I like animals, but I don't like pets. I have never understood why people invite animals into their homes. I think it has something to do with the desire to be involved in a manipulative relationship.

"Come here, come here and let me pet you ... oooooh, yes ... mumma loves you soooo much ... roll over and I'll give you a treat. Now go away, I'm trying to read the paper here."

My least favorite pets have always been dogs for one simple reason: they bark. Cats, ferrets, iguanas and most other pets are nice and quiet, so I never have to deal with them. But dogs are always disturbing the neighborhood with their incessant woofing and growling.

So, it was upsetting to me when I fell in love with a woman who has a dog. See, falling in love with a woman who has a dog requires falling in love with the dog, too. And, I should point out, my girlfriend's dog is a 90-pound Doberman.

In the past nine months, I've had to learn a lot of new things. For example:

* Not only does going on vacation require consulting several friends to see if they are available to let the dog out, so does simply going out after work without coming home first.

* Leaving the gate to the fence open will result in a lawsuit.

* The first step in cleaning up a pile of vomit the size of a 16-inch deep-dish pizza is scooping it up with a dustpan. And that is the easy part.

* If there is a skunk in the yard, the dog will always attack it, no matter how many times he gets sprayed directly into his mouth.

* Tomato soup baths don't work these days because the acidity of tomatoes has changed over the years, so I'm told. A product that comes highly recommended on the Internet for removing skunk odor is Massengill douches, but they don't really work well either. A concoction of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda works best, and also provides the added joy of turning your dog into a blond.

Clearly there are a lot of responsibilities that come with having a dog. But I've finally learned the joy that pet ownership can bring. My friends, you haven't really lived until you've douched a dog's face.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.