Dogged Determination

Annie, putting herself in the corner after a raid on the food bin

“Like a dog with a bone.”

“You’re like a bulldog:  sink your teeth in and never let go.”

“Tracking you like a bloodhound.”

“Dogging your footsteps.”

We usually think of our canine companions as being loyal and unconditionally loving.  “Persistent” and “stubborn” aren’t often the first descriptions that come to mind, but they are equally fitting.

Many years ago, when we got our rottweiler mix, Charley (a female), as a puppy, we read that the most prominent characteristic of the breed is its willfulness or refusal to be dominated.  We could soon attest to the truth of that statement.  From the time she was a few months old, she RULED our house.  Talk about alpha dogs!  She was the first dog my husband Rick and I had together, but at one point, we’d taken in four other dogs, one of them half again her size.  None of the other dogs was in any doubt about who was in charge. 

Our pug, Julie, came to us originally as a foster.  We were caring for her while her owner recuperated from a heart attack.  Unfortunately, her owner never made it home, and Julie became our permanent companion.  For a long time, though, she was adamant about escaping our yard.  We presumed she wanted to find her way back to her beloved dad.  She dug so many holes under the fence, our neighbor drove headless golf clubs into the ground every foot or so along the chainlink.

Then there’s one of our current dogs, Barney.  Look up any cliché about beagles, and his picture will be there.  I was talking pets with a co-worker a few years ago, and was mentioning some of Barney’s idiosyncrasies.  My colleague came back with, “You have a beagle?  A BEAGLE?  God love ya.  Good luck with that!”  And yeah….he’s a handful.  The vet calls him a drama queen, which he most certainly is.  Show him the nail clippers, and he immediately panics and starts screeching, though he’s never been hurt getting his nails cut.  It takes both of us to hold him still to complete the process; the vet long ago gave up.

He was about a year old when we got him, and was pretty unruly.  He has calmed down as he’s gotten older — he’s now eight — but one thing has never changed.  The far end of the couch is his.  Period.  If any other animal tries to claim that space, he will sit on the floor and fuss, then whine, and finally go into full-throated bellows until the intruder gives up and surrenders the spot. 

A few years ago, there was a TV commercial that had a line about, “…a beagle.  An adorable beagle….”  Every time we heard it, we’d look at Barney and laugh, because he was in no way similar to the calm, affectionate example of his breed in the ad.  During the run of that TV campaign, we had occasion to drive to Omaha for a short visit with my brother.  We drove our small motorhome and took Barney, along with our foxhound, Annie, and our shih tzu, Sadie.  We parked in my brother’s driveway for a couple days.  The second afternoon, my brother and I were settled in his living room, catching up and reminiscing.  Rick was in the motorhome with the dogs, and then Annie wanted to go out.  Barney refused to leave the couch, so Rick took Annie and was playing with her in the yard.  Two things happened.  First, the mailman came up the drive with the day’s delivery, and Barney heard him, then saw him through the window.  Second, Barney realized that his buddy, Annie, was outside, and he wasn’t (Sadie was content to stay curled up in her bed).  Barney began his beagle bellow, then went quiet after a minute.  We all assumed he’d gone back to the couch.  About half an hour later, we went to check on him, and discovered that he’d chewed through the bottom of the motorhome’s door, all the way out to the exterior fiberglass skin.  He wasn’t going to let that kind of barrier separate him from Annie.  Since then, he’s been the “door-eating beagle,” but no one has offered to feature him in a commercial.

Annie the foxhound is seven now.  We got her a little over six years ago, when the friends who’d adopted her found her to be too difficult to deal with.  High-strung and ADD, she can morph from being a bundle of wired energy to being a couch potato in a few minutes’ time.  She’s also indefatigable when it comes to the “f” word:  “food.”  She has hyperthyroidism, meaning we have to watch her diet so she doesn’t pack on the weight.  Being fed morning and night doesn’t suit her preferences, however, and she is constantly on the look-out for alternate food sources.  The kitchen wastebasket was her first choice.  We installed childproof catches on the cabinets, which she learned to defeat in a few days’ time.  We found a second kind of latch and hooked that around both cabinet door handles.  Well….if the latch isn’t engaged just perfectly, it can be jimmied; Annie quickly discovered that design flaw.  I’ll bet that, short of a padlock, nothing would stop her completely.

We used to keep Barney and Annie in the kitchen at night, to prevent rough-housing and furniture damage.  Rick constructed a 30-inch plywood dog gate to block off the entrance to the kitchen.  This time, it took Annie a couple years to figure out how to push and jiggle the gate to dislodge the toggle holding it closed.  Adding a 12-inch panel to the top of the gate prevented Annie from reaching the area around the toggle, so she simply chewed through the extra panel.

