… and it keeps staring at me.
My ex was giving me a hard time about keeping these dogs for the weekend, because he staunchly maintains that I do not like dogs. That is not, in fact, true. I love dogs. I am not super-fond of dogs I can’t seem to control, for all the obvious dog- and carpet-related reasons, as well as because I just like to control things. (Heh.)
We used to have a dog, and he was… well… he was a darling, really. Very sweet. But let’s just say that I am a paragon of mental stability next to that dog. That dog had separation anxiety and herding insticts that made him body-check small children into the wall and then stand on them and every time he went to doggie school he was PERFECT–there. He would then come home and be all “Yay! Back to the asylum! What can I destroy first??” I tolerated him for a long time, but once my ex moved out the dog left off all other bad behaviors in favor of a I AM NOW THE ALPHA AND I SHALL EAT YOU IF YOU TRY TO ENTER MY DOMAIN schtick, and, well, now he lives happily on a farm with another dog, and my UPS man no longer calls me nasty names under his breath.
Anyway, this afternoon Gangly Dog beheaded his rubber chicken. A moment of silence, please.
(The chicken’s family thanks you for your condolences.)
My children were simultaneously delighted and horrified. Once the head was off, Gangly Dog kept grabbing it in his mouth and tossing it in the air (such a CHEERFUL killer, he is) and chewing on it, and finally I took it away because I was afraid he would choke. Once the head was out of reach, he went back to working on what remains of the chicken body (neck, wings, and belly; the legs were missing when he arrived). The kids dangled off the back of the couch and tried to explain to Gangly Dog that the chicken was already dead. Gangly Dog took their advice under deep consideration while nibbling on said chicken’s abdominal cavity.
Chickadee turned to me after a minute and remarked, “He’s not all that smart, is he, Mama.”
I tried to explain that this is how dogs are. They fixate. That it looks to us like they’re methodically dismantling an object, but to them they’re just doing what they feel driven to do. I found myself chuckling and telling them about how our dog used to perform heroic emergency squeakerectomies on any squeaky toy we gave him. It was an obsession. And he loved STUFFED squeaky toys, because he could first extract the squeaker (with triumph) and then pull out the fluff bit by bit. My trip down memory lane was punctuated by the occasional *squeaksqueak* of the decapitated rubber chicken against Gangly Dog’s teeth.
Meanwhile, Fluffy Dog spent today finding every single ant bait in the house that I’ve put down and forgotten about since the beginning of time. He’s definitely the quieter of the two dogs, but this was the same instinct in force. He knew he wasn’t supposed to have them–he kept getting this guilty look–and he wasn’t even chewing on them, just CAPTURING them and laying on top of them with this pitiful “I couldn’t help it, it was TAUNTING me and I HAD to” sort of apologeticness. I would take the trap from him and throw it away and an hour later he would have another one. (Can’t. Stop. Hoarding. Ant poison!) Fluffy Dog was crying out for intervention. Sadly, helping him to admit that he is powerless over his addiction was not part of the services I agreed to render.
Destroying toys or repeating a forbidden action over and over isn’t “all that smart” (thanks, Chickadee), to be sure. But to my mind, neither of those things were nearly as puzzling as the war our dog declared on any item we dared to put in his crate.
We owned the only dog in the history of dogdom who never, ever bonded with his crate. It was puppy prison; he knew it, and we knew it. He never forgave us. He would bark and cry and rattle and scratch and generally make it clear that he would not be silent until his needs were met (those needs being a comfy seat on the couch rather than being shoved in a box). We used the crate for years, following all of the advice the vet and dog trainers gave us, and still he hated it. Periodically we would try to make it more comfortable for him by adding a soft towel or blanket or pad, thinking that perhaps that would soothe him.
Any item inserted into the crate was shredded. Even the super-heavy-duty fake sheepskin guaranteed to soothe even the most agitated of dogs. Any attempt to make his confinement more pleasant was rejected. He didn’t want solace; he wanted to chew and be miserable. No matter how long you played with him or how many balls you tossed for him or how many squirrels you let him chase during the day, as soon as you put him into the crate, anguish would descend. Along with the counterproductive but irrepressible urge to destroy anything that might make him feel better.
How could I not love a creature with whom I have so much in common?
Plus dogs are way cuter and cuddlier than I am while beheading things. Stop looking at me like that, stupid chicken head.