of the girl, as sensuous as satin, saying, "John, this is the fourth time I have called you, and you don't even return my calls."

You'd think the girl would suspect that perhaps John's interests were captured elsewhere, but the girl whimpered along. Her mother should have told her that you don't get anywhere by trying to give them the guilts. Never works.

The man's voice was that of the machine that gave John several options. "Do you want your messages repeated? Do you want to change the message? Would you like the messages saved? Would you like the messages destroyed?"

When I heard the story from Bud, there was a certain tone in his voice, which I picked up and which I think I can safely relay to John. John, dear, if you read this, I have a suggestion that did not occur to the man on the machine. Move.

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