DeVos: How good dogs go bad
September 25, 2014
My wife and I have two dogs but we're notoriously poor disciplinarians so I was surprised when some friends asked us to baby-sit their black lab. They must've been pretty desperate. I think secretly they look down their nose at our dogs because their dog is one of those rare breeds known as "trained."
"She's not allowed to beg or get up on the furniture," she said, handing over Jacky's leash at the door and heading out of town.
My wife reached out for the leash but we caught each other's sidelong glance, imperceptibly shaking our heads. She muttered under her breath, "No furniture? That's just not right!"
We have strict rules for our dogs. For instance, they are forbidden, absolutely forbidden, from using our credit cards. Those idiots act so inappropriately that I could just see a UPS semitrailer full of chipotle-flavored pig ears pulling into the drive. Plus, you simply have to draw the line somewhere.
We kept it together until our friend pulled out of the driveway before cracking up. "Stay off the furniture, indeed!" We laughed and braced ourselves to go back inside where the odds were good that we'd have to sweep up the usual havoc, destruction and debris our dogs cause when left alone for long periods, like the three minutes we were standing in the drive.
It turns out we were both lucky and unlucky at the same time. We were lucky because things were quiet and orderly inside. Things turned unlucky when we discovered the inside calm was because our mutts were outside engaged in tug-of-war with the pork chops I'd been thawing on the counter.
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We watched our disappearing dinner and with a shrug unhooked Jacky's leash, expecting fully that she would race out to join the fray. But no. She sat down and stared at us. We stared back. She cocked her head expectantly. So did we. Why wasn't she running around and barking uncontrollably? When would she begin tearing through the house with a shoe in her mouth? Why was she sitting on the hard tile floor when the sofa was right behind her?
My wife looked down at her and asked with obvious concern in her voice, "Do you think she's all right?"
"Her color is good," I said.
"She's a black lab."
"Yeah," I said, "very Goth."
At that moment our two mutts blew in the dog door, bounced off the TV cabinet with a resounding crash and screeched to a four-paw halt at the sight of the new dog who sat there quietly, just waiting for the chance to balance the checkbook or drag Timmy from the well.
Our dogs stared incredulously, dumbfounded by the "good dog," a sight as common in our house as intergalactic visitors. Slowly they turned and looked at each other, puzzled by the standoffish newcomer. Then they shrugged and returned to the wanton destruction of all our nice things.
Jacky held out for about an hour before the first "woof" crossed her lips. Then she tried it a few more times, daintily at first, as if exploring the experience but waiting for someone to shout, "BAD DOG!" When it didn't happen, it was like a whole new world had opened up.
She launched onto the sofa, careening off the pole lamp and there was no turning back. She took to deviltry like a crack pipe. For the next four days, the three of them cut a swath through our house like Grant cut through Richmond during the Civil War.
When it came time for Jacky to go home, I handed over the leash and as I did, I caught her eye. There was a little twinkle that hadn't been there before.