My brother-in-law, Jerry, used to have a delightful pup named Lucy. Why Lucy? Because he very much enjoyed the "I Love Lucy" show starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and because he looked forward to coming home from work, opening the door, and proclaiming, “Lucy! I’m home!” with a Cuban accent.
He very much enjoyed this routine as did Lucy who ran to him, tail wagging, and doggy kisses at the ready.
But that’s not what I want to tell you about. I’d much rather tell you about how Jerry taught Lucy to fetch the morning paper from the front lawn and bring it to him as he waited in the house.
He relied on classic doggy training by introducing Lucy to a rolled-up newspaper, putting it in her mouth, and leading her around rewarding her occasionally with dog yummies. Then he invited her to pick it up and carry it from the head of the sidewalk into the house and again rewarded her. And finally, he put her in the house, the rolled-up paper on the sidewalk, walked back to the front door, opened it and told Lucy “paper” -- the command which meant she should fetch the paper.
She ran out, picked the paper up, and returned to him. And, smiling, he took it from her giving her a dog treat to reward her for her efforts. “What a good dog!” he exclaimed while also scratching her behind her ears, and Lucy responded with her best, “Shucks, it weren’t nothin’” shrug.
Then the next morning, Jerry opened the door, declared, “Paper!” and Lucy charged out.
Up the walk she ran, tail wagging, and barking briefly (one doesn’t want to wake the neighbors) before reaching the recently delivered paper. She grabbed it, turned, and raced back down the same sidewalk she’d so recently raced up.
Jerry praised Lucy, took the paper from her mouth replacing it with a dog treat. Then, figuring she still had morning things to do outside, he brought in the paper, left her out, and closed the door.
About a half hour later, having finished both the paper and his last cup of coffee, Jerry got up to leave. That was when he heard Lucy bark at the door, and so he walked over to let her in. Clearly, she must certainly be finished with her morning routine.
On opening the door, he noticed Lucy standing proudly next to a pile of three additional newspapers. Since he knew which of his neighbors subscribed to the Nashville Tribune, he had little doubt where each paper came from.
And so he knew exactly where to take them and hoped none of his neighbors would be home to receive their papers with doggy saliva and tooth marks on them.
I have no idea whether he did his Desi Arnaz imitation when he returned.
Hank Slotnick is a retired UND professor who, with his wife, winters in Pima, Ariz., and summers in Debs.