A lot of people think that dogs are perfectly predictable. Love them, nuzzle them, feed them, and you will get your pipe and slippers till kingdom come.
But Bill Wirth of Silver Spring has a dog story that puzzled even the experts. It stars his daughter's 9-year-old Great Pyrenees, Pasha.
"I thought I knew this friend very well," Bill writes. "But when he began to steal my shoes and bury them in our garden, I had second thoughts."
Bill has plenty of shoes, so he didn't bother to excavate the ones Pasha had stolen. Who wants to hurt a dog's feelings, especially when the dog is more than 30 inches high at the shoulder and weighs more than 100 pounds?
But two months ago, the plot thickened.
"When ill with a fever of 103 to 105, Pasha and my daughter visited me in my very sick bed," Bill reports. "I don't know what the family had discussed in Pasha's presence, but shortly after a very necessary doctor's visit preliminary to a possible movement to a hospital, a strange thing happened.
"Pasha dug up one of my better missing shoes and brought it upstairs (where he never goes) and presented it to me, full of earth, on my spotless bed.
"Pasha has always buried bones, even the manufactured ones. I then began to think that my shoes may have been considered by Pasha as something precious -- to be stored away -- rather than something dead that needed burying.
"Needless to say, I was very moved by this possible display of canine affection. However, did Pasha, realizing the possible prognosis of my illness, bring me a final reminder of our mortality? Please help me understand."
Researcher Cathy McCulloch first cruised this puzzle past Dr. Peter Glassman, a veterinarian in Northwest. Dr. Glassman said he could not evaluate Pasha's intelligence or intentions, since the two have never met. But Dr. Glassman did say that Great Pyrenees dogs are "very sweet, well-adjusted, friendly, St. Bernard-type of dogs not known for foot fetishes."
At his suggestion, Cathy checked with Dr. Suzanne Johnson, a Fredericksburg psychologist who specializes in pet-people problems.
Dr. Johnson said that there may not have been any particular significance in the fact that Pasha brought Bill one of his shoes, rather than a bone. Men's shoes and commercial bones are both made out of leather, and Pasha probably can't tell them apart, Dr. Johnson said.
As for Pasha's motivation, Dr. Johnson thought the dog was aiming for the limelight, not aiming to make Bill feel better.
Pasha had long ago become the center of attention whenever she visited Bill's house, Dr. Johnson pointed out. But since Bill was sick in bed, he had assumed center stage. Pasha may have started digging up Bill's shoes in an effort to transfer attention back to himself.
And Pasha has succeeded brilliantly. How many other dogs have gotten two-thirds of a column written about them lately?
Calling out-of-towners. Metro spokeswoman Marilyn Dicus spokeswomaned too soon.
In a column this month, I quoted Marilyn as saying that Metro will turn remaining Farecard value back into money for out-of-towners, as long as the remaining value exceeds $5.
Marilyn says she was wrong to have told me that. Metro used to offer such an exchange but no longer does.
Sorries to anyone who may have been misled.
Art Finley of Norfolk says he knows the names of the longest-running daytime soap operas. Hint: they're 6,000 years old.
1) "Genesis Hospital".
2) "Days of Our Leaves," starring Adam and Eve.
3) "Both My Children," starring Cain and Abel.
4) "Rain's Hope," starring Noah.
The Redskins' victory parade still casts a glow over this river village. And pronouncements about the team continue to pour forth from the typewriters of pundits. About how the Redskins bridge the racial gap in Washington. How they bridge the income gap. How they are the one thing that makes everyone here feel a sense of place. And so on.
Mary Beahm Baber of West Hyattsville says it a little differently. She figures the Redskins' parade provided a new answer to the age-old question, "What's black and white and red all over?"
Bob Orben says this is the year we go from the Sherlock Holmes income tax return to the Dr. Watson return -- very few deductions.