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Kirby: Going to the dogs

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Aug 12 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Aug 12 2014 07:56 am

Every morning NuNu jumps on the bed and stares nervously into my face. His radar dish-size ears are flat. His tongue, which belongs on an anteater, darts over his nose. Dare he wake the beast? What about the queen?

NuNu isn’t even our dog. He belongs to our daughter and son-in-law who live downstairs. But since they just had a baby, walking him has fallen to us.

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We’re not talking a small dog, so ignoring him isn’t possible. And even though NuNu can’t talk, he can communicate extremely well.

Every bit of body language he has is saying, "Is it time to go? I was just checking to see if it’s time to go. Any chance you guys would like to go? I’d like to go."

If either my wife or I make any move to get out of bed, NuNu is beside himself with joy. He whirls around on the bed three times, shoots off into the kitchen, races back, does another dance, and then listens, trembling, for any of the following keywords:

"Walk, go, vamos, leash," and "You woke me up, you #%@$ mutt."

Hearing any of those, he comes truly unhinged. He scrambles to the front door and stares at the knob, whimpering piteously yet again about not having any thumbs.

My wife and I begin every day like this. Walking NuNu has become mundane for us, but for him it’s a trip to Disneyland.

I don’t know how I got roped into this. I didn’t want another dog. After our lovable Lab named Zoe died in 2009, I thought we were done. I wanted to focus on walking, feeding, and cleaning up after grandkids.

It wasn’t to be. All three of our kids live within 500 yards of us, and all of them have big dogs which seem to end up at our house a lot. We’re doing loaner dogs.

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Last week, we went for a walk with one dog and came home with two. Midway through our amble, another huge dog showed up and began stalking NuNu.

What appeared to be the preamble to a fight turned out to be just a little cursory butt sniffing. Nu wasn’t impressed, but the new dog wanted a friend. So he followed us/Nu home.

When we arrived, the new dog settled right into our backyard. He drank Nu’s water, played with his toys, and whizzed on every vertical surface, including my favorite outside writing chair. Wasn’t this fun?

It was, until my wife and NuNu left. They went inside and left me to deal with the situation. While the new dog loved them, he was rightly suspicious of me. He wouldn’t let me near him.

What was the best thing to do? Should I kick him out the gate and let him wander around? Call animal control? FedEx him to Los Angeles?

That’s when I noticed a tag in the mass of hair around his neck. Maybe it was an ID tag with the owner’s phone number.

It was, but it took me most of an hour and half a pound of hamburger to find out. By the time Boone — that was his name — trusted me enough to get his collar off, we were best buddies. I was also covered in hair and slobber.

I called the number on the tag. The owner was at work but gave me his address. I took Boone home, jury-rigged the gate he’d forced open, and told him to stay home.

Walking back, I counted myself lucky that it had been that easy to get rid of Boone and wished I could work out something similar with the three loaner dogs.

Make that four loaner dogs. That evening, one of my daughters brought her new puppy by for a visit in our backyard.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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