As Jeannette Bruce wryly confesses in Slave to a Shah, beginning on page 86, a stalemate is about the best anyone can hope for when he (or she) enrolls his (or her) dog in obedience school. While the purportedly more intelligent human variously coos, shrieks and boldly orders, "Sit, boy, sit," the dog can show himself to best advantage, calmly wagging his tail as he consecutively amuses, infuriates and provokes bursts of affection.
The ability to cause this emotional mayhem remains the canine's most durable attraction, and our staff seems to consist largely of suckers who fall for every pooch that pads down the street. Their pets range in size from Roy Terrell's six-pound Maltese (he also has a 60-pound standard poodle) to Dick Gangel's 175-pound Newfoundland and in beauty from elegantly coiffed poodles like Cordelia, who belongs to Marathon Runner Andy Crichton, to Bob Ottum's English bulldog, Rufus Parnelli. "Rufus has uglies he hasn't used yet," says Ottum. "His face is so flat he can bite a wall, and I'm teaching him to let one fang hang out the side of his mouth."
Even though most of the staff's dogs are strictly family pets, like Chrissy Casson's placid Bassett, Dexter, a few have achieved a measure of fame. Mort Sharnik's Doberman pinschers have long pedigrees and a collection of prizes from various shows. But the only papers our most famous dog, Punchy, ever had were the ones spread out on the kitchen floor. He was a mutt who belonged to Pat Putnam for 13 years. The day Punchy died Putnam, then working for the Suffolk (L.I.) Sun, wrote a column about his pet, handed it to his editor without rereading it and said, "I don't care if you run this or not; it was just something I wanted to say." It was printed and has since won a prize as one of the best sports stories of 1968. And it will soon be included in an English textbook as an example of excellent writing, a turn that confounds Putnam almost as much as Punchy used to.