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Greet Expectations

By Jerry Zezima

When I think of the dogs I’ve had in my life — my boyhood pooch, Daisy; my adulthood companion, Lizzie; and my granddog, Maggie — the thing I remember best is that they were always happy to see me. And they proved it by barking excitedly and slobbering all over my pants.

They were the world’s greatest greeters. If they had worked in a restaurant, in which case the joint would have closed the next day because they ate all the profits, they’d be called maitre dogs.

Now there’s another woofing welcomer in my life. His name is Bunker and he’s a toy poodle who works at Bridge Lane Tasting Room, where my wife, Sue, and I are wine club members.

“Arf! Arf!” Bunker exclaimed when Sue and I arrived for a pickup party.

“He’s glad you’re here,” said his mommy, Delia Sarich, manager of the tasting room, which features a wall with photos of about 50 dogs who are known as “Bunker’s Buds.”

“The dogs belong to our customers,” said Delia.

“How did Bunker get all those pictures?” I asked.

“He has a little camera,” Delia said.

At that moment, he also had a little toy. He stood with the stuffed animal in his mouth and looked up, waiting for me to chase him around the display area.

Round and round we went, stopping only so Bunker could drop the toy, lure me into a pathetic attempt to pick it up, snatch his saliva-soaked plaything and continue the mad chase, which ended quickly because I was panting harder than he was.

“I’m dizzy,” I told Sue and Delia. “And I haven’t even had any wine.”

Bunker had a drink (of water) and rested on his laurels.

But he’s not the only dog who ever greeted me with a toy. A dozen years ago, I showed up at the Connecticut office of filmmaker Ron Howard so I could pitch my first book to his production company, Imagine Entertainment, as the basis for a sitcom.

I walked in the door and was met by a Portuguese water dog named, I believe, Maddie, who had a stuffed animal in her mouth. She didn’t bark or make me chase her around the room — and her boss didn’t buy my TV idea — but I felt special because a Hollywood hotshot’s office pooch actually let me pet her.

It was the closest I had come to the big time since I took Lizzie to meet Lassie in New York City. Lassie ignored me, but she greeted Lizzie with air kisses. It was nice to see those two canine superstars get along so well.

Lizzie, like Daisy before her, was a champion greeter. She was so friendly that I called her the burglar’s helper. If anyone broke into the house, Lizzie would help him carry out all our valuables. But she would never let him take one of her toys.

Maggie was sweet but hyper, jumping enthusiastically when I walked in the door, her long claws often coming perilously close to making me sound like Frankie Valli.

My sister Elizabeth’s dog, Lucie, is sweet but mellow. She’s a bit hobbled because she just turned 16 (112 in dog years), but she always greets me with kisses. Like me (68, but 476 in dog years), she’s too old to chase around.

Bunker isn’t. He’s 2 (a rambunctious 14 in dog years) and not of legal working age.

“For tax purposes, he’s an intern,” Delia explained.

“He does a great job,” I said.

“Bunker’s a good boy,” said Delia, adding that he “likes to water the flowers, if you know what I mean.”

Bunker, who was born under Delia’s bed, is named for Bunker Spreckels, a famous surfer.

“He doesn’t surf,” Delia said of the dog, not the surfer, who is currently deceased. “And he’s too young to drink. But he’s the best greeter in the world.”

“Bunker,” I asked, kneeling down to get at eye level, “if I drink a bottle of the wine in our pickup package when I get home, how will I feel tomorrow morning?”

Bunker barked.

“I know what he said,” I told Delia and Sue. “I’m going to need hair of the dog.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of six books, Leave It to BoomerThe Empty Nest ChroniclesGrandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent AdventuresEvery Day Is Saturday and One for the Ageless, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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