Working Dog-Hard At Domestics

There is likely little we can do from here to save television, but I'd like to make an effort to keep Theo happy.

Every evening at supper time, I turn on the TV to get the latest information on the condition of affairs, and I'm told that Chicago slid into the lake or that 127 people are trapped in a tattoo parlor in Atlantic City or that Finland has invaded Vatican City, and that details will be forthcoming on the 11 o'clock news.

Since I have supper punctually and then go to bed, I have no notion of what 11 o'clock news looks like and dwell in ignorance of all these wonderful things that contribute to gracious living and informed conversations.

And last evening, after inviting me to await the 11 o'clock revelation of belated details, the man reminded me to tune in at 8:30 as they were going to show a dog that had learned to run a vacuum sweeper.

True, I don't relate too much to anything in Atlantic City, but I've been a friend of the dog, and Theo.

Theo brings me breakfast muffins, opens my mail, balances my checkbook, seeks bargains for me at the marts, and now and then decides which necktie I should wear to the next Tuesday Night Dogfight. In short, Theo is family, and if we require any small attention, Theo and her husband get first call and always arrive before we hang up the telephone.

And Theo is the one who comes weekly to move things about the house so I can't find them until she comes again. And she is also talented at operating our vacuum sweeper and maintaining decent tidiness at our potwallop.

If necessary, she will shut the vacuum off and discuss my investments with the banker, or write a nasty reproof to the dumpmaster for closing the gate before I got there. And I cannot imagine household bliss at our address if some Airedale or beagle moves in and replaces Theo at the console of our Electrolux.

I shudder at the task of telling her about this possibility of being replaced in our esteem, recognition, employ, and affection. Then I shudder all over again at the thought of what this means to the dog! Is there a future in it?

As each beloved Theo in this vast world and wide is thrown off work by a surge of house-cleaning dogs, can the impoverished taxpayer be expected to pick up millions upon millions more in unemployment benefits and related care for destitute domestics?

The dog will cease to be anybody's best friend, and will be hated and despised.

And this will be so out of character! Haven't you noticed the deep dedication of the canine kind as they set out, singly and by dozens, to find something to do each morning?

Every chance is explored, every opportunity considered. A decent dog, attending his duties, will take care of every chore except, you'll notice, paying the taxes. They are thorough, dependable, and stay at a task faithfully right up to mealtime.

As much as I like dogs, I will never give thought to hiring one to replace Theo. When I see the girl I will make extra effort to tell her not to fret - to be assured that she will never be dismissed in favor of some card-bearing pooch off a television show.

Another thought intrudes: Will this be good for the dogs? Give a dog, any dog, a television show, and before long he's going to expect baseball wages and tenure and become proud, haughty, and hard to get along with. And what about the laugh track?

I'm told the recorded laughter of the audiences for shows by Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Ed Wynn, Laurel and Hardy, Milton Berle, Walter Cronkite, and other such hilarious comics is now being used to brighten sitcoms that are produced without spectators.

We all know that no amount of residual laughter, rescued from the reliquaries, is going to make anything now on television funny. but there might be some unexpected mirth in watching a rabbit hound de-dust an oriental heirloom. They might get me to sit up until 7:30 p.m.

Our Theo does have a tinkly laugh that resounds through the house when something amuses her, such as a dunning letter she finds in my mail.

And I have frequently tried to think of some use for it that would earn her some money on the side and not make her dependent on the pittance I pay her to vacuum the floor coverings.

It is a joy to hear Theo let go, and with two or three outbursts on the day she comes, the house remains echoing jollity all week.

Theo, in truth, could stay at domestic service if she did nothing but come in once a week and give us a few bursts of ha-ha-ha. The very idea of letting her go and hiring a talented Labrador retriever is too absurd to be given any attention even here.

I think the best thing to do, considering everything, is to clap Theo on the back and assure her she's our only true friend, and tell these smarty dogs to keep off her turf.

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