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Rick's List — New Puppy Edition

A PUPPY!

Journalists and social media pros know the post-Super Bowl week is a period of Doldrums. Yes, there's an historic impeachment trial, and the anticipation of Valentine's Day is, as always, epic. Nonetheless: Doldrums.

In such conditions, you trot out A PUPPY.

There's a reason W.C. Fields said, "Never work with children or animals." They'll upstage you. And that's what I'm doing: upstaging the Doldrums with A PUPPY. There are a few problems, though.

For one, the entire Fields statement is, "Never work with children or animals and definitely do not repeatedly smash yourself in the face with spines-out wedges of fresh-cut cactus!" The last part is conveniently omitted from the quote because, frankly, it's weird. Also, the quote is misattributed. Fields didn't say it. Historians believe it originated with philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, a dour fellow who raised cacti and might be thought of as the Morrissey of existentialism.

Anyway, the PUPPY references are to the newest member of our household. Her name is Mabel and she's a sweetheart, and we adopted her because our other dog, Virgil, had grown sad over the course of the pandemic. We thought a new, energized playmate might cheer him up. So far, though...

1. Mabel shows no regard for established territories. This proprietary sense of instant entitlement at first puzzled Virgil and has since turned him dour — sort of like the Schopenhauer of dogs. Admittedly, this reaction of an "old established dog" to a "new upstart puppy" is not unusual, and we're hoping for the best.

2. However, when Mabel brazenly established herself as a presence in our bed at lights-out, Virgil abandoned his usual snuggly spot between my wife and I and now sleeps in a makeshift tent in the basement, curled around an empty bottle of cheap wine.

3. Three days ago, Mabel ran in a series of tight, tornadic circles around Virgil, playfully nipping at his ears, for 11 straight hours.

4. Afterwards, Virgil dragged a book on pharmacology over to where I sat on the couch and used his nose to flip through the pages until he found the entry for Prozac. He looked at me pleadingly with sad eyes.

5. Mabel can now eat all her breakfast/dinner food portions in .4 seconds, then taught herself to double backflip across the kitchen like an acrobat, knocking Virgil out of the way before he's on the second bite of his own food.

6. At 3 a.m. this morning, I awoke to strange sounds in the night. I crept into my office and discovered that Virgil had used his toys to make a pentagram on the floor, and he was humming and eerie, discordant melody as he used his paws to shape a crude but recognizable stick likeness of Mabel into the center of the unholy design.

7. We're hoping Valentine's Day — or at least the impeachment trial — will cheer Virgil up. It's the best time of the year!

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