In this space not too long ago, I mentioned once that dogs were too clever by half. I was mistaken. I should have said that they are too human.
If you’ll recall, my two pets… I mean, my two animal companions… were called Rusty and Taffy. Perhaps it was the way they were treated at my house, or perhaps I was just reading too much into their behaviour, but it seemed to me that they both thought they were, well, people.
Take Taffy for example. She used to follow me down to the bathroom first thing in the morning. Rather than wait outside, like any sensible being wearing a thick fur coat, she would come into the bathroom as I warmed up the shower. When the room was full of steam, she flopped on the floor, put all four feet in the air and promptly fell asleep. Maybe I was wrong, but she seemed to think she was having a sauna. She didn’t bother wandering in at any other time of the day, just at shower time.
She also liked to sunbathe. If she was indoors, she found a sunny patch near a window and flopped again, tummy to the breezes. If outdoors, she stretched out on the front porch steps. I hadn’t had the heart to tell her she couldn’t tan her fur.
Taffy was also one of those creatures, who, if human, I’d classify as a neat freak. If you gave her a treat, she wouldn’t eat it in front of you, oh no. She took it to the den and ate it on the area rug there, which she seemed to regard as her own personal table cloth. This did wonders for the carpet, particularly if you’d just given her a gooey bone.
If she was outside and at the far end of the yard, when you called, she took the long way in. That is, she tracked all the way up the fence line, across the front of the yard, and onto the sidewalk to get to the house. None of this cutting across grass in bare paws, thank you very much! In fact, it was usually a struggle to get her outside. At bedtime, we usually let them both outside for, erm, one last round of the yard. You almost had to physically throw Taffy out the door, because otherwise she stood there looking at you with this slightly horrified look on her face, as if to say: “What, I have to go out there? How barbaric!” You couldn’t ever make the mistake of feeding her dog food either. Kibble, apparently, was beneath her.
Rusty, meanwhile, liked to play jokes on you. The dogs were let outside every morning after breakfast to run off some energy, and occasionally Rusty liked to grab one of the throw pillows in the living room. He hovered just out of sight for a few moments, mouth stuffed full of pillow, waiting for Taffy to clear the door. When she did, he made a break for it, sneaking just below your knees, out the door, down the steps and on to the grass. Then he would spit out the pillow, turn and looked at you. If he’d had the vocal cords to go “nyah, nyah,” he would, I’m sure of it. High ol’ doggie humour, that.
He was also darned inquisitive — a canine scientist of sorts. I made the mistake once, of allowing him to snuffle the lamp by my bed. It was one of those touch sensitive devices that turned on if you placed your hand on any portion of the metal surface. Naturally, when a wet dog nose touched it, the light came on, and it startled Rusty. Rather than run away though, he snuffled it some more, turning it on and off at least half a dozen times. He came away with a rapid blink, but satisfied that he’d figured out cause and effect. And every once in a while, I’d catch him poking at the other lamps in the house, just to see what they would do.
Of course, both dogs loved Christmas. I may be a bit Bah Humbug on the season, but these two were just like little kids. They went nuts when we brought home a tree: hanging around while we trimmed it, snorfling in the storage boxes, pulling out ornaments and tugging on the tree skirt. Taffy in particular liked to play with a set of sleigh bells, just to hear them jingle. They inspected each present under the tree thoroughly (if they’d had thumbs, they would have picked up boxes and shaken them), so Santa Claws had to be careful not to bring anything until Christmas morning. And yes, they were up at the crack of dawn that morning, driven by some internal doggie calendar I suppose, frantic to see what was new. When given their gifts — usually rawhide chew toys wrapped in Christmas paper — Rusty tried to sneak his outside, and Taffy took hers to the den carpet. Old habits died hard.
Our current dogs, Ginger and Sasha also love Christmas. So don’t be surprised if you see my dogs out carolling at some point. Don’t wince when they sing “Oh Come All Ye Furful,” or “Dog Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” In fact, just offer them some egg dog, er, nog. Taffy would likely have preferred that to Alpo anyway.