Herman: I joked about Dog Scouts of America. No joke.

1:00 p.m Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 Opinion
Linda Bales
Cheryl Bales of Plano and her late dog Tanner, a merit-badge-earning member of Dog Scouts of America. LINDA BALES

If you read only one column to the end today, make it this one. In fact, what’s at the end is so good I hereby authorize you (just this one time) to skip right to the end. But please don’t.

I’m blessed with readers who write. Sometimes some of these readers don’t like what I write. Sometimes I don’t like some of what some of these readers write, like this, from a reader who felt inspired to write about my recent column about applying for an internship at the Trump White House:

“Just read your subject column in the Houston Chronicle and have no doubt now that you are definitely a horse’s ass.”

I’m not necessarily pleased with the diagnosis, but it was comforting to know that it was in doubt.

And there was this from another reader: “I thought your article ‘A Chance to Intern in White House’ was just plain disgusting.”

But my favorite recent reader feedback came after my column concerning the new policy here at the newspaper that will allow newsroom folks to bring their dogs to work. Lots of people seemed to have a good laugh about that column and my lighthearted look at the wisdom of combining canines with newshounds.

I noted that the policy established by management said the dogs must be “friendly, clean, housebroken and generally well-mannered.” I said that sounded like the motto of the Dog Scouts of America, an organization I made up in the name of a cheap laugh.

Or at least I thought I made it up.

“Good morning, Mr. Herman,” said an email from Cheryl Bales of Plano. “Your article ‘Dog Days in the Newsroom’ came up on my news feed because of my search words ‘Dog Scouts of America.’ Although I enjoyed your article and found it funny — especially the bird dog tweet remark — I’m not sure if you’re aware but there really is an actual Dog Scouts of America organization.”

Is this a great country or what?

“DSA was founded in 1995 and there are two mottos, neither of which are ‘friendly, clean, housebroken and generally well-mannered’ — although most of the dogs are anyway,” Bales wrote, adding a smiley-face at the end of that sentence.

So, to set the record straight, here are the two DSA mottos. The first is for the dog owner and the second is for the dogs:

“Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours — let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.”

“Let us learn new things that we may be more helpful.”

Nice, and any dog who can learn to say the second motto should get a merit badge.

Merit badges for dogs. That’s funny, isn’t it? Maybe they could wear them on a sash.

Funny? Maybe. But real. Looks like there are over 100 DSA merit badges that can be earned in categories including agility, community service, obedience and “nosework.” The community service category includes one called “Clean Up America 2 (Poop).”

Really. Here’s how it’s earned:

“Dog and handler have found, picked up and properly disposed of at least 50 separate piles of dog excrement left behind by irresponsible dog owners in public places. The dog helped by finding the piles, packing out bagged piles in his or her backpack, and/or pulling a collection cart of wagon.”

The rules say the pile must be “dog poop, not a pile left by geese, coyote or other wild animal.”

Merit badge? A dog who can do that should get a Nobel Prize.

Bales’ Golden Retriever Tanner, who died last year, was a longtime Dog Scout and earned more than 25 merit badges. Bales one-year-old dog Austin is a “pup in training.” “Austin does have that cuteness factor,” Bales told me. “ Good thing he has that going for him. His training needs a lot of work.”

Bales is a member of DSA Troop 119 in Dallas-Fort Worth. There are four Texas troops, including Troop 203 in Austin and another being formed in Lubbock.

I also heard from reader Mary Nichols of Austin, who volunteers at the Austin Animal Center and notes the center has a shortage of volunteer dog walkers. “That means some dogs don’t get out for 24 hours,” Nichols noted. Volunteers can sign up to be regulars by attending a short orientation. And anyone over 18 can be a walk-in walker just by showing up.

“Happy tails to all who answer the call,” Nichols wrote.

OK, here’s your reward for reading to (or skipping to) the end of this column. This is verifiable at the DSA website.

The Dog Scouts of America’s national troop coordinator is Brenda Katz.

Yes, this is a great country.

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