One man's plan to use dog hair to solve the energy crisis

We can use it to fire utility plants, insulate the attic, and act as an additive for gasoline – Petkinol.

I think I've found the solution to our national energy problem. All I know for sure is that I'm in possession of a remarkable renewable resource. What I desperately need is for someone to evaluate my data and then advise me on how to proceed in order to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of Americans.

Our collective future could be determined by a yellow Labrador retriever named Lottie. She has a wonderful disposition and grows a completely new coat of hair every 18 to 24 hours. I know this because of the physical evidence that accumulates throughout the house, day after day, regardless of how often I fight back with my broom and vacuum cleaner.

Some dog owners may dismiss me as a wimp. A typical response happened not long ago when I met a friendly couple at a highway rest stop. They had two canine pals in their car, and after some cheerful small talk I began to tell them about my endless battle against the shedding enemy. They just grinned and said, "In our house we think of dog hair as a condiment." Very funny, but my situation is way beyond the laughing point.

Two factors keep me in a state of consternation and confusion. Once the individual fibers have launched themselves from Base Camp Lottie, they can travel great distances and circumvent any physical barrier. They're in kitchen drawers, in the shower, in all sorts of places the dog has never been.

The other tendency I've noticed is truly ominous: The hair may have developed the ability to self-replicate. I realized this after returning from a short vacation. Lottie was at a kennel, and I had performed a robust cleaning of all floors prior to departure. And yet, upon my return, replacement hairs had stationed themselves in various nooks and corners, sometimes forming alliances with balls of dust and other particulates.

Birds used to retrieve some of the output for their nests, but lately they seem to have given up. I'm half-expecting to find a note in the backyard, scrawled in finch-script: "Enough with the hair! We need twigs, too!"

But one man's problem is a nation's opportunity. Has any scientist researched the practicality of replacing coal-fired power plants with new versions fueled by a never-ending supply of dog hair? Other promising possibilities: (1) automotive fuel additive (great opportunity for catchy brand name – Petkinol, Labrodiesel, or PetroK-9); (2) compressed pellets for use as mail padding to reduce styrofoam production; (3) wall and attic insulation (marketing slogan – "Turns your home into your second-best friend").

I envision an army of Lottie-like canines leading us into an era of energy independence. In the meantime, my ongoing battle against the onslaught of surplus shedding continues.

Lottie is asleep on the sofa as I write. The house is quiet, but I can still hear tiny noises. It's the sound of little dog hairs, talking among themselves. I know they're plotting against me.

Jeffrey Shaffer writes from Portland, Ore.

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