My biography as a pet owner is somewhat checkered and over the last 15 years or so has ebbed and flowed with relocations, changes in marital status and housing choices.

During most of those 15 years, I have owned (or been owned by) some variation of a junkyard dog. First there was Bronco, who I had for 12 years, until his death. Then for a short time, until I moved to an apartment not allowing pets, there was Lucifer, who was actually rescued from a dumpster. As I have written at other times over the years, owning a dog has fit pretty well with my personality and behavior patterns. Their love is unconditional and for me, thatís important. Regardless of what time I got home or what shape I was in when I got there, both Bronco and Lucifer apparently couldnít wait to see me, or else they were very good at faking it. There were never any silly questions about where I was, who I was with or what the red crayon stain was on my collar. I never had to make up a story about why I smelled like a convoluted mixture of Chanel No. 5 and Johnnie Walker Red. Junkyard dogs know about these things and donít need to be reminded.

Currently, Oreo and I try to keep three goldfish alive at one timeÖ with varying degrees of success. There are now two but Iím sure new occupants of the tank are not far behind.

Considering a recent story in the Bulletin describing the unfortunate and callous dumping of 15 puppies along a country road, I thought it might be time for some basic pet ownership reminders. I have in fact learned better how to treat my dogs than how to manage other facets of my life.

First, responsible pet ownership is expensive and is not for tightwads. If you canít bring yourself to drop a couple of hundred bucks now and then, leave the puppy at the poundÖ kitties too. Neutering, shots, food, dishes, booster shots, jerkies for teething, flea treatments, more booster shots, more flea treatments - well, you get the drift - and it never ends. And it shouldnít. Responsible pet care means they should become a full-blown member of the family. Their capacity to reciprocate love unconditionally is a quality human beings would be well advised to emulate.

Some people do it better than others.

Secondly, itís important to know when and how to part with a pet and they will indeed break your heart. Bronco and I spent most of 12 wonderful years together from the day I adopted him from the pound in Hopewell, Va., a puppy I could hold in the palm of my hand, until his eventual death here in Brownwood. Only a couple of times in my life were more emotional than the day he had to go to Hound Dog Heaven.

It was necessary however to part with Lucifer after only a few short months when I moved to the restrictive confines of apartment living. I miss him most days, but know heís better off on the farm where he went than what I could do for him.

I consider myself and Lucifer both fortunate that his adoptive family was able to provide and care for him at least as well, probably better, than I could. What motivates people to dump animals along the road, or worse, is one of those mysteries of the universe that has eluded me.

Third, pets, even well-behaved ones, will test and exhaust your patience. Lucifer was a literate dog or at least he should have been, since he devoured books, in fact devoured most of what was once a modest library. My first gift to my wife was upgrading her cell phone after Lucifer downgraded her old one, and a vicious downgrading it was

We assumed the bits of plastic and copper wire strewn about the carpet were in fact what was left of her phone. What was eventually left of the carpet probably cost me several thousand dollars when I sold my home. And like anyone who has ever tried to housetrain a petÖ well, no need to go there. I know Lucifer belonged outside but he had such a wonderful personality!?#%*

Though they have not destroyed carpets, phones or books, I just canít bring myself to relate on an intimate level with goldfish. They just seem to be asking too many questions, are real tough to take for a walk and have no personality. It may be getting time to start looking for Bronco and Luciferís successorÖ but donít tell Oreo.

John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Tuesdays. E-mail him at