Another dog? Please!

I thought of telling you all about my dog, but I've decided not to. Dog stories are always kind of corny, and tellers of dog stories go on and on, like old alumni recounting every play of The Big Game. The dog in question doesn't end up seeming all that spectacular, anyway. And besides, there have been so manym dog stories.

Had I told you mine, it would have been about Sancha. But it's good that I decided not to tell you, because she's not really much to look at.Sort of a collie-like thing, black, with white on her chest. No ruff to speak of. Feathers on the legs are marginal, whispy.

We tried, for a while, to make a case for her origin as "mostly Border Collie ," because Border Collies are terrifically bright and quick, and black and white. "Sort of a cross between a Collie and a Border Collie," we's day. By way of proof, we'd point out that Sancha was . . ., well, black and white, and that she trailed around behind our little daughters like a sheepdog making sure the lambs were well guarded, that she would sit on the neighbor's porch and wait allm day, if necessary, for our girls to come out from playing with their little friends.

But Sancha is not, I must admit, terrifically bright. She charges out every morning at 5:30 and chases imaginary squirrels up trees. She stands at the fence and protects us from elderly women walking to church. And there's really no persuasive way to make a case for those ancestral Border Collies. So it's good that I gave up on talking about her.

We had one exciting moment when we heard about Bernese Mountain Dogs. Sancha might look like one of them, we thought. The excitement served as evidence; we were sure! And we were helped by the fact that no onem could say we were wrong -- because no one knew what a Bernese Mountain Dog looked like.

But sober reflection dismisses the possibility. Sancha's eyes are vintage guinea pig. Bright, alert, dark -- but like a guinea pig's. Whatever Bernese Mountain Dogs' eyes look like, they don't look like guinea pigs'. There is no getting around it: Sancha is, in the final analysis, a mongrel, a mutt of such diverse lineages that no one will ever know which ancestors herded sheep, hunted raccoons, dug for moles, raced reindeer across the tundra.

Even her name is wrong. When she came to us, we already had a dog named Erin , who was lithe as a panther and almost smart enough to speak English. We named Sancha "Sancho Panza," a quixotic reference to her qualities of being the oafish sidekick, the dwarf to trail behind the RedCrosse Knight and carry the luggage, the Pancho who bounces foolishly after the Cisco Kid. As Sancho grew, it became apparent he was a she. Sancho Panza had to become Sancha Ponzo. Oafish side-kick with an inverted name. With as inauspicious a start as that, it's a good thing I decided not to bore you be tellilng you all about her.

Even her arrival in our life was inauspicious. Four houses down the street a five- year-old was given a six-week old puppy for his birthday. The father of the five-year old said No. The five-year old gave the puppy to his best friend across the fence. The best friend's mother said No. And so on up the street over backyard fences. By the time she was in our backyard, this little guinea pig-like thing was so thirsty and hungry and handled by so many little boys and girls that I thought she might die.

But she sat in my hand and drank water like a trooper, and ate gratefully, and wagged her strange ratty tail. After an argument that historians of family life call a "discussion," my wife and I thought we'd keep her a little while.

That was six years ago, and to tell the truth, she hasn't really been all that spectacular. In my canine obedience classes she got good marks for attitude, but was very very "average" in performance, especially when compared to the other dog Erin who was a prodigy.

And she's not very brave. Once, when we were running together on a dirt road in New Hampshire, she saw a plastic garbage bag out on the lawn in front of a farmhouse, crouched and ready to spring. She yipped, turned, ran all the way home, looked completely humiliated when I got back later. It ism true that she would literally die before allowing anyone to hurt my daughters, but heck, that's predictable maternal instinct and not worth reporting.

No, there's really no good reason to bore you with a five-hundred word essay on my dog. But, I'll tell you, if you had whistled for her as many times as I have, and watched her come bounding across the field, as rhythmic as tall grass in the wind, as fast as thought, as happy as summer, and as loving as only dogs seem consistently able to be, you would sympathize with my temptation to tell you about Sancha, and you would appreciate how difficult it has been to resist it.

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