Did I mention food?  Annie stands over four feet high on her hind legs, so she can reach about halfway back the depth of our kitchen counters.  A disappearing meal or two taught us that she wouldn’t hesitate to swipe anything left unattended.  Lately, she’s realized that even if a bag of treats is setting on top of a canister, far back on the counter, she can use her paw to move the canister to where she can reach up to the bag.  She’s snagged two full bags of treats in the last week.  At first, we thought maybe one of the cats was assisting her, but no, it’s all her doing. 

The topper and last straw came yesterday when we were heading out to the campground for the weekend.  I packed a bag with homemade cookies and put it in the dry food bin we take with us.  Also in the bin was a bag with the weekend’s dog treats; I hid the bag under a pile of various boxes in the bin.  We put the bin on our dinette bench, behind my computer bag, which blocked it completely.  Annie and Barney flopped on the couch, and we took off in our motorhome.  When we got to the campground 40 minutes later and started to unpack, we found chewed-through plastic bags, but no treats or cookies.  Annie had waited until we were underway, then apparently stood on the edge of the couch, in a moving, swaying vehicle, braced her front paws on the edge of the dinette bench, stretched over the computer bag and dug through the food box to ferret out the goodies.  Now, that’s determination!!

P.S.  Needless to say, we were not amused, and we’ve ordered a small, securely latchable metal box to hold threatened items going forward.

24 thoughts on “Dogged Determination

    1. Yes, I have to escape the gloom and doom of politics sometimes!

      And to your point, I’ve often thought that it’s no coincidence that “dog” is “god” spelled backwards. Is there any significance to the fact that that’s only true in modern English???

      I’ve ordered “When God Was a Rabbit.” Sounds like a great read, so thanks for the referral.

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  1. Noelle, my 15 yo half blind Shih Tzu, not only found the bag of treats behind the booster seat in my car, she also fished them out, open the bag, dumped it, and ate all the treats. Dixie, my 12 yo Boston terrier, is equally adept at circumventing obstacles to get to food. They are clever little souls.

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  2. heart-warming and entertaining post, denise. thanx for a moment of salubrious levity! as the daughter of a veterinarian who spent more time in our veterinary hospital than at home, i can asseverate that your canine and feline “babies” are most fortunate to have you and rick as their parents… or perhaps that declarative should be reversed to: it is fortuitous that you and rick have these remarkably sentient beings as your companions and cynosures!

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    1. Oh, yes! Our animal companions give us much more than we could possibly give them.

      I know you don’t watch TV, but PBS is running a new adaptation of “All Creatures Great and Small.” We watched an episode tonight, and it seems to be extremely well done. The veterinarians in this English country town are charged with caring for all the animals who live there, from overweight Pekingeses to cows that have just dropped calves. Most entertaining!

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      1. dr. james herriot [his pseudonym] was one of the most compassionate, creative, and compelling veterinarians in the history of veterinary medicine. his writings were more inspirational than the northern lights coruscating across arctic tundras. our lack of a television, is neutralized by having access to herriot’s books.

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  3. Oh! Dog tales
    Long May they wag
    Fast and free….
    Thanks for the story about the rewards of persistent determination ….
    No high crimes of breaking and entering
    Just a simple case of hide and seek
    With yours and ours treats…
    Those Biscuits and cookies
    Ever so sweet… thanks mom
    I couldn’t help myself
    Next time maybe
    Keep them higher on the shelf

    The final score when it comes to food is generally …K-9 Humans-0
    We have lived with dogs for most of our married life. The level of love and care by my wife Catherine is always defined;
    If I come back to this 3rd dimension
    I’m going to show up as Catherine’s dog.
    In this present incarnation
    Dogs come first, she’ll get around to me later on….
    Our special needs son had the good fortune to receive a beautiful Canine Companion. Sonnet was a highly focused being that was extremely skilled and possessed so many talents. But she too was a food-a-holic! Sneaking treats and snacks was in our son Shiloh’s blood also when our back was turned. Sonnet was also the beneficiary of his larceny. They were made for each other. When we discovered the snack gang red handed; Shiloh agreed that proper nutrition for Sonnet would be better for her health. So we always made sure he could get to her “treats” when they went on their midnight raids.
    Since thanksgiving we have been feeding a red tick coon hound that hunters left in the Nantahala Forest near us. She wandered up with ribs spare of meat. Catherine has been giving her 2 square meals and all the love we can; but she has yet to let us touch her. She enjoys being part of our little pack and our dogs get along with her very playfully. I believe she even understands the name Cat gave her; because Honey now comes running when called.
    Today was a bit synchronous for me. I read your story earlier and when I went out to de-bark some wood for evenings heat; I stopped for a moment to attend to a chore in the shed. When I came back to continue the task, lo and behold the hatchet had grown legs. It was not on the stump, hadn’t fallen on the ground. Upon further inspection about 15 feet away, there in the yard that hatchet did lay. Yep, you guessed it; the handle was chewed until all the flavor of my palm was gone. But, Honey was no where to be found. It made me smile and wonder if she’s just playing a game of affection. I think she likes it here.

