PITTSFIELD

My husband once remarked that if he had had the choice between taking out medical insurance on our dog or taking it on our five kids, he would unhesitatingly have picked the dog. Our children had, thank heavens, only the usual things. The only ordinary thing Demi had seen fit to harbor was worms. Most of his 10 years of life was spent in dissolute living, and the pursuit of love nearly cost him his life and me the family fortune more than once.

For a few short months of puppyhood he was a nice little house poodle. Then one morning he marched out, sniffed the breeze, discovered that he was a big boy now, and went pit-pattin' down the street to call hopefully on a little girl spaniel.

That marked the beginning of a long cordial and expensive association between me and the vet. Demi's usual procedure was to go out early in the morning, bark until he rounded up the gang and spend most of the day cavorting with the boys around the front yard of some little Fi-Fi. Then toward late afternoon, tired of a day of unrequited love, the boys would start home, stopping off at a corner garbage can for a bite, and Demi would come dragging in, flop down on the living room rug and refuse to eat his Ken-l-ration.

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Depending on what was in the garbage can, this could go on for some time. But there comes a day of reckoning for the strongest digestive system. When the vet unstuck Demi's plumbing the first time, it was a reasonably inexpensive affair. Each succeeding job was more complex and more expensive. He finally came to a full-fledged gastroenteritis, complete with heavy doses of antibiotics and extensive nursing care. The take that time included cellophane wrappers, cigarette butts, coffee grounds, orange peels, lobster shells, fish bones and assorted hardware.

In the meantime, it became obvious that putting up a fence would be cheaper than financing Don Juan's adventures in good eating. He didn't take to it very kindly, as the rest of the boys never passed up a chance to send an insult through the pickets as they went off skirt-chasing in the morning. Still, he gradually settled down to the new life except for those days when there was a lady in an interesting condition within a half-mile radius. For such an emergency, he evolved an elaborate routine to get out of the front door and escape before he could be put in the fence.

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It went like this: at the first sound of footsteps on the front walk, Demi would get up, stretch and saunter unobtrusively to the front door. The instant the door opened, he would slide out like an eel and glance behind him. If he was being watched, he cut the pace back down to a nonchalant walk until he got around the corner of the house into the back yard. There he faced north, gave a little jump in the air and started all four feet spinning. When he hit the ground, he was already doing 40, and by the time I had drawn a breath to call him, he would have put three back yards between us. Consequently I developed enormous lung power, and by the time I could reach him a couple of blocks away all the kids in the neighborhood would take up the cry: Dem-ee-ee-ee.

Eventually arthritis, his asthma attacks, and his bad heart restricted him to a range of a few blocks and a top speed of about 25. Demi died eventually, but age never withered, nor custom staled his infinite enthusiasm for girls.

No, he never was a bit particular about the company he kept. In fact, one thing I was sure of when I would see him, the pom-pom on his tail waving gaily, sidling up with a wicked look in his cataract-cloudy eyes to some ugly old bulldog matron. I knew then, without the embarrassment of confirming it in my own mirror, that the poets are right and love is blind.

Dorothy van den Honert is a frequent Eagle contributor.