Let’s Talk About Baby One More Time

By Joe Darby

If you’re a dog lover, I expect you will enjoy hearing about some of the latest antics of my very own Man’s Best Friend — Baby. If you’re not in the category of those who adore the “fur babies,” I hope you will indulge me this week, because I really wanted to scribble about more than my pint-sized companion.

What immediately prompted the topic for this week is the extraordinary observational abilities of dogs, which never cease to amaze me. They can pick up verbal, visual and other clues that they know mean something’s about to happen. Baby surprised me earlier today when she actually made a mistake but one that showed how tuned in she is to my habits. I was brushing my teeth but before I was quite finished with the procedure, I accidentally tapped the glass that holds my toothbrush.

Baby, who had naturally followed me into the bathroom, got up and started for the bathroom door. It suddenly dawned on me that when she hears a certain clinking sound, caused by my replacing the toothbrush in the glass, it almost always indicates that Papa (me) has finished sticking that foamy thing in his mouth and it’s time to go. She heard the accidental ping today and, naturally, thought, “Okay, he’s done, let’s go do something fun.”

It’s time to introduce Baby to those of you who have not yet read about her. She is my little 5-year-old terrier-poodle mix, rescued by Hope for Paws three years ago, and who is now the sole live-in-companion for the old widow man writing this column. As I’ve said many times, I’ve had lots of great dogs in my life, but Baby outshines them all for giving love and affection. And enjoying receiving it in turn, of course.

I was going through some kitchen drawers not long ago, looking to clear out things I don’t need, when I ran across one of those mitts used to hand-groom dogs, with bunches of soft little tongs or bristles on the mitt’s palm. My dear late wife Mary had bought it years ago for another dog we had, but had not actually used it very much. So it was in “like-new” condition. I called Baby to me and began gently stroking her back and sides with the mitt.

She seemed to open her little brown eyes wide in amazement, wondering what is this wonderful thing that Papa is rubbing on my back. She just loves it. She has learned that it’s called — what else — the mitt. And now whenever I say, “You want the mitt?” she starts wriggling about, giving me kisses and indicating, “Yeah, let’s get on with it.” She poses eagerly for the massage, trying to make sure that I get all the good places and when the rubdown is done, she tries to plant more kisses on my nose (her favorite kiss target) in order to show her thanks.

I am one of those people who allows my dog to lick plates after I’ve finished eating. Some may find that disgusting, but I have good faith in my dishwasher and, by gosh, Baby enjoys it so much. Besides, most often these days, the dish I eat off of is from a frozen dinner and won’t be used again anyway. Well, Baby has developed the extraordinary ability to know just when I am finishing my meal or my desert.

While I am chowing down, sitting on my sofa and watching TV, you would think she would sit close to me, looking at me and the food with those begging eyes that dogs are so proficient in displaying. She actually used to do that. But, now, for some reason, she parks herself on top of the backrest of the sofa, like some little mountain goat up on a ridge. What’s amazing is that she almost always faces away from me. But, invariably, when I am down to my last bite or two, she hops down from the back rest and comes to sit by me. I can almost hear her say, “OK, Papa, I’m ready for whatever you left.”

I think her favorites are lasagna and, for dessert, banana pudding. I know some people foods are not very good for dogs, but with the small amount she gets from licking the platter clean, she is not being put in harm’s way.

Okay, it’s time for me to go let in Baby from the back yard, where she has been indulging herself in adventures unknown to me. You can rest assured, though, that this is not the last column you will see about my fur baby Baby.