Tuesday, March 26, 1996
New chance to create doggy debt

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It appears that our deadbeat dog finally may have the chance to pay us back. While Schottzie 02 has been out selling Buicks and Frazier's Eddie has been raking in the product endorsement bucks, Misty Pulfer has been doing exactly nothing to improve the family fortunes.

But her days as a non-productive, Iams-guzzling hair-ball factory and flea ranch may be over. She is going to get her own Visa card.

Believe me, it's none too soon. Misty, a beautiful and dignified collie, came to live with us about a year ago. She was 4 years old and free. What a laugh. If you have ever had a pet, you know the purchase price is merely an initiation fee.

After that, there's the gynecologist, the dermatologist, the doggie vacation motel, flea spray, heartworm pills, pedicures, the hairdresser, groceries. I expect that she's going to need bifocals and her own phone line any day now.

We're not complaining, but we do worry that Misty has no real appreciation for the value of a dollar. We have spoiled her.

She came to us as a rather accomplished adult dog. Oh, don't get me wrong, she never told us that Timmy was in the well or that Gramps was trapped in a barn fire, but when we said ''sit,'' she sat. She trotted obediently to heel on our left and she never jumped up on us and she only ate dry dog food and she liked to sleep outside. Or at least she did so without complaint.

Misty also was completely housebroken. This means that she would do her business outside if we guessed that she needed to. And got her there right away, as soon as the mood was upon her. Otherwise, she could not be responsible for what would happen. As you can imagine, we have become slaves to her moods. And alert, very alert.

She has made remarkable progress under our care and instruction. When we say ''sit,'' she growls at the cat. She is now, if I may brag a little, much more versatile on the leash and walks on both our left and our right sides and sometimes she pulls us and sometimes we pull her. At the command ''down,'' she looks puzzled, then hurt, then leaves the room.

If we speak sharply to her, she drools uncontrollably.

She loves to jump on us in greeting, particularly if she is muddy and we are dressed to go someplace. Although her lineage is long and noble, she is not too proud to drink from the porcelain punch bowl. Dry dog food depresses her, and at night she likes to sleep at the foot of our bed.

My husband thinks that in another month we'll have her biting people.

Maybe the folks at Visa who sent her the letter can teach her a little self-control and discipline, although I have my doubts. When I review our recent history together, I am plagued by a terrifying image - me up to my knees in dog biscuits and rawhide bones - with Misty under the bed, hiding from the bill collectors.

This credit card, according to the brochure, offers Misty $100,000 automatic travel accident insurance. I don't know if this is standard or if somebody at Visa got a whiff of the backseat of our car. I've never priced one of those little hanging fir trees, but surely they can't be that steep.

Misty also can take advantage of a credit line of up to $5,000. Perhaps this freeloader will remember those of us who have been so generous with her. Maybe I will come home from work some day to find a big-screen TV and a bread machine. What do I care if she maxes out? It's the bank's fault for making it too easy for just any old dog to get credit. She can declare bankruptcy. Or get a job.

She could be the first dog in America to admit that she has a spending disorder. We could be on The Jerry Springer Show: ''Collies Who Spend Too Much and the Women Who Love Them.''

Hey, wait a minute. My name appears on the card, too. It says they will emboss my dog's name right on the face of MY new Visa card. You mean this is just another opportunity for me to be up to my humanoid ears in interest fees? I'm responsible for the dog's debts?

No thank you. She still owes me for the sweat shirt with Lassie's picture on it and the John Tesh CDs.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 mHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.