The economy, the price of gas and a recent conversation with my husband about Stan Hywet gave me the idea of conducting tours through my own house.

The economy, the price of gas and a recent conversation with my husband about Stan Hywet gave me the idea of conducting tours through my own house.

Not that my house and yard bear any resemblance to the 65-room Akron mansion built in 1912, though the house is of the same vintage.

One difference is that instead of intricate interior paneling, our house had sheet linoleum; instead of acres of gardens, we have ancient peonies that continue to bloom in spite of apparent exhaustion. Every year enormous flowers emerge from their buds and immediately touch their foreheads to the ground, scattering petals on the descent. Next to healthy peonies, ours give the impression of having been rolled outdoors in wheelchairs.

But all that doesn't matter, because the tours I plan to conduct have nothing to do with sideboards and great halls. My tour will be all about dogs.

"Dogs and My House," I'll call it, or maybe "Dogs through the Years."

We'll start in the kitchen.

"I draw your attention to the storm door," I'll say. "This door is very similar to the one our dear dog Jeffrey attempted to climb through the day he was caught outside in a sudden thunderstorm. The children and I weren't home when the storm started, and by the time we pulled up -- pretty much on two wheels, since we knew that the dog was outside -- Jeffrey had torn out the screens of every window on the ground floor level and was caught in this very doorway, his front half in the house and his back half on the porch. I'm glad to report he recovered quickly in the arms of his family, but of course every screen in the downstairs had to be replaced."

Then I'll point to the kitchen wainscoting. "Here -- and here, and here, and over there -- you see gouges in the wood where our former dog Alice apparently sharpened her teeth and claws while alone for a few minutes. Yes, it does look as if she took a hacksaw to the walls. Yes, we did sand and stain the wainscoting, but as you see it was to little avail.

"Later we'll see the couch which replaced the one that was disemboweled by the same Alice. She attacked the cushions while we were out to dinner, and we came home to find her standing on the couch like a delinquent mountain goat, her mouth full of cushion stuffing.

Yes, clearly the dog should never have been left alone with anything but a loaded gun. No, no, I'm kidding about the gun.

Alice was a lovable dog in spite of her destructive tendencies, and I'm sure she's very happy on the farm to which we sent her about $3,000 later. Yes, I know that's what people say but in our case it's true. Alice is alive and no doubt keeping busy.

"Now if you'll step into the living room, I'll point out the books chewed by our two yellow Labrador retrievers who would occasionally go on bibliophilic rampages, snatching books from tables and lower shelves for an orgy of gnawing. Of course I adored those dogs, but I can't say I ever grew to love the distressed look of those books.

" What's that? Pip? No, so far Pip has behaved himself. No screen ripping or woodwork clawing or book chewing. He's careful to the point of hilarity when he pulls a toy from behind the rungs of a chair.

"He's still new, though. Perhaps all he needs is time."

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer: E-mail mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.

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