How now, bow wow? What's an e-mail-equipped doggy to do?

My e-mail has gone to the dogs.

I'm not kidding.

Last week my in-box included several messages bearing various renditions of "Happy Birthday" tidings, including one from "Ruby Gibes." She's my 2-year-old German shorthaired pointer. I had no idea she could type.

The message was signed "Ruby and Maverick," which means the big pup included her new little brother, a 4-month-old of the same breed. It was a first for me, and I played along by responding in terms I hoped the dogs might understand. "Woof, woof. Bow wow." You get the idea.

The next day the cat was out of the bag (or was that the dog?). My niece opened a Gmail account on behalf of both dogs and provided me the password so I can take control of it. What do I do now? Do I ask the pooches we see every morning and evening at the dog park for their e-mail addresses? Do I send messages to other Gibes family canine? Do I start another account for my trio of tortoises that live in the back yard?

I'm open for ideas. Send them via e-mail with the subject "dog mail." I'll share the best ones in a future column.

Since I'm on the subject of e-mail, I'll share some tips sent by a local attorney. The July edition of American Bar Association Journal included the story: "Law Hacks - 101 tips, tricks and tools to make you a more productive, less stressed-out lawyer."

Most of the tips don't really target only the legal community; they apply to anyone trying to buy back a few minutes throughout the day.

The tips include:

• Empty your e-mail in-box daily;

• Change settings so you don't receive an alert every time a message comes in

• Move messages to an appropriate folder as soon as you have read it;

• Program your e-mail software to automatically file messages using the system's "rules."

One unlisted tip not that I try to adhere to is, "handle each message only once." This is much easier if the subject line accurately conveys the business at hand. This lets you delay your response if you choose.

If all else fails, and e-mail has gotten the best of you, use the last-ditch tip of "declaring e-mail bankruptcy."

This involves e-mailing everyone you haven't responded to with an apology and deleting everything in your in-box. It's the big "do-over."

My biggest pet peeve of e-mail is the false sense of urgency it creates. If someone really needs to tell me something important, and time is critical they should call instead.

My next-favorite form of instant communication is text messaging. Nearly every mobile phone has the ability to send short message service (SMS) blurbs of up to 160 characters.

Learn how to "txt msg." Your kids are experts at it. Ask them for a tutorial. Better yet, maybe you should ask the dog.

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