As you may know, we have a large, old, black dog named Shade. Shade is part hunting dog, so, technically he's Jeff's hunting dog, but once he flushes a pheasant out of the brush, he wants nothing else to do with it (he's no retriever!). When Shade first took up residence in our home, he had been exclusively an outside and garage dog, with occasional forays into a guest bedroom with the door closed, lest he growl like Cujo at unsuspecting visitors. I, frankly, was terrified of this dog. And suddenly he was a permanent resident of my home! He growled at Arlie and Harrison at every turn, and I had to put a stop to it. I had to be the alpha dog! So, one terrifying day, after a particularly nasty show of teeth and a guttural sound (from Shade, not me!), I grabbed his collar and growled back, albeit it not as formidably as he. That was the beginning of a long transition for Shade, which up to today has reached a new level of "freedom" for this son of Satan. He's actually allowed to roam around the house a little instead of being tied up to the leg of the couch (seriously!). That was our compromise to letting him be part of the family in the family room. If not there, he was outside or in the kennel. Kind of a prison-like existence, no? However all that is with good reason. Let me tell you about Shade's antics. Before he was "mine", he was Jeff's (and we still argue, along with Hannah, over who he loves more!), and he performed some amazing feats. Like one day he ate the siding off one huge section of Jeff's house. Yes, he ATE it. He didn't tear it up and leave it strewn about. No, he was kind enough to consume his destructiveness and suffer no ill effects. Soon after that, he was left in his dog run overnight with Jeff's truck. Upon awakening, Jeff discovered that Shade had chewed up all the wiring to the lights under the truck. Since he's been in my house, he has refrained from structural damage, but his antics are unique just the same. He has "unzipped" a ziploc bag and eaten a sandwich out of it, leaving the bag behind with nary a tear. He consumed two entire one-pound bags of Easter chocolates, foil wrappers and all, with no ill effect. He once stole a banana off the counter and peeled it, consuming the inside and leaving the peel just perfect. Last night he repeated his banana trick, only this time no peel was to be found, only a slightly chewed stem. This dog will wait until everyone is occupied and then sneak out of the room, foraging upstairs in the kids' rooms where he is sure to find a few cracker crumbs left in a box or a package of Reese's Pieces left over from a birthday party. (Let me stop here to say that my kids are NOT ALLOWED to eat in their rooms, but they break the rules all the time, clearly!). If there is no delectable delight to be found in his favorite haunts, he is just as content to eat lip gloss, toothpaste, breath mints, and lotion. He has never once been to the vet for anything except a regular checkup, having an iron-clad digestive system that seems to handle what goes in. On top of that, he is always "verbal" making whining sounds, barking incessantly, or just breathing loudly. And to top it off, this huge dog, weighing in, I'm guessing, somewhere between 80 and 90 lbs. thinks he is a lap dog. He will climb right up into your lap or on the bed and snuggle, head on the pillow and everything! Which might be cute if he didn't smell so bad and have dew claws that could gut you in one swipe. In people years, this dog is like 75, yet he still managed to attempt getting amorous with Georgette right in front of us yesterday, even though he's had his manhood removed years ago! I kicked him off, saying "you dirty old man!" Yes, Shade is unique, the quintessential "bad dog". Some days I could just leave him on a freeway off-ramp. But somewhere inside my stone-cold heart I have a soft spot for him, poor fool that he is. And so I offer him a blanket at my bedside and saved an old pillow just for his comfort. But if he eats another banana off the counter again, I'm going to kick him to the moon!