On a recent morning I was chasing after our golden retriever as she went through an open door of a stranger's house about a half-mile from ours. I followed her inside nervously as Meg entered the living room where she licked the face of the homeowner who was asleep on his couch.
Talk about awkward.
Dan McCarthy scrambled awake with swimming arms as if he were drowning. Finally upright and looking confused, he realized he'd been smooched not by the woman of his dreams but the nightmare of a meat-breathed hound. I'm thinking bacteria.
It represents the latest Templeton pet-scapade.
Meg is crazed -- a tornado in gold fur. With crazed dogs come crazed tales -- and tails -- and sometimes crazed human expletives and reactions. Tracking Meg's flap-eared odyssey requires a map, a global positioning system and compass.
She's already been in dog jail after running free for two days several years ago. Turning over custody to me from her jail cell, the dog catcher said Meg was the strongest dog she'd ever handled. As she approached, she was careening at a 45-degree backslash, as if being led by a Clydesdale.
Said dog, a stray which wife Suellen got from an acquaintance seeking a home for her, for obvious reasons, and who had probably got her from another owner whose house had been exposed to what cake batter experiences with a mixer, might seem like a creature from dog hell.
She has a dog version of Scarlett Johanssen's good looks -- a blond bombshell with whiplash personality, tomahawk-sized paws, white belly fur, feathery cowboy pants, a fan-tail that can kill flies and maim humans, and black doe eyes that hold a semblance of intelligence lurking somewhere inside her gold gourd.
Her long, sloppy tongue flashes with lizard quickness, as Mr. McCarthy now realizes. When you tell her to sit, she does so for a nanosecond to fulfill the command before leaping back to her feet, licking, tomahawking and belting everything behind her with a tail that lacks only a bass drum. When strangers arrive, I must get there first to avoid a lawsuit.
As with many comedians, with Meg it's hard to distinguish funny from insane.
Suellen and I have owned dogs our entire lives. I grew up with a cocker spaniel nicknamed Fruit Hog because the mentally disabled guy loved bananas. Suellen and I had a border collie, Millie, who was so smart you could swear she was doing trigonometry when not buying hedge funds. Millie barely tolerated dumb humans and would leave the room in obvious disgust whenever her name was mentioned.
Our first butterfly-eared Papillon named Kernel was a little Napoleon -- small, smart and mighty with a paw tucked inside his fur military coat. He ruled Templeton Nation by keeping all larger mammals under mental control.
Kernel, all of 10 pounds, once snapped a Bernese Mountain Dog's snout before fleeing. He actually attacked a cow, which stepped on him, smashing him down into a mud hole with his legs splaying. He arose, shook it off and retreated. That was Kernel's Waterloo.
When he died several years ago, he lay in state for two days before an appropriately ceremonious burial.
Another Bernese Mountain dog, this one given to us by a relative, had to be returned after she killed eight of the neighbor's pet chickens.
Then there's my favorite, Cricket, another Papillon who's 5 pounds, who looks mosquito-like with black bulging eyes and needle nose, and horizontal ears that almost span a doorway, earning him the nickname, Three Dots Two Flaps. You could sculpt Cricket's head with a tennis ball, cone, two black marbles and work-boot tongues for ears. Sad, sometimes mad, never glad, he's smart and cute -- an unapologetic sissy who screams rather than barks -- and who craves a warm lap, sleeps under the bed covers and orders steak and chicken each night from our gourmet kitchen.
Then Suellen brought home the golden maniac.
Nutmeg had never been inside a house. She eats anything organic and much that isn't. She majored in counter-top thievery at dog college, having swiped loaves of bread, boxes of cookies, a bag of flour, peanut butter sandwiches and even a carton of tofu.
But the big problem with Meg is what landed her in dog jail. She breaks loose and won't return home. She's a wanderer. She's the world's only farm dog that must be taken outside on a leash.
Another canine conundrum is that Meg has mastered the art of "otter-necking," and more recently, "serpentining."
Otters, who can collapse their necks, cannot be choked, I've been told. Using a similar anatomical skill, Meg thins her neck and straightens her head spear-like to wriggle out of her collar when she's tied outside. So we purchased a harness only to discover that the Great Houndini has learned to serpentine her way out of the harness. Do they sell dog straitjackets? She now wears a choke chain.
When Meg escapes, she heads to the neighboring village of Southview, where her boyfriend, Captain, lives, prompting the obvious nickname -- Tenille. She always takes the route through a muddy creek and septic-tank leach fields, returning home after capture with black leggings.
So when she broke free this latest time, I headed straight to Captain's house with scraps of meat. I was already late for work.
I spotted her along the treeline. She proceeded to trot behind Captain's house and then up the driveway and straight inside Mr. McCarthy's house.
I followed, calling out apologies.
Then the big lick occurred.
When I finally had her on the leash and was ushering her outside, Mr. McCarthy was smiling. I shook his hand with words of apology and gratitude.
"Oh, I know her," he said once his wits returned and he'd wiped dog goo off his face. "She likes to visit Captain."
David Templeton is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1578).