Once upon a time, very near to here, there was a boy with a shaggy dog.

When he got the dog as a puppy from the owners of its parents (an English sheepdog and a Lhasa Apso), they said, "Look here, boy, that's going to be a shaggy dog some day. Its mother, Xiu-Xiu, is shaggy. Its father, Mr. Bean, is shaggy. With that much shaggy blood, the dog is destined to be shaggier than anything else this world has seen."

And indeed, when the boy got the dog home, his mother looked at it and said, "My, for a puppy, that's one shaggy dog."
His father concurred. "Mmhmm, why, that puppy is shaggier than most adult dogs. Just a bag o' shag, I tell you," his father said, as he picked dog hair from his scotch.
But at the time, the boy had no idea just how shaggy the dog was to become.

The boy and the dog had a normal childhood and puppyhood, except for, of course, the shaggy-dog related incidents. The dog, whose name I should have mentioned earlier, often became stuck in brambles and branches, a prisoner of his own hair.

But as the dog grew, so did its shagginess, and as its shagginess grew, so did its legend. Not only did the local newspaper take up the cause ("Hairy Hound's Head Held High", "Matted Mutt Moves Mountains- Of Hair". The basic man-grooms-dog stories) but the wire services began running accounts of this inexplicably shaggy dog in international news.

"El peludo!" screamed Univision's announcer, and Der Speigle led with "Das zottelige." Le Monde worried about the imperialist implications of "le poilu l'un," while the Italians unveiled "il peloso un" styles in Milan. The world was in a shaggy tizzy.

There were, or course, Austin Powers jokes made, but they were not funny.

As the reknown of the dog grew, the boy learned of an international shaggy dog competition.
He had to enter his dog, as no one had ever heard of a dog so young, yet so shaggy.
And there was every type of shaggy dog there. Bearded Collies. Polish Sheepdogs. Bouviers. Exceptionally hirstute Labradors. Owczarek Nizinnys. Robin Williams.
Of course, it was an allergy atrocity, with Allegra turned out like pills at a Motley Crue concert.

And while the competition was tough, the boy and his dog glided through the first round.
"Why, those dogs are practically Xolos next to my shaggy dog," he thought, having had a good occassion to research as many dog breeds as possible before the competition.

And Los Vegas agreed with him, the odds for the boy's win spiralling out of control. Like Smarty Jones before the Belmont, the boy's dog was a sure thing.

They advanced through the semi-finals, dispatching shaggy dogs like the shears of victory denuding the shivering dogs of defeat.
They approached the final.

An Afghan Hound stood at the pedestal, while the judges looked on. They lifted its legs, checking its forelocks, and combed out its glistening tresses. Then they moved onto a longhaired dachshund, small but impeccably shaggy for its size. The boy's dog was the only mutt, and the other owners looked down on him despite his impressive popularity.
"They'll see soon enough," the boy thought, while the judges examined shaggy dogs large and small.

The judges left the arena to make their decisions. Or course, all of the dogs were shaggy. All of them had the matted tresses of champions. But there could only be one winner.

The judges asked for one more trot around the room from a Bouvier, and a purebred Lhasa. The boy's heart sank. Maybe they had missed his dog's ineffable shaggy aura. Then they called him. He was elated.

The judges retired again to make their final decision. The arena was as hot and as the inside of a dog's mouth.
Anticipation smelled like wet fur.


After the match, the boy approached one of the judges. "I'm sorry sir," he said, "but I just don't understand your decision. Why did I come in third? Didn't I groom the dog perfectly? Didn't it have more hair, wilder hair than every other dog?"
"Yes," said the judge. "But your dog, it's just not so shaggy. Sorry. Not a shaggy dog at all."

(And that, folks, is the formula for The Shaggy Dog story. Build 'em up, let 'em down.)

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