I've called this news conference to announce I'm withdrawing from everyday life to make my dog happy.
I can't say when I'll resume my normal routine. My dog has given me a list of benchmarks to meet if I hope to continue our relationship. And while some have advised me to say, "Fine, then! Go!" I hesitate to act impulsively.
It's been 12 years, after all.
A person and a dog collect a lot of memories in 12 years: all the afternoons he's barked in my face for 25 minutes because I want to use my laptop, and he wants me to go outside and wander around picking up sticks while he wanders around sniffing things; the times he's been offered the truck rides he dearly loves and spends the entire drive whining frantically because he's impatient for the next thing, which is getting out of the truck and sniffing things; the times we go for walks and he surges ahead, lags behind and tries to drag me into traffic, all in order to sniff things.
And those examples are just from last week.
Pip still is extremely puppylike when playing with one of his 7,000 toys, not one of which he has ever let us take from him without a fight, but he's a senior dog now, not to mention deaf, and he's become a little demanding.
Speaking of Pip's deafness, our 6-year-old granddaughter gets the credit for the step her grandpa and I took recently.
When we explained to her that Pip could not hear, she told us to get a tag for his collar with "I am deaf" engraved on it.
Then, because we continued to stare at her with our mouths hanging open, she added helpfully, "You could get it at the pet place near my house."
Now here's the thing: We brought Pip home years before our grandchildren arrived.
We had to wait for this girl's parents to bring her into the world, see her through infancy and early childhood, day care, kindergarten and more than halfway through first grade in order for this little child to lead us.
Entirely thanks to her, Pip's collar now sports a shiny silver tag bearing the words, "I am deaf," with our phone numbers.
But that's just one of Pip's many needs. During the day, he runs up and down stairs without thinking, but at bedtime, he loses his nerve.
Usually, he sleeps in one of his several downstairs beds, but occasionally, he'll begin the painful process of climbing several steps, skittering down them with much frantic flurry and toenail clacking, climbing again, skittering down again and so on until one of us gets out of bed, goes downstairs and carries him up. (When sudden nighttime storms blow in, Pip shoots upstairs and into my closet like puffed rice from a cannon, which is another reason I must spend time with my dog: He's a neurotic mess.)
Once a late sleeper to the point of resembling a college student home for break, Pip now expects us to leap up each morning the moment he starts barking "Reveille." He demands prompt door service, coming and going, and he expects a treat whenever he returns from outside, even if he was out only long enough to sniff the UPS van's wheels.
To summarize: For an indefinite period, I'll be walking around the yard with my dog, taking my dog for walks, throwing toys for my dog that he'll chase down and refuse to give back, and offering my dog treats, some of which he'll eat.
I'll now take a few questions. You in the back?
The question is, "Why am I spoiling my dog this way?"
Oh, I'm not spoiling my dog this way.
I spoil my dog by giving him ice cream, after removing any nuts because he hates those, and offering him seconds if he looks at me in that cute way he has. I might also scratch his ears for the rest of my life because there are worse things to be doing at the end of your life.
You can reach me by email, but be patient. I'm pretty busy these days.
Write to columnist Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.