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Rick Steelhammer: Note to dogs -- If you can't grunt, get off the porch!

It all started a couple of months ago, back when rain was still a thing.

Back then, the rain was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even when it wasn’t raining, thunder rumbled and lightning flashed in the distance more often than not.

The Steelhammer Compound’s 9-K Security Force, an assortment of four elderly mixed-breed rescue dogs that the operator of our kennel service refers to as “The Golden Girls,” are not fans of lightning and thunder.

The 9-Ks are so named as an homage to their annual veterinarian fees, and to reflect the fact that their skill level as guard dogs is rather backward. They bark ferociously at the mail carrier and paper delivery guy every time they roll up to the Compound, but sleep soundly as pickups laden with trash creep past the compound en route to an illegal dump site at the end of the driveway.

The 9-Ks fear thunder and lightning even more than they fear vacuum cleaners, celebratory fireworks and gunfire. Of course, in our libertarian section of Cross Lanes, fireworks and gunfire are often the same thing.

At any rate, during that distant, pre-drought period of downpours, thunderclaps and lightning bolts, the 9-K crew refused to venture out from under the porch roof to conduct their canine constitutionals.

After spending a few minutes nonchalantly pretending they had no urge to purge, they returned indoors. There, they thoughtfully waited until the Compound’s human occupants left for the day before gifting us with an array of what, in Cockney rhyming slang, could be known as “jelly birds” to clean up when we returned.

Sadly, this practice remained a part of the 9-K/Golden Girl routine when sunny skies returned. I went online and watched a video by a dog trainer. He said I should keep the dogs on a leash at all times in order to yank them out of the house at the first sign of nature calling. Then, after the dog(s) had, as the Cockneys would say, a hit and miss, I was to reward them with their favorite treats and effusive, high-pitched praise. “Make a party of it,” he said.

Right, I thought. Not happening here. Four leashes in hand, day after day, followed by four to eight dog parties with treats until they re-learned the habit of pooping outside? Not when I have the option of a nearby door from which to launch them into the great outdoors until their thinking gets rewired.

Soon, interior offerings tapered away as the dogs rediscovered that just about everything is better outdoors — except maybe lightning, thunder and vacuum cleaners.

Then they turned on me. First, by demanding to go outside at all hours, whimpering and keening in emergency mode. Then by laying a minefield of “jelly birds” from sidewalk to street, surrounding my car.

At night, it’s often the case that I either forget about the tactic or can’t see well enough to avoid all the mines. Last night, after arriving home well after dark, I remembered to take a flashlight to see what grid the 9-Ks had aligned their mines along.

Through my beam, I could see they had carpet bombed the driveway, but I found a way to weave past the obstacles until only a pine cone stood between me and the porch. I kicked it triumphantly.

Only it wasn’t a pine cone.

Victory is theirs.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Saturday, march 28, 2020

Adkins, Eugene - 1 p.m., New Bethel Baptist Church, Spurlockville.

Bee, Charles - 11 a.m., First Baptist Church, Parkersburg.

Blaylock Sr., Robert - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Dingess, Cheyenne - 11 a.m., Highland Memory Gardens, Godby.

Lee, William - 1 p.m., Liberty Missionary Baptist Church.

Russell, Wilma - 2 p.m., Fields Cemetery, Nettie.

Skeen, Thomas - 1 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Smith, David - 11 a.m., procession to leave Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Tolley, Mary - 11 a.m., Gandee Chapel / Ward Cemetery.

Young, Kathryn - Service cancelled.