Kirby: Different types of dogs defined

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My wife's dog Zoe died New Year's Eve 2009. For the past 3½ years, we have been almost entirely muttless. I am not complaining.

We (my wife) considered getting a replacement dog for Zoe. However, it was our first time since getting married that a dog had not blessed (complicated) our lives, so we (me) decided to give it a try.

It worked. Not having a dog substantially lowered the amount of gnawed fencing, haunch-deep holes dug in flower beds and piles of poo in the backyard. But we have grandkids, so there's still the occasional unpleasant surprise.

Things changed last week when our daughter and her husband moved back home so he can finish school. Overnight I lost half my house. Worse, they brought with them our first granddog.

Dogs come in five major relationship categories. I didn't know this until I got a granddog. But it's so clear now.

My own dogs • Elvis, Red, Zipper and Lurch were my premarital mutts. As if they were children fathered out of wedlock, I had to pay regular dog support to keep dogs I really hadn't planned on having in the first place.

But I tell myself it was a maturing experience. Although initially unwanted, these dogs taught me a lot about the simplicity of life.

True happiness was having enough to eat, knowing where to relieve oneself and occasionally giving vent to a bit of expensive idiocy such as cliff-jumping under the influence or chewing the tongues out of a high-end pair of hiking boots.

Biological dogs • These are dogs my wife and I had together while simultaneously having and raising our children. We certainly treated Beau, Nena, Scout and Snapper like they were our kids. Because they were almost identical when it came to manners, hygiene and angst, it was hard to tell the kids and the dogs apart.

There is no bond like the natural bond with dogs you have together. It's like a member of the family dies when they pass away.

Stepdogs • These are dogs that belong to someone who already had a dog when you got into a relationship with them. A stepdog relationship can be a bit tricky, especially if the dog is large and liked the person your wife/husband divorced way better than it will ever like you.

The good news here is that a stepdog might — after sufficient contention — be encouraged by a judge or a dog whisperer to go live with its other biological owner.

Foster dogs • These are loaner dogs, pooches you take in because they need temporary shelter. For example, if your roommate is in jail and his dog needs to be fed, or maybe if a neighbor is on vacation.

I once got talked into taking care of a neighbor's German shepherd who, unbeknownst to anyone until after the neighbors had already left, hated my guts. I fed and watered Genghis for six days through a mail slot in order to keep him from becoming attached to my throat.

The granddogs • The dogs our kids got after they left home, and who nevertheless spend huge amounts of time at our place. They're not technically our dogs, but we still end up watching them, cleaning up after them and, inevitably, becoming attached to them.

We give our granddogs anything they want in the hope that it will help them to love us unreservedly and — more importantly — cause them to be less manageable for their parents.

Now that I have that figured out, maybe I'll be able to enjoy losing half my house. I certainly know a good way to get even now.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or