"Hi, pup!"

"Billy! Yay!"

"Here, good boy!"

After a long morning of back-to-school errands up and down the dreaded Rockville Pike, the children and I had opened the front door to find an expanse of blond softness in the hall.

Billy the Wonder Dog, for it was he, raised his head and gazed at us.

Now, I am not an expert in these things, but I believe that loving puppy owners are entitled to a certain amount of reciprocal exuberance. You ask: "Who's a good dog?" and the animal is supposed to become all excited and wriggly and to dash over with a wagging tail.

"I can't believe my good fortune!" the dog's body language says. "You are here! I rejoice!"

To be honest, with two teenagers in the house, I was looking forward to a little hero-worship. Every mild grumble about being the one who "does all the work" with the dog -- which isn't really true, but I like to say it anyway -- has secretly been tempered by the knowledge that the more care I give Billy, the greater the chance that he will regard me as The One, and that mine will be the presence that most gladdens his step. I've waited for the day when I could pray, in the words of the bumper sticker: "Lord, please let me be the person my dog thinks I am."

So in we had come, carrying our parcels, and how did Billy react? Did he jump up to greet us with joy?

Not a chance. Still gazing at us, the dog stretched out lazily, like an odalisque on her cushions. His body language seemed to say: "Ah, yes. Pass me that opium pipe, won't you?"

He didn't even wag his tail, the debauched thing.

"What," I cried, "is the point of a dog that just lies there when we come in? Where is the adoring eye? The eager wagging tail? Where, I'd like to know, is all the slavish love?"

The slavish love seemed to be coming from the human side of the relationship. While I stood there, denouncing the unfilial Billy, the girls had rushed forward, fallen to their knees, and were cuddling and embracing him. He seemed to enjoy this.

"See? He's wagging now!" said a defender.

"Humph," I said, "only because you're over-loving him." This was a paraphrase of the dog whisperer who has advised us on discipline.

"How could anyone over-love such a lovely boy?" one of the girls asked in a goo-goo voice, burying her face in his soft curls.

"Aw, Billy," cooed another girl.

"Ungrateful animal," I remarked, moving past them into the kitchen.

The truth is, Billy is really a sweet dog. And with the women of the house always swooning over him, why should we expect anything more than lolling complacency? He is, after all, just a guy.

Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at mgurdon@washingtonexaminer.com.