Dog Day Afternoon Points To Pricey Cost Of Pet Care

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"Amber, what have you done?" I shriek as I walk into the dining room after returning home from a shopping trip.

I've caught her red-pawed, lifting up the unnaturally flaccid corner of the patio screen door and bounding in from the deck to greet me. She's done it again. For the third time.

"Amber, how could you? Bad dog!" I scold, as I drop to my knees to inspect the damage. Just two days ago, I had been down on those same knees for two hours, painstakingly poking at screen and spline while the sun baked my neck, and sweat dripped into my eyes and down my aching back. That was right after the second time.

This time it's obvious the damage can't be repaired.

"Amber, come here! Do you see this? No, no, no!"

She looks up at me, then at the screen where I'm pointing. Her baffled expression tilts me over the edge. I fling myself into a chair, wailing and beating the table with my fists.

"Amber, do you know what this means?" I screech. "I have to buy a new screen door now. Probably a doggie door, too. You're costing me a fortune!"

Those usually dancing brown eyes stare into mine with alarm. She's never seen me like this.

"Why do I put up with you? You pee on the grass I worked so hard to plant so you could roll on it instead of in the dirt, and it kills the grass and I have to reseed it. And you've dug tunnels to China all over the rest of the yard," I whine.

I'm glad my little granddaughter isn't hearing this, because she's always reminding me that dogs can't talk.

But that's not true. Amber speaks body language. We've been in this relationship long enough that we understand each other like an old married couple. She knows what I'm feeling, even if she doesn't know the words. And what I'm feeling right now is mad.

This screen thing started months ago when Amber, wanting desperately to join me and some tree trimmers in the back yard, clawed a hole in the screen.

I decided to get it rescreened rather than replace it. Unhap-pily, the man to whom I had entrusted the rescreening neglected to put the spline on to hold the screen in place, which I, uninitiated into the secrets of rescreening, did not immediately detect.

Now Amber, a golden retriever, can slide the unlatched screen open in a civilized manner. Since rescreening, it doesn't slide easily, however. So I figured her paw had slipped and poked through the unsplined screen. Extricating the screen door from the track to take it to be rescreened had been major surgery for some mysterious reason. No way I was up to doing that again, so I fixed it myself. It was hellish work, but I did it. Afterward, I had beamed with pride whenever I looked at that taut, smooth screen. Amber sure couldn't push her paw through that job, I thought. Two days later, she did.

I sit down at the computer, still mad, and key in "pet doors" online. Amber takes her accustomed place at my side and nudges my elbow with her nose so that my hand flies off the keyboard.

"Stop, Amber. I'm not going to pet you. Go away," I growl. She nudges me vigorously several more times. I push her head away impatiently.

But as I concentrate on scanning the pet door Web sites, my hand instinctively drops to Amber's tawny neck. I bury my fingers in its silken softness. With a sigh, I shut down the computer. As Scarlett O'Hara would say, I'll think about it tomorrow. I know there's just one way to set our world straight again. Make some fudge. For me, that is. Amber gets a pig's ear.

Vivian Taylor can be contacted online at mailto:viv@cybertrails.com or by calling 474-1386.

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