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The dog -- man's best friend or biggest scapegoat?

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By Lisa King

We have all heard it said that the dog is man's best friend.

Well, that runs true to form, for we all know how most people treat their friends. The dog is no exception. For the dubious honor of being humanity's best friend, the canine is constantly being dogged.

If you think about all the similes in our language that refer to dogs, you would think people hate them.

For example, did you ever see a drunk dog? Not only that, but people say, "lie like a dog, sick as a dog, treated like a dog, working like a dog," and the list goes on and on.

If a husband stays out all night, he is in the doghouse. His wife may try to reform him, but she will find that you can't teach an old dog a new trick.

Being a dog lover, since I have always heard about the "dog days" of summer, but never knew what it meant, so I looked it up.

I was surprised.

Never mind what I thought it meant, but I sure was barking up the wrong tree. According to Webster, the term is astronomical and refers to the helical rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, that occurs between early July and early September.

According to the astronomy department at Cornell University, the ancient Egyptians called Sirius the Dog Star after their god, Osirus. Since this star is brightest in the summer and rises with the sun, the ancient Egyptians and Romans reasoned that it was responsible for the heat of the summer because it added its heat to that of the sun.

I think the popularity of the dog stems from the fact that dogs, unlike cats, give people's ego a boost. Robert A. Heinlein said that women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. On the other hand, a dog is always glad to see you and acts as if you can do no wrong.

But we should remember Ann Landers' advice: "Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful."

I always had a dog growing up, and have many fond memories of their loyalty and their antics.

My chihuahua, Izzy, loved to chase cats. Unfortunately, he was extremely nearsighted.

More than once, he would make a mad dash for what he thought was a cat, only to pull up short when the creature in question turned out be something else.

Like the time the neighbor's floppy-eared pet rabbit wandered into our yard.

Izzy took off like a shot, and screeched to a stop about a foot from the rabbit, who paid him no mind and continued to munch contentedly. Izzy cocked his head, first one way and then another. The expression on his face said it all. "What the heck is that thing?'

Another time, a large bird lit on a rock to get a drink from a goldfish pond that took me all week to dig and landscape (another story). Izzy thought for sure he had a cat snagged and dashed off to intimidate it.

The bird and Izzy launched themselves into the air at the same time. The bird spiraled gracefully upward, but gravity was unkind to Izzy. He landed with a splash.

Not only was he nearsighted, but he also had trouble sleeping.

We had a chiming clock that played "Ava Maria" at the stroke of midnight.

Every time those strains sounded, Izzy would wake up and start coughing. Asthma is a malady that often plagues Chihuahuas, and he was no exception. But he would try to cough and clear his throat at the same time. The sound was exactly like a braying jackass.

My current dog is a four-pound, 15-year-old chihuahua named Sugar, so named because she is so sweet -- not a typical trait for that breed. She doesn't really have any annoying habits like Izzy did, but she does have a sweet tooth. She has never learned any tricks either, but she is very smart.

I quickly learned that it was necessary to spell the word "treat," because when she hears it, she will run straight to the candy dish. She also knows when you're talking about her. So we started spelling the word, "dog." But she's caught on to that, too. When she hears, 'D-O-G,' she will turn and look at you and roll her eyes. But you can always depend on that warm greeting when coming home from work, with those smiling eyes and that tail wagging furiously.

On that note, I leave you with one last dog saying: "The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue."