Dog Humorist Extraordinaire

This month’s Herb Canine column includes snippets both new and old. Enjoy!

Another excellent outing at Peet’s on Fourth Street in Berkeley — one of the great dog-watching spots in the Bay Area. A handsome pair walking their handsome pair of German Shepherds on my right… On my left, a Chihuahua Maltese mix, his blue eyes and pert parabolic ears taking in all the sights and sounds from someone’s rear bike basket. 

Before me, a circa sixteen-month-old boy in a stroller raises one leg and waggles his foot at an English Bulldog sitting six feet away. The bulldog is not amused and snuffles and snorts at the tyke as if to say, “Why you insolent little ragamuffin! You dare to direct your lowborn gestures at me?!” The young Latina holding his leash smiles her apologies to no one in particular and quietly leads the gruff old colonel towards Sur Le Table. 

No one really notices except that odd duck behind his Major Dickinson’s who is actually paid a small stipend to capture such goings on. 

I get the feeling that the almost universal human desire to hang out with dogs is hardwired into our DNA. Whenever I see some errant mutt meandering down the street, I’m distracted from whatever I’m doing, like my brain has just been injected with a massive dose of nuero-puptides. 

I recently witnessed this primal process operating in a toddler near the Ferry Building one bright morning. She was dancing deliriously on her pudgy legs, exclaiming “Bloot!” and “Gleep!” while pointing at a couple of pooches on leashes pulling a roller blader down the Embarcadero (apparently they were practicing for the California version of the Iditerod). 

Of course, toddlers have even more in common with doggies than we grown-ups. They, like dogs, don’t speak English all that well, plus with them a pooper scooper is standard equipment (albeit an attachable one of fibrous construction). 

A yogini friend of mine finds she has to shut her Malamute out of the room when she meditates because he enjoys stacking his toys on her knees, shoulders, and head while she’s sitting in lotus position. If a Kong or tennis ball dislodges while she is mid-alpha wave, the dog leaps up to reposition the plaything. The more she tries to ignore his antics, the louder the pooch “snickers” from across the room. Just goes to show you that one being’s zazen is another’s Jenga. It could be worse. Having a well-chewed Frisbee flopped down on your crown chakra when your posture falters beats being whacked by the Zen master’s stick.

In Richmond the other day, I saw a squirrel get chased into the street by a Yorkshire Terrier. Suddenly, the squirrel stopped dead in its tracks as if thinking, “Wait a minute – I’m running away from a Yorkie! I’ll be the laughingstock of the entire neighborhood!” The Yorkie, seeing this wild beastie suddenly flushed with renewed gumption, also came to a screeching halt. Apparently the dog’s sense of proportion kicked in and he realized the squirrel only weighed about 8 ounces less than he did. The dog turned on a dime and went hightailing it in the other direction (can you hightail it with said appendage tucked firmly between your legs?). I swear, with dogs around, who needs the Cartoon Channel?

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 Labradors 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.

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

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