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A Perfect Compromise

I hated trudging outside for the newspaper every morning. It never failed that a neighbor would drive by and wave, or worse yet, someone would walk by on his way to the park and want to stop and chat.  I was uncomfortable interacting with people while sleepy-eyed and droopy, still in my PJs, and with ‘bed hair’ sticking out every which way.  That’s why I decided to give the job of paperboy to my dog Keeper. It seemed like the ideal solution.

Keeper was a smart boy and loved being challenged with new tasks. After only a few days of training, he enthusiastically raced out the front door every morning, grabbed the paper, and raced back into the house. His reward was a rubber kong stuffed with peanut butter, his favorite treat. 

This routine continued without a hitch for several months.  I loved the convenience of it. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I simply opened the front door and said, “Get the paper Keeps” and out he’d run. On some mornings, I’d even get a thumbs up from a passing neighbor while Keeper was on paperboy duty. I liked impressing my neighbors with my talented and well-behaved dog.

Unfortunately, the job of paperboy soon became too ho-hum and repetitious to hold Keeper’s interest, so he spiced things up by throwing the paper up in the air a few times before bringing it in.  This ‘tossing’ game became a regular part of his routine. I didn’t mind except that sometimes when he caught the paper, it would tear, and I’d have to spend time Scotch Taping it back together, being careful to line up the words to make the pages readable.

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“What happened to the paper?” my husband asked one morning. 

“Oh, nothing really. Keeper just got a little carried away. 

This happened so often that, eventually, he stopped asking. Over time he came to accept the scotch-taped, slightly skewed look of the morning newspaper.

On more than one occasion, as Keeper tossed the paper skyward, his teeth would catch on the rubber band that held it together. The band would break, and the paper would come apart in mid-air with Sports landing over there, Business over here, and the World News somewhere in the middle. This was even more of a disaster on windy days when the sections took flight and scattered in every direction. 

“Oh Keeper! Nooooooooo!”

Launched into action, he’d race around the yard, grabbing all the sections as they floated hither and yon. With his mouth full of crumpled newspaper, he’d return to the house feeling pleased with his success of retrieving all the sections. On those mornings, I’d spend more time taping the paper back together again than I did reading it.  That was not the way I wanted to spend my early mornings, my once favorite time of day. My frustration grew.

One morning after bringing me the paper and dropping it on the porch, he raced back into the neighborhood and began collecting newspapers from other driveways.

“Noooooooooo Keeper Noooooooooo!”

I believe he did this for me. In his mind, if his special human liked newspapers so much, then he would take it upon himself to retrieve as many as he could. He was, after all, a retriever.

“Keeper, Stop! Noooooooooo!”

I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, especially when I saw the happy excitement in his face as he raced back to the house with several newspapers stuffed in his mouth. Because the papers were his gift to me, I didn’t have the heart to scold him—although I did grumble and complain under my breath as I furtively crept around the neighborhood, re-delivering my neighbors’ papers, hoping that no one was watching.  

Eventually, the morning paper routine became too problematic.  I longed for the good old days of calm and quiet mornings without stress or chaos, just a hot cup of coffee and an intact newspaper.  Ultimately, I decided to fire my over-the-top newspaper dog and return to retrieving the paper myself.

On that first morning, Keeper stood next to me with eyes wide and tail wagging, waiting for me to open the door. I felt bad knowing that his morning entertainment would be curtailed from now on.

“I’m sorry Keeps, but this is not working out.”

He watched from the window as I walked outside to collect the paper. Entering the house, I handed it to him. Disappointed but immediately understanding of his new, more limited role, Keeper followed me into the family room and dropped the paper next to me on the sofa where my coffee was waiting. I rewarded him with his peanut butter kong because he was still my paperboy. I had simply shortened his paper route.  That turned out to be a perfect compromise.

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