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Muffie, our moonlighting model

By Christopher Andreae / November 22, 2002

There was a note of wonder in her voice. "Just take a look at this!" she was smiling broadly.

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She handed me one of the several million Christmas gift catalogs that have invaded our home since about June 1. This one included items on behalf of the dog population, which, as ever, seems in need of rescue and protection. Aprons with slogans like "In the dog house again," those sorts of things, and - "My goodness! For heavens' sake! Well, I never!" I exclaimed, after following the trajectory of my wife's index finger as it pointed at a small photo halfway down page 10.

Now I am aware that visual recognition comes fairly low down the list of intercanine socializing techniques (nasal recognition is much higher up), but the fact is that we humans do use our eyes in this regard. Line up our Bugs or Muffie in an identification parade, and I'd pick 'em out before you could swallow half a spoonful of vichyssoise. That's how quick a trice I'd do it in.

So when I fixed my gaze upon the head and shoulders pictured in the catalog (just below "Letter-writing Pads for Toy Poodle Fanciers" and just above "Tastefully Personalized Keep-Your-Pooch-Dry Bags in Purple or Tartan"), my exclamation was the epitome of spontaneity.

The picture was indisputably Muffie. The spitting image. Her barking likeness. I'd know that dog anywhere.

Flipping further through the catalog, we found she turned up on four other pages. In her final appearance she is modeling a smart-looking harness.

Now this dog of ours is a Glasgow guttersnipe without pedigree. She could not possibly be mistaken for some clonelike fox terrier, or yet another black lab, or an Afghan or a spaniel of impeccably predictable background. No. Although it's true that our tyke shares with many mutts her black-and-tan markings, bent-over ear-tips, and periscope tail, yet her markings are a mix of precise and random uniqueness. Her ear-tip-bendings are individualistic, her tail all her own. Finally, it is in the arrangement of her facial features - including lashings of mascara, liner, and eye shadow that compete, allure-wise, with Brigitte Bardot's - that she is different. And she has a way of looking at you (and your camera lens) that, I swear, belongs to no other dog.

So the only conclusion that can be drawn is that she's been moonlighting. How she managed it isn't altogether clear. Presumably she has an agent, or at least contacts in the advertising and modeling worlds. I am a little hurt that she has kept her budding career secret from us, but naturally I wish her well....

Come to think of it, this discovery helps explain a few things I have been subliminally conscious of in Muffie's attitude lately. I had put these indicators down to something I have observed in dog behavior over the years.

When you first bring a dog home, it may start out a little uncertain of its position in the domestic pecking order. It will ingratiate itself to you by certain ploys - in Muffie's case, by placing her muzzle on your right knee and fixing you with a gaze of unremitting intentness. Finger-washing is another ploy she performs at intervals, with a catlike persistence.

But since the second dog, The Bugs, arrived, I've observed certain differences between her ploys and his. The Bugs rolls over at every opportunity, just to show how utterly devoted to us he is. He also - though he's the size of a sheepdog rather than a pug - jumps up on your lap with only the slightest invitation and snuggles there for as long as he can fool you into thinking that both of you are comfortable. Since his legs are quite long, lap-dogging like this is less than tidy; his legs stick out of the snuggle like wayward tree branches. But he is so obviously happy to be sitting on you - as if his dearest ambition has at last been achieved - that you tend to indulge it as long as you can.