A lot of people complain their dog isn't smart enough. And when they do, all I think is, Be careful what you wish for. Because when it comes to smart dogs, there are only three kinds: smart, real smart and too smart.
And believe me, I know, thanks to my latest canine addition - Lulu. She's a mixed breed, but beyond being part-beagle, what else she is is anyone's guess. She's small, long and skinny. She has the jaw and color of a boxer, the body of a whippet and the tail of a rat. She has supernatural scent discrimination, the heart of a highwayman and the stealth of a ninja.
All of which makes her a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to food.
I always carry dog biscuits, so whenever I see dogs, I give them treats. Not only does this give me a friend for life, but it's a real ego-booster, making me feel like the The Pied Piper of Dogdom. I've done it for decades, thus almost all my jackets have either biscuits or biscuit shards in their pockets. This was never a problem till Lulu.
Remember I said she had great scent discrimination? Well, it's so great that she found every biscuit in every one of my jackets and proceeded to chew her way through to them, laying to waste about $500 worth of threads. But, hey, I learned. Now I carry biscuits in a separate pouch, which I leave in the car.
So now my chewing problems with Lulu are over, right?
Three weeks ago, she scarfed a bottle of chewable vitamin C's (after somehow getting the cap off). A week later, she devoured a knife scabbard. Luckily she barfed up everything, so aside from some unpleasant and unplanned household cleaning, it was no problem. The same cannot be said for her latest culinary adventure.
I was in Vermont for the weekend and the Amazon Queen graciously consented to be my critter sitter. And since I've got a pair of cats in addition to my pair of curs, it's easiest if she stays at my place, which she did.
On Sunday when I came home, I opened the door expecting a jolly reunion, but was instead met by the AQ looking like she'd been gut-shot.
"What's wrong?" I said.
"Lulu," she said.
"What?" I said, starting to freak, "What? What?"
"Well, I had a loaf of bread in a plastic bag and she somehow managed to snag it."
"Where was it?" I asked.
"On top of the bookshelf."
The bookshelf, you should note, is about 5 feet high. Lulu is about a foot high. Go figure.
"You sure she ate it?" I said.
"I looked everywhere," said the AQ. "Which in a six room house isn't all that hard, especially since only one room upstairs was unlocked. And there's not a trace. No bread. No bag. Not even that plastic thingie you tie if off with."
"A twist tie?"
"No. Those square pieces of plastic with a notch in it."
I dropped into the chair, feeling gut-shot myself. A loaf of bread is one thing - if worse came to worst, it'd give Lulu a great case of the trots. The bag, however, could be a real nightmare: They can get lodged in dogs' intestines, and many dogs that swallow them need operations to remove them. Sometimes it can even be fatal.
We both sat there, silent, doing nothing. Then again, there was nothing we could do but wait and watch.
Lulu seemed none the worse for wear. She was her usual sparky self, wagging and wiggling around, bright-eyed (if not bushy-tailed).
The AQ went home, leaving me to my duties as a very partial observer.
As you might figure, sitting around staring at the dog for any sign of distress or discomfort was as boring as it was nerve-racking, and so, just to do something, I took Lulu for a walk. It proved as uneventful - she seemed just fine. But if she had an obstruction, it wouldn't have shown for hours, so it just gave me more to worry about, and more time to do it in.
When we got home, I unleashed her and as usual, what with hope springing eternal, she ran to her food bowl. I took my luggage upstairs, unlocked my room and stashed my bags. Then remembered I'd left something in the car so I went out and fetched it, and when I returned, Lulu was nowhere in sight.
Weird, I thought - she's always downstairs when I am.
I called her name. Nothing.
I called again. Still nothing.
Then I checked the downstairs rooms, but she was in none of them.
I called again, starting to panic, when suddenly she appeared at the top of the stairs. When I called her again, she came down the stairs licking her lips.
What now? I wondered.
Rather than wait for an answer, I tore upstairs, to see just what she'd gotten into this time. First I went into the spare bedroom, where the AQ had stayed and checked it out. Nada.
Then I went into my room, and as soon as I did, I was greeted by the best sight I could've have wished for - a huge loaf of bread, still wrapped in plastic bag, tied off with plastic thingie!
To her credit, Lulu had managed to puncture the bag and take some bites out of the loaf, but her machinations had been cut short ... much to my relief.
I laughed out loud, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and then called the AQ with the good news.
"But your bedroom was locked." She said. "How'd the loaf get in there?"
"Well, I unlocked it after I took her for her walk."
"Yeah, but the bread wasn't in your room when you unlocked it, right?"
"Right," I said.
"So you know what that means?" she said.
And once I thought about it, I did.
Since there are only three rooms upstairs and two of them were locked, LuLu had stolen the bread from downstairs and then snuck it upstairs, where she stashed in behind the door in the AQ's room. Then, when I went to the car, she retrieved the bread from behind the door and took it into my room for her dining pleasure, which I unfortunately (for her) interrupted.
I played that scenario over and over in my head.
Then I mentally checked it off: First, she snatched the bread from atop the bookshelf without the AQ noticing. Then she took it upstairs and hid it behind the AQ's door, also without her noticing. Next, after waiting for me to leave the house, she dragged it from its hiding place and took it into my previous-locked-but-now-unlocked room. Finally, she got busted only because, while she knew I'd left, she didn't know how long I'd be gone.
And now, if you think your dog isn't smart enough, I ask you: Just how smart a dog do you want?