When my wife died, she was occasionally taking care of three or four dogs for friends of ours, and I continue to sit one of those critters, a white and black Papillion named Gizmo. I happen to think Gizzy is one of the most intelligent animals around, but I love him and cannot be considered an objective observer.
However, the following is something that actually happened with two very likeable dogs I’d never met before I took care of them for a few days. Since I had no prior attachment to the dogs, I can represent myself as an absolutely unbiased observer. I got a big bang out of what happened and hope you enjoy reading about it.
Dogs don’t think; they don’t reason. Everyone knows that. Their actions are dictated by a pack instinct and by rote training, right? At least, that’s the cachet. My education came a few year ago when I was cajoled into dog sitting for two families who were going on a joint vacation. The dogs were strangers to me and had only a passing acquaintance with one another.
Ursa was a loveable chocolate miniature Poodle whose primary mission in life was to sit on someone’s lap…anyone’s lap…for as long as possible. Sparkie, a West Highland Terrier, was far too independent for that sort of thing. If I plopped down on the couch, he might sit beside me, but that was the extent of his bonding.
About five days into the dog-sitting caper, I was watching television with You-Know-Who sprawled across my legs. During a commercial, I glanced at Sparkie lying under the dining room table and noticed him observing us carefully. A few minutes later, Ursa hopped down and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. The Westie immediately came over and climbed into my lap. When Ursa returned to reclaim her seat, she was clearly annoyed at the new situation. First, she leveled “the stare.” That didn’t work, so she did a little pacing, a little sitting, and periodically gave what I can only describe as a moan. A few minutes later, she tried out a yip.
When Sparkie ignored all of her tactics, the Poodle suddenly ran to the front hallway and began barking furiously, something both dogs did when anyone walked near the house. Sparkie came off my lap like he’d been goosed and raced to the door, adding his manly bark to her feminine voice.
As soon as he reached the front door, Ursa trotted back and jumped into my lap. When the Westie finally figured out no one was outside, he came back into the den. Now it was his turn to stop and stare. He’d been snookered. Ursa, the little dickens, had planned and executed her plot to regain the lap she considered her private property. I laughed myself to sleep that night.
The next evening, events played out more or less as they had the day before. As soon as Ursa went to get a drink of water, Sparkie scurried over and wanted up. The Poodle wasn’t so patient this time. Within a couple of minutes, she headed for the front door, barking as if she were fighting off crazed intruders. Sparkie came halfway out of my lap, froze for a moment, and then settled back down.
I’ll swear Ursa looked absolutely shocked when she returned to find Sparkie still taking his ease on my lap.
Don’t tell me dogs can’t think.
Hope you enjoyed my little tale (no pun intended). Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Next week: I’m getting a new computer tomorrow, and I’m sure that will provide a few oopsies to tell you about.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.