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Big-hearted Rose

I spent a recent Sunday afternoon in a darkened theater clutching a soggy wad of tissues.

Like millions of dog lovers, I succumbed to the draw of Marley and Me, the movie about a yellow lab who wreaks havoc on a household. I didn't realize a 90-minute movie would generate such a combination of laughing and weeping. Anyone who's owned a chew-the-couch-to-pieces dog probably can relate.

My hubby once had a lab that dug up every inch of his backyard. Every single inch — and it was a big yard. After we married, our dog of choice was a basset hound. In retrospect, I'm not sure why — it was the long velvety ears and soulful eyes, I guess. In her first week with us, Maxine chewed the arm off a piece of furniture.

Now, you're probably thinking, "How can people allow that to happen? Weren't they watching that dog?"

Yes, we were, but she was quick — and we were eating dinner at the time. And, yes, I'm still just a little defensive because it was supposed to be my day to watch the dog. I'm not entirely sure whose day it was when Maxine ate the dog-training video. We'd rented it. The folks at the pet store laughed so hard when we returned it (i.e. a gob of mangled plastic) that they didn't even charge us.

Our family was relocating and felt it was the time to find an adoptive home for Maxine; we did — a family with four small children. A card the following Christmas indicated Maxine was doing well. All the children were intact, although their stuffed toys apparently had been disappearing at a fairly rapid rate.

We've had other dogs through the years. And now we have big-hearted Rose. We acquired her on a cold, blustery day in February.

It was seven years ago, the day of my father-in-law's funeral. It seems a little strange to have made that particular decision on such a day. In retrospect, we should have named her "Herbert" in his honor.

But she is Rose, a brown and white spaniel born at the exact moment the Trade Towers fell. We got her from a breeder in Portland. It was a large litter; she was the last to be placed. But her new owners didn't want her and back she came. Just for us, is how I see it.

Our Rose really has no bad habits, and a very sweet temperament. Although she did eat my reading glasses — but the optician said he sees that a lot.

At an earlier-than-expected age, Rose was diagnosed with life-threatening cardio-myopathy, hence the term "big-hearted Rose." We are fortunate that my sister is a veterinarian — and our neighbor is a veterinarian who makes house calls (www.homepetvet.net ) — and the new medications for canine cardiac conditions work extremely well. Yes, we are fortunate.

It's true you know "¦ that saying, "I want to become the kind of person my dog already thinks I am." As I finish up this column, I read that phrase aloud and Rose, who's sleeping in the chair next to me, snores approvingly.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.