A dog's to-do list

Her small pack of hounds helps keep her life more organized.

Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Fetch: Spot, the former first dog of President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, plays a game of fetch outside the White House.

It's amused me these last several weeks to hear and read all the news accounts of past presidential pets and their White House roles. But despite the tales of these pets' (usually dogs) value – such as calming their keepers or providing light-hearted press during trying times, I don't think anyone has yet noted dogs' intrinsic organizing skills. And that, I believe, may be the most important consideration of all for busy persons such as presidents when selecting a pet.

I must admit that I was unaware of this valuable canine trait until we opened our doors to a dachshund a few years back and subsequently to another one. Although I'd spent my life among various critters – furry and feathered – I had never owned dogs nor had I known how orderly they are. My husband, who had grown up with dogs, frequently reminds me of my initial reaction to Rummy, our first adoptee.

I soon learned that dogs are much more interactive than cats. While other animals would join you in the kitchen (cats watching you cook), in the yard (chickens chasing the tiller), or at the dining room table (parakeets perching on the edge of your plate), they didn't tend to initiate the adventure or subsequently perpetuate it as a routine like dogs do. Now that I'm deeply engaged with our small pack of hounds, however, my life is more organized. The dogs simply won't let me skip breakfast. Leaving for work means it's time for a chewy strip, and when dinner is over, it's time to sit down with them to read the paper.

Failure to stay on schedule invokes my dogs to squeak or bounce like a bunny until we figure out that we've missed an appointment to play ball or watch a movie. And to make sure we're on schedule, the dogs also appear to keep time by location. For example, when we finish watching a movie upstairs, the dachshunds quickly guide us back downstairs to the kitchen with squeaks and hops to remind us that it's time for an evening snack. But lest one think these hounds simply operate by scent and sound, we've noticed that if a movie runs longer than the usual two hours, Rummy will start squeaking at the time it would normally end so that we can complete our cookie-sharing task on schedule.

So if the Obamas are still deciding on a White House pet, I'd like to recommend a dog – not just for the fun and interactive companionship, but for a canine's keen organizational skills. And if you've got a busy routine, or New Year's resolutions to keep, consider rescuing a dog or two. There's certainly no cheerier way to stay on schedule!

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