Dear Dog Lady,
How does my Shar-Pei, Wilma, select where to go to the bathroom? What criteria must be present? I don't understand why she is so picky about where she goes. -Nisreen, Vancouver, BC

Nisreen, you ask one of the cosmic questions about the canine culture. Dog Lady has studied this fussy phenomenon over thousands of hours spent walking with darling, so you might think there would be an easy answer. Unfortunately, only dogs truly understand the piddling details.

For Wilma, the elaborate lavatory procedure is a ritual of identity. Imagine she uses her output the way a graffiti artist uses a spray paint can-to mark up the earth with messages such as: "Wilma, a five-year-old spayed female who last ate canned lamb and chopped carrots, was here." Dogs want to get a leg up to put down their scent. They announce themselves and seek to cover up another dog's smell. It's a very precise process, a mystery only their noses know.

Our dogs can drive us crazy while they deliberate about where to send the pee-mail. They sniff up and down or go in circles, ensuring their output will hit whatever benchmark they've assigned. Bear with them.

Dear Dog Lady,
True story. My girlfriend moved in with me a few months ago. However, she is growing sad (not with me) because my building does not allow dogs. We have an incredible apartment. I don't want to move, but I don't want her to be unhappy. Help me out here. -Michael, New York, NY

Michael, for some people, living in a dogless building is godless. Pets provide warmth. A condo community or apartment association that bans animals can seem like a colder, more self-absorbed place. The frosty habitat must be getting to your girlfriend.

On a brighter note, Dog Lady, ever the busybody, presumes the two of you are living large. Maxi-pads in dogless housing can be tres chi-chi because residents have nothing else to do but carp about keeping up appearances.

Dog Lady knows of a ritzy condominium that bans dogs. Big warning signs are posted. If a dog even ventures onto the grass outside the building, a frazzled person leans out a window and screams for the dog and the human leash-holder to scram. Considering all the problems in the world today, this pet-as-pest policy seems excessive.

Hug your girlfriend. Tell her you understand and really mean it. Promise her, for the short-term, you will be her happy hound. Don't do anything precipitous, such as offer to move right away from your luxe digs. You don't want to resent her because she seems to be a keeper. You're still getting to know one another. And you've learned an important lesson: your lady likes living with animals-both hairy and furry.

Dear Dog Lady,
I went to a professional mixer and met a man who is very good-looking, well-dressed and fun. We made easy conversation and laughed a lot. Afterward, he took me to dinner. He talked about his dog, Yahoo, a big mutt (a Shepherd-mix) that he got at the pound. I was thrilled when he asked me to join him and Yahoo on a long walk the next day. I love dogs and think guys with dogs are sexy-until this guy left a big Yahoo pile behind. I couldn't believe he ignored the mess. I wanted to say something but didn't. Now, he's asked me out again but I can't decide whether to go or think up an excuse. Advice? -Becca, Portland, OR

Becca, you seek a man who scoops to conquer your heart. Your aim is true, but don't dump this fellow immediately. Give him another chance to clean up his act. Some guys have a thing about picking up dog poop. Call it queasiness, embarrassment, or just plain obliviousness, but they don't like to do it.

Remember, this indiscretion occurred during a self-conscious first date. If it happens again, be direct and say something to him-something light and airy instead of confrontational. Or you could magically pull a baggie from your pocket and pick up, although the preemptive strike would probably shame him, which you should avoid because he's sounds like a decent man who adopted a shelter dog. This generous act alone should tell you he has a big heart even if his environmental manners require a tutorial.

Dear Dog Lady,
We have a Poodle, and she seems to exhibit obsessive-compulsive disorder. Is this normal? When I brush my teeth, she flies up the stairs to stand next to me, no matter where she is or what she's doing. This is just one example of many. We love our Poodle, however, I would never get another one because I don't want a dog smarter than me (just kidding). In the hierarchy of dog breed intelligence, where do Poodles rank? -Bob, San Francisco, CA

Bob, your letter caused Dog Lady to erupt in a fit of giggles. Indeed, it sounds as if your tooth fairy is a bit daffy. Take heart because it is not a cause for worry-unless your dog is hurting herself, other dogs, or humans. Most dogs have OCD. They are obsessive about their people and their stuff. They are compulsive about their people and their stuff. Dog Lady's darling is possessed by a chewed-over frog whose fading squeaker plays a slo-mo version of "Jingle Bells." With dogs, it's always something.

You are fortunate to live under the same roof with an Einstein. Poodles are considered way above average on the canine intelligence scale. When your dental assistant grabs your floss and rigs up a cat's cradle, don't be surprised.

Dear Dog Lady,
Our neighbours allow their dogs to piddle on our front door stoop and sidewalk on a daily basis. Needless to say, it is unpleasant to come across every time we enter and leave the building, not to mention smelly and unsanitary. We love our neighbours and their dogs, but we are growing tired of this lack of doggie etiquette that we so frequently come across living in our city neighbourhood. What's a person to do? -Cathleen, Chicago, IL

Cathleen, you have Dog Lady's ear-and her scruples. Every dog walker must examine his or her conscience on this one. Rushed while urging a dog to do business quickly, an owner often doesn't even think about where the dog piddles as long as it gets the job done. You speak up for everybody who must endure this thoughtless wave of urination.

Say something the next time you catch a canine lifting its leg or squatting on your stoop or sidewalk. Be cheerful, not confrontational, but firmly remind the dog's walker you would appreciate more consideration.

We dog owners believe poop is the offensive big magilla. We carry bags to clean up. Unfortunately, pee doesn't fit in a baggie. Still, responsible pet walkers should make every effort to steer their sweeties away from front stoops and stones attached to private property. These pissing contests are disheartening. People should know better, even if the dogs don't.

Dear Dog Lady,
My dog, Zeus, watches TV intensely. He likes cartoons, babies and other animals (especially when those animals "speak" to him). I like to take Zeus on weekend drives in the country but I noticed my dog did not enjoy the drives as much as I did. Since then I have installed a TV in the car so he has something to do. Am I rotting his brain? -Brendan, South Bend, IN

Brendan, talk about bendin' to the comfort and convenience of a dog. No wonder your Zeus is the god of the heavens. Dog Lady has rarely heard of such indulgence, except for C-List celebrities who tote around their poochies in hobo bags and interior designers with clients rich enough to afford raffia dog beds from Italy.

Dogs have small brains, so rotting Zeus' frontal lobe is not a big problem. If your dog enjoys watching cartoons and shoutouts from his beastie boys, go ahead, although Dog Lady cannot imagine dogs enjoy country drives any more than toddlers in car seat lockdown. Make sure you give your glazed TV hound regular bathroom breaks and romps in fields of green away from the automobile. ■

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