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[Another Blast From the Past. Champaign Urbana News Gazette, 1994]

[Image credit: Lynda Barry,  iconic poster from 1982]

TASHA: Barb was so cute when I first got her… It’s a shame this had to end up in court…

My dog Tasha wanted to sue me.

She thought since it was the Year of the Dog (according to the Chinese calendar anyway), things would be different around here. I told her to count her blessings. There were plenty of border collies out there who had to work for a living. Or even worse, we could have lived in Beijing. If dogs there are caught lifting a leg in public or committing other ‘antisocial acts’ like breathing, the punishment is more direct:

State-run papers have been headlining the hazards of keeping dogs as well as the numbers of kills by city dog-beating squads and arrests of dog-dealers.”—Reuters, 2/7/94

“Yes,” Tasha dreams, “But I might live in Germany.” The German Ministry of Agriculture was proposing a canine bill of rights outlawing cruel and unusual punishments such as metal collars, harnesses, and short leashes. Dog owners would also have to be within view of their dogs for at least eight hours a day, as well as “…spend quality time with them—two hours daily in one-dog households and 30 minutes in multi-dog homes.”—U.S. News & World Report, 3/21/94

I couldn’t help wondering. Everyone here loves dogs. What if this legislation passes here? My dog would bring the first charges.

TASHA’S ATTORNEY: “Your Honor, Barb’s mileage records clearly show she has not gotten out of her minivan since November. However, we will present evidence PROVING she has refused to allow Tasha into said minivan ever since that incident involving the motorcycle, the Great Dane, and Tasha’s er… former breakfast. We call Tasha Taub to the stand.” [Everyone waits while Tasha hops up on the witness stand, wagging her tail. The courtroom audience coos.] “Tasha, is it true that you are a victim of sheep-deprivation?”

TASHA [tilts her head to the side an pricks up her ears. The jury says, “Awww”]: “Arf!”

Furthermore, we submit that Barb has defaced her legally-mandated “I Border Collies” bumper sticker. 

TASHA’S ATTORNEY: “And is it true that Barb refuses to let you supplement your Doggie Diet Kibble Pellets with protein snacks like the Letter Carrier and the neighbor’s cat that nobody is really using anyway?”

TASHA [tilts her head to the other side so judge can scratch behind her ears]: “Arf!”

BARB: “Objection! The dog was in the van last Thursday.”

ATTORNEY: “But isn’t it true that you only enticed her into the minivan because you were contemplating an act of follicular assault?”

BARB: Yes, I did have her groomed.

ATTORNEY: And didn’t Tasha request just a little off the collar and a manicure?

BARB: Well, the 7-year-old wanted her to get a mohawk, while the 10-year-old thought if we had some doggy gang symbols cut into her fur, that rottweiler down on the corner might show more respect. But in the end, we decided on the Sinéad O’Connor look.”

ATTORNEY: Your Honor, as you can see, Tasha has been shaved completely bald.

BARB: Objection! We prefer to think of her as differently hirsute, or temporarily hair-disadvantaged. And we point out in our defense that she is, in fact, just a dog.”

[Entire courtroom gives a collective gasp of horror.]

Embrace your inner border collie. [Image credit: Gary Larson, Far Side Comics]

ATTORNEY: Your Honor, Tasha is a border collie, an intellectually gifted canine companion American. According to a ranking of doggy brain power  “…the border collie is the smartest dog in America, a canine Einstein, Oxford, Princeton, Phi Beta Kibble—the whole bit.”—[The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, Free Press 1994]

BARB: Your Honor, I have three points to make in my own defense. In the first place, people only think border collies are intelligent because they tilt their heads to the side and gaze up at people talking to them. This makes them look like they’re listening to everything you say. The truth is they are only listening for the word ‘ball’ and wondering why you have so much hair in your nostrils. But other than doing security clearances for the CIA and advising the Clintons on investments, there are very few jobs which she could handle successfully.

Second, It’s true the dog did get clipped a little close this year. But the 12-year-old’s sweater looks great on Tasha, and that sunburn won’t last much longer…

Finally, for years now, Tasha has been waking me every night by barking at 3AM hallucinations. We haven’t received a letter in three years because she chases off letter carriers, and I’ve gone through three vacuum cleaners trying to keep up with all the fur she sheds. When I woke up last Thursday, I was looking at a giant ball of dog fur next to my bed that had been there so long it wanted breakfast and college tuition. Something just snapped, and the next thing I knew, I was coming out of the groomers with a naked border collie. Look, I realize there are haircuts that could require prison sentence (unless elected President of the United States). But Tasha was in power-shed mode, and giant balls of discarded fur were chasing the children and threatening the cat. This was a completely justifiable grooming incident.

ENTIRE COURTROOM: Guilty!

TASHA [worried about dinner if the one with opposable thumbs is incarcerated]: Arf?

Lucky for me, this is America and not Germany. I grabbed her ball and headed out to the park with the naked border collie.