My dog peed on a flag. It wasn’t a big flag, just one of those little flags that people plant at the end of their driveways between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. But it was a flag nonetheless.

We were in Minnesota walking through a neighborhood. As usual, I had my head in the clouds. Toby, the Great Pyrenees mix puppy perpetrator, was sniffing his way along the sidewalk. I felt a tug on the leash, looked back, and yep, the dog had his left leg raised over the flag, and the deed was done.

Of course, as you would, I immediately looked around to see if anyone had witnessed this heinous act.

Fortunately, we were in the clear. At that moment, I thought what should we do? Should I go up to the house in question and abjectly apologize? Or should we just make a run for it?

Duh. We ran.

As we ran, I realized that we had no idea what Toby’s first year of life was like. We don’t think he was raised in some commie indoctrination camp, but you never know.

This was only one of the incidents that occurred while Toby and I tried our mightiest to adjust to summer in the Northland.

Next, there was the zoo incident. We were in Minnesota to visit our daughter and son-in-law, granddaughter and soon-to-be-born grandson. So, what do you do while you’re waiting for the due date in three days? Obviously, keep everyone calm, stay home and watch movies.

No. We decided to take everyone to the zoo. It turns out that as a family unit, we are not the best at thinking through different scenarios of what could happen, especially when it came to Toby.

The zoo was about 45 minutes from my daughter’s home. We got there and our granddaughter, Fiona, 2, was having a blast. Then the phone owned by my wife, Laurie, rang — an unknown number. It was a woman who lived a few miles from my daughter’s house, and she politely said, “Hey, we have your dog.”

There was a collective moment of silence, then figuring out who to blame. Of course, you know who will be accused when you have a wife, daughters and a learning-the-ways-of-the-world granddaughter.

Fathers, it’s our lot in life.

Fortunately, we had driven two cars. Without speaking, Laurie and I sprinted out of the zoo and headed back. She drives in these situations because she accuses me of driving like a “granddad” (I am).



If I drive, there is usually a litany of, “Change lanes! Go faster! Beat that truck!” etc.

We arrived back alive, and quickly noticed a Toby-sized hole in a porch screen. Fortunately, two small dogs and a cat that had gotten out along with Toby were all safe.

I drove the few miles to the caller’s house, and there was Toby, playing in a pond with two Labradors. He had crossed one county road, two swamps and a busy golf course to hang out with these two water dogs.

He saw me, jogged up to the car with not a glance at me, jumped in and laid down.

Adventure over. He did not look at all apologetic for punching through the screen.

There had been a dozen or so other strikes against us. Chaos in the house, chasing the small dogs, digging under the porch, knocking over Fiona, all while the rest of the family were trying to create the Zen-like calm needed to bring a new baby into the world.

Now, as every father of adult daughters knows, the women in the family can telepathically agree on decisions that impact men without even speaking to one another.

It was like one of those horrible break-up movie scenes. Laurie sat me down and said, “We all think it would be best if you just took Toby back to Santa Fe.”

A pause.

“We think he’ll be happier there, and he is causing too much chaos here.”

A few days later, I packed up our car and headed southwest with Toby.

As we dropped into Iowa, I explained to him why it was a bad idea to defile someone’s flag. Near Omaha, Neb., he rolled over on his back and stopped listening. I spent much of Colorado wondering how dogs had come to rule our lives. But the answer was simple.

We loved them fiercely. We forgave them their foibles. And they gave us so much back. I wouldn’t change a thing. Sorry about the flag!

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