Get yourself a dog |

Get yourself a dog

Alan Braunholtz

Serious resolutions are promises to ourselves on a psychological fresh sheet to change a little bit and be a better person. Little resolutions and changes can have large and surprising effects on our lives.

One year a friend adopted a racing greyhound, partly to prevent it from being put down, partly for company, and partly as an exercise incentive. His life has changed.

Jobs, places to live, girlfriends are selected for their dog compatibility. Dogs are an antidote to unhappy materialism. Dogs want you, food, a good walk and playtime. The old-fashioned good things in life.

Personally, I think dogs trump children in this regard. Kids do care what car they’re driven to school in and there is always that college fund nagging to be filled.

My friend isn’t any fitter, though. Ex-track greyhounds do not run. They’ve run enough and now they’re done. I’ve only seen this greyhound move fast twice – once while being chased by an angry Rottweiler, the other when a visitor vacated the “doggie” couch to change TV channels. “Fffzzsip” and Vinnie the greyhound reclaimed his rightful place on the couch.

Any senior greyhound racing would need to replace the mechanical rabbit with a comfy couch on a pole. Thanks to this dog, my friend lives a less stressful life in a house of many sofas.

I’m impressed and surprised that the Ritz-Carlton has dogs available. Guests can check out a dog for company or a romp in the woods. I’m willing to bet these dogs get pre-booked. It’ll be interesting to see if this dog rental trend spreads to less luxurious venues. Maybe we’ll get dog-rental shops next to the ski shops. “Well what type of dog do you want, the budget pound special, performance or demo model?” Or: “Are you a type I, II or III handler? Type I is your basic goofy lab, will do anything but no real snap or valedictorian tricks you know. Type II you’re getting into your high-strung border collie, red setter and standard poodle. Lots of energy, little tougher to control. Type III well, pit bull-wolf-Doberman mix type stuff. Impressive and powerful, but you can get yourself in trouble.”

A big change in air travel this year is that airport security is now for real. Watching a dog run around the moving baggage on a carousel jolts one out of that automaton airport mode. Why not have a dog at the passenger screening? Being selected for search by a dog is way better than random choice, and what could be more politically correct than a golden retriever?

New developments with “sniffer” technology suggest that wasps and bees are on their way to replace dogs. They’re cheaper and better sniffers. Present designs have these wasps enclosed in hand-held devices but how long before genetically modified swarms of killer bees patrol our airports, searching out the tell tale smell of explosives? Detection and punishment all in one swoop and no one could accuse a wasp of being racist.

An unexpected plus: Everyone would be real calm at check-in, and after the odd false positive there would be a drastic reduction in strong odiferous cologne use.

A less pleasant surprise this year is the resurgence of smallpox, or our fear of it. I remember when the World Health Organization proudly announced the eradication of smallpox. In a perfect world, yes, but us humans are not perfect.

We’re going to vaccinate 1 million health workers and troops against a disease that only exists

in weapons laboratories. Pity we can’t be as fearful about the flu, a disease that kills over 30,000 U.S. citizens a year.

New infectious diseases keep surprising us. While we may be comfortable with boring old (and deadly) flu, anthrax, mad cow disease and exotic tropical invasions scare us silly.

West Nile virus is a recent arrival and is being found in all sorts of animals, including alligators in Florida.

Upon hearing this, a reporter fearfully asked if you could catch it from an alligator bite.

The health professional’s bemused reply: “Yes but an alligator is a touch bigger than a mosquito. The bite itself would probably be your primary concern.”

We can be like that, obsessing over the new and strange changes while ignoring the older and more obvious problems. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Anyone who follows through on the old standard New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get fitter, stop smoking, drive slower is statistically doing the bright thing where longevity and quality of life is concerned.

Some things never change.

Alan Braunholtz writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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