Dog Humorist Extraordinaire


My friend Jim Shallenberger adopted a lanky Golden Retriever named Ruby a while back.

She is a big, goofy love bug and her humans adore her. Recently, Jim attended a Golden Retriever gathering on a beach in Alameda, where he and Ruby mingled with 200 hundred other beautiful dogs. With all those Retrievers present, it was a most unconventional canine convention. Jim threw a stick in the water and watched a hundred happy red dogs plunge into the froth at once. (It’s rumored there were tsunami warnings as far away as Daly City.) He would frequently find a random retriever leaning up against him as though they’d known each other for years. But Jim said the most amazing thing about that day was being in the midst of all those dogs and not hearing a single bark. Golden Retrievers really live the credo I’ve spied on many bumpers ‘round the Bay: “Wag More, Bark Less.”


A comedian I saw on Comedy Central did a bit about genetically engineering cats to make them as big as tigers while remaining as tame as tabbies. Pretty cool idea, but he thought better of it when he recalled that housecats sometimes throw hissy fits without warning when they’ve been petted one too many times. A scary prospect under the circs. 

I think it might be neat to clone a dog to be about the size of a burro. Then when you took him for a walk, you could ride. Several thousand head of cattle could be rounded up by a couple of giant Border Collies. Lifeguards could be replaced by over-sized Labs and you could till the back 40 for your sustainable crops by harnessing the plow to a couple of 500-pound Huskies. 

Then again, when walking one of these behemoths, you’d need to take along something larger than a plastic grocery bag – like say maybe one of those big black trash sacks with a drawstring. And I suppose other problems would arise, like you might need a silo in the backyard to store the kibble. On second thought, never mind.


As my regular readers will recall, instead of carving turkeys this time of year, I like to butcher Christmas carols. Here’s my latest submission, sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum, about a dog with a moral dilemma. In truth, of course, dogs aren’t hard-wired for cognitive dissonance. Their motto: “When in doubt… Um, what was I thinking about?”


Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree

How lovely are your branches

Especially when I’m marking them

My scent only enhances

Trees in the house? I’m so perplexed

Will it be fire hydrants next?

Oh yes, “to pee or not to pee”?

I think I’ll take my chances


Herb Canine is one of writer/musician Tad Toomay’s many alter egos. Get acquainted with the others at


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