This all started more than a year ago when a burglar broke in through a side door of the house and made off with Christina The Lawyer's purse. Before she got hold of her senses, Christina The Lawyer, a dedicated jogger and physical culturist, attempted to run the intruder down by herself. Before taking too many steps, however, she realized that catching the intruder might actually be a foolhardy act. I vividly remember her first words upon coming back into the house. They were reminsicent of the famous phrase shouted at the conclusion of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's The Front Page: "The son of a bitch stole my purse," Christina The Lawyer said. The next thing she announced was that we should get a big dog who would be only too happy to protect us from this kind of thing. I thought no more of it. But a week later, I was introduced to Ramble, an 85-pound golden retriever. He was a retired guide dog. At the age of six, Ramble had become bored with the animal world's version of the service industry. He refused to cooperate any longer with his master. "This is just the dog you have been looking for," Christina The Lawyer told me proudly. "I got him just for you." She then announced that Ramble would take full meals twice a day and two medium-length walks, and require several dog bones to tide him over those moments when he was struck by hunger pangs. I didn't bother to protest that I actually hadn't been looking for a dog. In point of fact, I had never in my entire life spent a single night under the same roof with an animal of the canine persuasion. Ramble The Dog has now been with us for more than a year. His instincts as a guard dog always have been somewhat suspect to me. He barks regularly at a black cat that walks across our backyard. He barks with great gusto at Gary, our neighbor, who is kind enough to let me use his swimming pool. But at other times, Ramble seems content to recline and merely observe the passing scene. Until the other night, there has never been any need for the Great One to display his instincts as a protector of our turf. Ramble's moment of truth began when he pawed at our bed enough to get Christina The Lawyer up to allow him outside to relieve himself. It was about 4 a.m., so I rolled over and went back to sleep. Some time later, Christina The Lawyer shook me by the shoulder to wake me up. "There's a man sleeping in our backyard," she said. "Is it anyone we know?" I asked. "Please don't try to be funny. This is serious." "Where's our vicious guard dog?" I asked. "Just turn Ramble loose on him." "That's just it," she said. "Ramble found him. The problem is that Ramble seems to like him. He's sitting in front of him wagging his tail." "Is the man still asleep?" "Yes," she said, "but I'm calling the police." I went out into the backyard with a flashlight. Sure enough, there was a quite tall Native American curled up like a ball on the outdoor couch. He was sleeping peacefully. The police arrived within minutes. I walked to the front to meet them. The Phoenix police woman was barely over five feet tall and couldn't weigh much more than Ramble. "Let's get him," she said of the intruder. She had a long flashlight in her hand and she headed straight for the couch. The police officer nudged the sleeping man. "Get up," the police officer said. "You can't sleep here." The man stood up. He was better than six feet tall and he obviously had had several beers too many. When he stood up, Ramble moved close to him, sat down and peered up at the derelict with a look of admiration. The Native American looked down at Ramble and recoiled. "I have nothing to do with this dog," he said. "I know nothing about him. He is not with me." At just this moment, there was a rustle in the bushes as another police officer approached. Suddenly, Ramble flew into action. In a flash, he was sprinting toward the police officer, barking ferociously all the way. Horrified, I got to Ramble as quickly as I could and pulled him away from this police officer, who had exhibited absolutely no fear of my fierce guard dog. "Golden retrievers never bite," the police officer said. "But at least he barks pretty good." The two police officers led our yard guest away. Ramble strolled back into the house with us and reclined on the kitchen floor. "Ramble," said Christina The Lawyer, "you are not to make friends with strangers who come into our yard at night. Don't you know you're supposed to bark at them and warn us?"
Ramble sat there panting heavily and looking up soulfully. He was clearly out of breath. Actually, he seemed quite pleased with his performance. I gave him a bone and congratulated him for his good work. That's a technique I learned from reading The Power of Positive Thinking. After all, how is one to treat an incompetent guard dog? He may not have any talent in that area, but maybe there's something else he can be trained to do. Maybe we should get Ramble some piano lessons. I had never in my entire life spent a single night under the same roof with an animal of the canine persuasion. "You are not to make friends with strangers who come into our yard at night.