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Monday, April 15, 2002

Saving the Puppy

Hello from Branson, Missouri:

My kids are a constant source of amazement to me. Because I love them and want to be a good father, I'm always finding myself in amusing dilemmas that a supposedly clear thinking grownup would avoid. Take the day that Natasha came home from school and asked me to rescue the puppy.

The tale begins with a homeless puppy hanging out around the school playground. Everyday the kids would feed the puppy. They were excited about the puppy, but the teachers know a problem when they see one and called the Animal Control Police. It was too late; the kids were already calling the puppy Buttercup. When the police came it seems they weren't too gentle with Buttercup, and that made Natasha's sadness at losing Buttercup even worse.

Buttercup goes to animal jail; the rules say the puppy has to be there for ten days and if no one rescues the puppy she'll be destroyed. As Natasha describes the situation to me she says, "Dad, you're the only one who can help." Ahhhh, she's ten. My heart tells me it's hero worship, but my gut tells me she knows how to control her dad.

I have no desire for a dog, but the tail is wagging and the clock is ticking. Getting a dog out of animal jail is no easy matter. First, you have to bail the puppy out of jail and can only do this between the hours of 4 and 5 PM (that's the exact time of the second half of my show!). I talk to several policemen who say they can't change the time as it interferes with their schedule for guarding Dunkin' Donuts. Some persistence and several autographs later, I've achieved the unimaginable and bailed the puppy out of jail. Natasha looks at me like I'm Rambo liberating the town from police brutality. I feel a nudging concern that I may be on the wrong side of the law in this instance.

Now the first part of the mission is accomplished, and I start to look for a good home for the puppy. I assume finding a family will be easy, why I have a staff of 60 people, and of course one of them will want the puppy. All I need to do is bring the puppy to the theater and that will clinch the deal. NYET! Everyone played with the puppy, but they said they already had five or six puppies of their own, and when pressed, some said they had twenty and didn't need another.

So Saturday night, instead of going to the movies, I'm cleaning puppy poop and learning about being a chew toy. "Ah hah," I say to myself (secretly believing I'm the genius of spin like the guy in the movie "Wag The Dog"), "I'll just call my PR person so she can get me on the local media. I'll talk on the radio about this celebrity puppy, and it will go to a good home quicker than Kibbles & Bits at a dog show." NYET! NYET! It went slower than Heinz catsup. I was on the radio for over an hour and no star struck, souvenir seeking, puppy loving fan called. Apparently they all had twenty puppies of their own.

I'm very tired of cleaning puppy poop and envision Saturday nights with Buttercup for the rest of my life. Then someone suggested showing a picture of the puppy during my show. I'm thinking most people come from out of town...and they're not searching for their twenty-first puppy. After repeated failures at house training, I decide I'll deliver an emotional plea to my sympathetic audiences. I make the first announcement, show the cute puppy picture, wag my tail, and bingo...I had a family, with kids, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the audience and they want the puppy. They told us Buttercup would live on the farm, and there's lots of coyotes..."Oh oh,"...I said, "Let's see if there's anyone else with a backyard where Buttercup won't be the chew toy."

Then a little girl ran over and said, "My mom wants the dog." They were from an area in St. Louis, Missouri where they have never heard of coyotes. They were even willing to bring the puppy on a regular basis to let Natasha keep in touch. It's been a year ago now, and we visit back and forth. The homeless puppy, Buttercup, has become our mascot of friendship.

Apparently being a clear thinking grownup is not as important as being a softhearted father.

Love your kids,
Yakov Smirnoff


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