Animals are funny. Never thought I’d say this, but they seem like they’re almost human.
We are step-parents to my daughter’s dog, Penny, a lovely chocolate lab. She’s won our hearts, but that doesn’t mean she’s got us wrapped around her finger (or paw).
Take feeding time for example. We have a routine where we let her out for her morning relief before filling her food dish. She’s barely finished her business outside when she makes a mad dash up onto the deck, through the door and over to her food bowl. You’ve never seen such unbridled enthusiasm! She’s panting hard, rearing up on her hind legs and bouncing around the kitchen like a baby goat. Then she gobbles down her food, navigating her way around the plastic maze in her bowl designed to slow down the gulping action.
She knows a few words quite well: treat, food, dinner, time to eat, and outside are the primary ones. She also knows “rope” which refers to the knotted rag rope she chews on, wrestles with, and drags all over the house. To her credit, she also knows the words sit, wait, stay, and lay down.
Oh, and it’s a big deal when someone pulls in the driveway or she hears the doorbell. What a ruckus! This summer I was on an HGTV kick. There was a commercial every ten minutes that featured a doorbell. I would grab the remote and mute the volume to keep her from launching into another dramatic home protection response. It’s great to have a dog around for protective purposes, but I wanted to spare her (and me) the drama of false alarms.
It amazes me how much Penny understands and displays human-like behaviors. She’s a consummate beggar and is picky about the person on whom she showers her attention. That would be my husband, Doug. But food trumps all. When he finishes his meal and there’s no more to be had, if I’m still eating she moves right over to me. She sits there, focused like a laser beam on each bite I take. Her head tilts and her eyebrows twist. If I look over at her, she wags her tail. The tail wagging speed is commensurate with the likelihood of accessing food. If I move to get up from the table, she goes into hyperdrive and follows the plate (not me) over to the counter.
When she does something worthy of a T.R.E.A.T., I put it down on the floor and she knows enough to wait. She sits there staring at the morsels, then ever so slowly tilts her head and looks up at me with those big brown eyes under bushy eyebrows with a pleading expression. You can almost hear her thinking, “Please ma’am, can I have some more?”
I swear she has an alarm clock in her belly. She knows she gets fed in the morning after her trip outside, so I can understand that. But her evening feeding instincts are mind boggling. She’ll come trotting over to me and when I try to pet her, she’ll veer away in the direction of her food dish. This gets repeated a few times, just to make sure her purpose is clear. This act can start about 3 pm. When I get her drift, I look down at her and say, “No, it’s not time yet.” Then she snorts, sneezes, circles around a few times and plops herself down at my feet to wait.
Her feeding time is anytime from 4pm on. At 4pm on the button, she signals it’s that special time (in case I had forgotten). As I move toward the food bowl and say, “Alright, alright!” the bouncing and panting begins. (I wish my kids had been that enthusiastic when they came to the dinner table!)
Her food bowl is designed like a plastic maze with corridors where the food accumulates as I pour it in. This “slow feeder bowl” is supposed to slow down the eating process and minimize gulping. I’d hate to think how fast she’d eat if the maze wasn’t there. It’s all gone in a matter of minutes. My daughter put a sign on the dog food container that says, “Penny has been fed. Don’t let her fool you!” It’s designed to prevent others in the household from taking pity on her and thinking she’d not yet been fed. The sign also says “morning” on one side and “night” on the other, so we can avoid falling prey to her oh-so-persuasive doggie charms. We flip the sign over to signify what time of the day she’s already been fed.
I’ve always been a cat person so being adoptive parents to my daughter’s dog was a new adventure. She is a sweetheart who follows me from room to room and settles down at my feet to nap. She’s easily pleased. Food and love are all she craves. We can do no wrong in her eyes. Now I understand the adage about trying to be the person your dog thinks you are.
Then there’s our cat, Snickers. She rarely interacts with Penny because she’s better, ya know. She’s really in charge and just puts up with the interloper. Occasionally, Penny will get a little too close, causing a quick response from Snickers, the princess. There’s hissing, batting of paws and (if looks could kill) an expression of pure contempt. I call it the Garfield look.
Snickers makes it clear when she’s hungry too. We’ve indulged her and it shows. Her pudgy tummy and apron swings back and forth as she trots down the hallway to her napping spot. At the end of the day, she hops up on our bed, makes a few quick loops around the perimeter and settles in next to my husband. During the night though, I feel a hot, furry body snuggled up next to me, which is nearly impossible to nudge out of the way. (It’s not my husband, silly.) She sleeps close most of the night unless she jumps to the floor and makes that awful hacking sound of an emerging fur ball. Do I get up in the middle of the night to clean up the mess? Nope. But we tread carefully in the morning.
Speaking of fur, we get a “two-fer” between cat and dog hair. Of course, I could clean more often. But why do that when cat hair gets deposited in little wet fur balls on the carpet and dog hair rolls down the hallway like tumbling tumbleweeds? It’s so much easier to just pick them up and put them in the trash. Why do all that vacuuming?
I’m afraid we’re hooked on having a dog and a cat, but my husband talks of us getting a horse or two. I say, the bigger the fur balls, the better!