One day while I was surfing TV channels, Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer," appeared. The small white bichon he was working with must have been seriously deranged. Standing beside the owner while looking down at her adorable white dog, Millan was explaining ways to make the dog behave.
Suddenly the dog jumped about eight feet in the air, straight up. I was shocked to see him jump that high from a standing position. So was Charlie, one of my dogs.
Charlie is a shepherd mix, about 52 pounds. He never showed an interest in television until that fateful day. When Charlie noticed the white ball of fluff jump, he leaped off the bed and charged the television. At the time I had an old 32-inch set, which was in a corner. Excited beyond belief, Charlie barked as he lunged at the television.
The dog on the screen kept jumping, which made Charlie more excited. Maybe Charlie thought the dog was playing with him. Frustrated, Charlie tried squeezing behind the television set to find the dog, but there wasn't enough room for him to get around the stand. That was the beginning of a life change.
Since that day, whenever I watch a movie or a television program, Charlie lies on the bed with me studying the screen. Every time an animal appears, Charlie goes ballistic, totally beside himself. He barks and races toward the television, his paws up on the dresser where the television sits. If I yell "Charlie, no," he sits on his haunches, ears perked up, eyes glued to the screen. He is enthralled.
Recently I tried to watch the film "Sea Biscuit" but the horse racing drove Charlie crazy.
This hysteria occurs whether the animal is a dog, a horse, a goat or anything he thinks is an animal. A few days ago while going through the channels I found "Lassie Come Home." Seeing the collie was cause for complete madness.
I've heard some dog owners buy films so their dogs can watch movies while they are away. I've also been told there are films made specifically for dogs to watch! Can this possibly be true?
Another skill that Charlie, my wonder dog, has is his ability to sing. No one believes me, but it's true.
One of my addictions is watching "Jeopardy" every evening. After my chores are done, the kitchen is closed for the evening and the computer is turned off, I get into my jammies to watch television in my bedroom.
I tune to the taped version of "Jeopardy." The minute Charlie hears the opening music he starts to howl. Sometimes my other dog, Toots, howls along but she doesn't have Charlie's booming voice. Occasionally I join in but one time a neighbor complained about noise coming from my house so I've learned to control my vocalizing.
On the Fourth of July I watched the PBS White House special. When they played "The Star-Spangled Banner," Charlie sang along. He loves the old flicks on Turner Classic Movies, especially when a rhapsody is played.
Some of my friends worry that I favor Charlie. One of them recently said, "Why do you only talk about Charlie? Don't you love Toots?" Quick to assure her, I said, "Of course I love Toots. But I've had Charlie since he was five weeks old. He thinks I'm his mother. Toots is more independent."
The truth is I love both of them but Charlie is so neurotic that I feel closer to him. Toots is a different type of dog. She hates television and won't rest in bed with Charlie and me when I'm watching something. She can't stand any light.
After I turn off the television, I read for a while. She waits until all the lights are turned off to jump onto the bed. I'm thinking of ordering some custom eye shades for her so she can relax with me and Charlie without having to squeeze under the bed.
To say that my dogs are unbelievably spoiled may be the understatement of the century. Up until recently I cooked a stew of chicken, sweet potatoes and carrots twice a week for Charlie and Toots. Sometimes I had some of it myself for dinner, just adding a little salt. Recently I discovered shredded chicken at the supermarket, and I became lazy. It is much easier to mix some chicken with their kibble in the morning. At night I often broil a steak for the three of us and we share. Have I become irrational?
Incredibly, Toots, who was found wandering the streets of Lubbock, Texas, emaciated, starving and depressed, has become so accustomed to special food that if I fill her bowl with only dry kibble, she won't eat. With her big brown eyes, she looks up at me as if to say, "Is this some kind of joke?"
It recently dawned on me that I treat my dogs better than I treated my ex-husband. Maybe that is why he is an ex. He and I ate out most of the time. I can just imagine saying, "Charlie and Toots, get dressed. We're going out for pizza tonight."
I rationalize my behavior by considering that the dogs never argue with me and never come home late for dinner. Charlie never grabs the remote from me or makes me change the channel.
Do your pets behave strangely? I'd love to hear about their antics and see their photos. You're welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers