While decluttering my desk recently, I came across an old contract negotiation between Lassie, the dog from the 1950s and 1960s tv series, and his trainer, Rudd Weatherwax. Things weren’t going well. Using his superior communications skills, Lassie barked, “Look, Rudd, for starters, it is common knowledge that I, and all of my predecessors, were male dogs, even though we were forced to play female. We are tired of the old ‘tuck and duck’ routine. Why can’t you get me a male role?

“Furthermore, I am not working one more day with that accident-prone Martin family! Have you read next week’s script? Timmy falls down another abandoned mine shaft and I have to pull him out with a rope in my teeth. Are they kidding? It’s that kid’s fault that I haven’t had any of my own teeth since 1952. In the last 20 years, I have lost 12 sets of doggie dentures pulling that clumsy brat out of holes.

“Look at scene four. I am supposed to run three miles to the Martin farm to get help. On these arthritic hips?!

“I have emphysema. I’ll be lucky if I can draw a breath by the time I get there. Look at this dialog I am supposed to say. I’m supposed to limp to the house and scratch on the door. When Mrs. Martin answers, I’m to say, ‘Bark, bark, wheeze, wheeze, bark, bark!’ and then she says, ‘What is it, Lassie?’

“What the heck does she think it is, Rudd? That idiot kid of hers is in trouble again. It’s the same thing every week. Tell her to call the fire department. I’ve had enough!

“I could have had the gig as the Jetson family’s dog, Astro. All I would have had to do is say, ‘Ruh-roh. Rokay,’ a few times and I would still be collecting royalties and have my original teeth. But, noooo, you passed on that one.

“Then you insisted that I pass on that role on Scooby-Doo, another dog with a speech impediment. You know I am great at dialects. I could have ridden around in a psychedelic van, eating Scooby snacks, and solving mysteries with Shaggy and the gang.

“But, no, I have to pluck that brat, Timmy, from the jaws of death every week. Last year I had to let Timmy hang onto my fur while I swam five miles through shark-infested water contaminated by toxic waste. I had to join the Hair Club for Men after that one. It cost hundreds of dollars! It took months for my hair to grow back.

“Rudd, you either get me an easier gig or I am calling the tabloids and telling them about you and that mangey sock puppet Lamb Chop in the cloakroom at last year’s Chrismas party!”

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