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It's too quiet minus snoozing pup

May 27, 2003

My dog just had surgery. We're not talking a minor tweak. She was

sliced open, her spleen removed, and right now, her stomach looks

like something Dr. Frankenstein might have created with a row of

staples holding her together.

I didn't know anything was wrong. My daughter said the dog was

lethargic. How could she tell? This is a dog that has raised napping

to an art form. Her idea of a trick is rolling over to have her

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stomach rubbed. Mention a walk to most dogs, and they leap about in

excitement. Mention a walk to mine, and she hides. Saying she was

lethargic was simply describing her normal existence.

Nonetheless, I was badgered into taking her to the vet. The first

thing he did was weigh her. Now the other thing my dog is really good

at, besides lying around, is eating. Apparently, this is a trait of

most beagles. As I say, she hides if you try to take her for a walk,

but open the refrigerator, pick up her bowl, make any sound no matter

how slight, if it suggests food, she will hear it and appear within

seconds. That's about the time it takes her meal to disappear, too.

A love of eating coupled with a distaste for exercise does not

make for a slim dog. Cassie exceeded the suggested breed weight limit

by 10 pounds, so when the vet pushed on her stomach, frowned, and

said, "She's awfully tight," what did he expect? The 10 pounds has to go some place.

Anyway, I left her there, they did x-rays and found a mass in her

abdomen that couldn't be explained away by obesity, and so she went

under the knife.

It was a lonesome couple of days. It's amazing how much space an

animal takes up, especially when you live alone. I found myself

oversleeping because there was no impatient dog poking me with her

wet nose and telling me it was time for breakfast. When I ate my own

meals, it felt strange not to have two black eyes focused on me with

the intensity of a laser, trying to manipulate treats. And when it

was time for a walk, I could just go. There was no hunting down the

dog, wrestling the leash on and persuading her out the door.

Finally, though, the vet called and said she could come home. She

arrived with an array of pills and a long list of instructions, most

of which emphasized that no matter what the dog's desire, I was to

restrain her from activity. Clearly, they didn't know the dog they

were dealing with. She came home and did what she always does -- went

to sleep.

The next day my daughter came over.

"Look at how much better Cassie's doing!" she exclaimed.

I looked at the dog, who was lying in the same spot she'd been

lying in for most of the past 24 hours. "How can you tell?"

"She wagged her tail."

She was right. In Cassie's case, that was practically cavorting.

* ROBERT GARDNER is a Corona del Mar resident and a former judge.

His column runs Tuesdays.

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