Jon de Vos: When good dogs go bad
July 23, 2009
My wife and I have two dogs, but we’re poor disciplinarians. So I was surprised when some friends asked us to sit for their baby, uh, their baby dog, of course.
“Now, she’s not allowed up on the furniture,” she said, handing over Sapphire’s leash at the door. Incidentally, names have been changed in this column to protect and ensure domestic tranquility. My wife reached out for the leash and we caught each other’s sidelong glance, imperceptibly shaking our heads and thinking to ourselves, “but that’s just not right! Not allowed? How does one stop them?”
We’re not complete losers. We have strict rules for our dogs. For instance, we’ve forbidden, just absolutely forbidden, our dogs from using our credit cards. Those idiots have no concept of credit limits, as we found out that time when Union Pacific tried to deliver a railcar full of barbecue-flavored pig ears. Short of a boxcar of dog treats though, pretty much anything goes. We kept it together until our friend pulled out of the driveway, then paused to chuckle at her witticism. Stay off the furniture, indeed!
We waved at her as she pulled away, then braced ourselves to go back inside to sweep, gather, vacuum and pick up the broken pieces of the usual havoc our dogs cause when left alone for long stretches like the five minutes we were standing in the drive.
Mercifully, the dogs weren’t there. They were out back in their second favorite pursuit, chasing squirrels and barking like loons. Sapphire, much to our amazement, was peacefully lying on the kitchen floor. We stared at her recumbent form. She stared back. We waited for her to start barking her own fool head off. We waited for her to leap onto the table demanding table scraps. We waited for her to commence clawing at all our wooden antiques like a deranged tomcat. (Our stuff didn’t start out as antiques but things age quickly in our house.) We waited for the evil side to slink out, but Sapphire just sat there wagging and wearing a dopey grin.
My wife looked at me. We have our vet on speed dial, “Do you think she’s all right?” Just at that moment, both our dogs blew in the dog door, bounced off the aquarium with a resounding crash and screeched to a four-paw, extended halt at the sight of the new dog. They stared incredulously, momentarily pausing their barking, clawing and begging in wonder at the sight. Sapphire sat there calmly, just looking back at them. It’s long been apparent that “good dog” a foreign concept, completely alien to our mutts. They looked at each other in puzzlement, shrugged and returned to the wanton destruction of all our nice things.
Sapphire held out for about an hour before the first “woof” crossed her lips. She tried it a few more times, daintily at first, as if savoring the experience, then with a lot more gusto and enthusiasm. After a few minutes, she casually rested a paw on the sofa as if testing the temperature in the hot tub. When no sharp rebukes followed, without another hesitation, she was right there in the middle of it all, leaping and rolling around the living room, crashing into our battered and battle-weary stuff, joyously snapping at our hounds while trying to keep a chair cushion in her mouth at the same time.
Who says you can’t teach a new dog old tricks?