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All I want for Christmas

Before I begin — thank you to the many people who contacted and comforted me after reading my column on the death of our loving spaniel, the never-to-be-replaced, big-hearted Rose. I cherish your well-told stories and tender acknowledgments.

I thought I would share what is happening in our household as it relates to all things dog.

A few weeks after Rose died, Susan-the-veterinarian contacted us and said, "I know it might be too soon — but there's a sweet little dog at the Humane Society who needs a good home."

My husband thought it was "definitely too soon" and "probably not the best idea."

I thought, "But it certainly can't hurt to go down and snuggle an abandoned pooch in distress."

Enter Toby, whose Shelter name was Bo. We thought when we adopted him (yes we did — about two weeks after our first snuggle) we'd give him a name that captured at least a few of the letters in his previous name. So he became Toby — although re-naming him was fairly irrelevant because he does not respond when called, no matter what name you use.

I take that back. When I say "treat" in a sort of seductive voice he will come to me — sometimes. (It works best if I have at least one pepperoni dog chew in my hand.)

Toby has been with us only a few weeks. Most days we delight in him and his frolicky nature. But this dog definitely has issues. As illustration, Toby will not walk on wooden floors. When it became clear this was a hurdle for him, I laid my long winter scarves across our floor to form a pathway, but they proved a little too slippery. We tried heavier cotton kitchen hand towels but it took 14 towels for him to get from his food bowl in the kitchen to the carpeted living room. We finally got some rubber backed runners that lend nothing to the attractiveness of our home but seem to work — for now. (I am absolutely not willing to move the food bowl to the living room).

Daily we beckon Toby to be more courageous. Every day he tries and we laugh (taking great care not to embarrass him). He will sometimes take one or two tentative steps onto the floor then ponder his next move long and hard in a frozen-in-the-air position before retreating to the carpeted area. If placed on the floor directly and encouraged to stand — all his legs splay out in four opposite direction and he collapses in an exhausted display of give-up-it-ness.

So, here's the deal. All I want for Christmas is advice about how to get our brown-eyed terrier to walk fearlessly in his new home. And yes, I have broken the pepperoni treats into tiny little pieces and created a path. And no, he did not follow it. And yes, we did try shoes fashioned out of baby booties. No luck there but it was pretty hilarious for the few minutes he was wearing them.

I've learned over the years that readers of this column are very innovative. If you have an idea, and it works "¦ treats will follow.

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.