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    1. What wonderful stories of Shiloh and Sonnet, and Honey. I feel sure that she will learn to trust you. It never fails to humble me to see how dogs are capable of trust even after they’ve been abused.

      Have you by chance read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain”? It was recommended to me by a fellow dog mom, and I really enjoyed it. One thing that struck me most was that the dog in the story thought that if he was a very, very good boy, one day, he might be reincarnated as a human. To me, that seems backward. I honestly believe that dogs are the higher form of life.

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      1. during our regnancy in the ‘hindu kingdom of nepal’ we marvelled that so many newars of the kathmandu valley in this landlocked himalayan kingdom were hoping to be reincarnated as cetaceans [dolphins, whales, porpoises, etc]. yet, ironically, they had never been w/in thousands of kilometres of a seacoast. concomitantly, nearby india’s river dolphins were so endangered as to be ostensibly extinct. the stygian reverse-current of their traditional besottment w/ and worship of animals was that the nepali police were summarily shooting stray dogs in the streets of kathmandu, justified by these skeletal dogs’ starved-status attacks on pedestrians, their pets, and municipal garbage dumps… another tragedy of counter-intuitive behavioural and religious contradictions.

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      2. I always wanted to travel to that part of the globe; been feeling it’s pull for many years. Life had other plans; and raising Shiloh rerouted the path that was crafted in the halls of my mental plain. I kept my nose to the grindstone; completing my appointed rounds in exchange for a health care plan.
        I’ve been very interested in the possibilities of water since finding Emoto’s work years ago. Structuring it has become a passion; and I’ve been enjoying the dance with such a loving partner. She’s such a life giver that I’m not surprised that the newars dream of that future path.

        https://www.vedaaustin.com/

        I found this site recently and it brought me hope and drew me further into her depths.

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      3. No, I have not. But, thanks for the tip.
        It sounds like a great gift for Catherine.
        The majority of human behavior would make one believe that our species could learn quite a few tricks from our best friends.
        All this reminds me of an ancient oral tradition of the canine tribe…
        You can’t teach old humans new tricks!

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    1. having never met ghandhi [alternative nepali spelling in english; they use h’s w/ abandon] i hesitate to say, denise… but one can ‘ponder’. considering what a fine old soul and all-encompassing humanitarian ghandhi was, he may well have been including all life forms [us human animals too] in his sage pronouncement… particularly if he used the hindi word for animal, ‘jaanavar’ or the bengali word ‘prani’; both words translate into the more generalized meanings, ‘soul’ and ‘existence’. ghandhi, as w/ most hindus, sherpas, gurungs, newars, etc. believed all shapes and forms were endowed w/ souls, including plants and rocks, mountains and streams, lakes and rivers, even the malaria-inducing plasmodium protozoans! w/ certitude, ghandhi recognized how protean, fungible, capricious and unpredictable we all are.

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  4. I’m very drawn to the idea that everything has a soul. I read a book years ago on the debate as to whether animals have souls, and I thought it was nonsense. Surely, if any creature has a soul, the innocent ones do.

    I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the concept of prani exists in most NON-Judeo-Christian religions. Certainly, many indigenous peoples pray to rivers and trees, for instance. As it should be, says I.

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    1. yes, denise, non-judeo/xian ideologies such as buddhism, animism, humanism, certain hindu sects, and pantheism, are practiced by those sentient entities who/which house pluripotent souls. they subscribe to the only gods who make sense, the agapeic ones whose cantus firmus is ‘do good; do not harm.’

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      1. I had been thinking of Native American beliefs, as well, along with ancient Egyptian practices. Did not at least some of the Native Americans see the Great Spirit as inhabiting all things? I know that they honored the buffalo, for instance, as sacrificing itself to sustain them. From what I’ve read, Cro-Magnon peoples also had a deep respect, even reverence, for the animals they hunted. It took “developed” societies to muck everything up!

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      2. yes,denise, and ‘the great spirit’ is viewed as benevolent and ubiquitous in these animistic, pantheistic, and buddhistic spectra… not malevolent, jealous, vindictive, dogmatic, self-adulating, and punitive as in the judeo/xian biblical balderdash. that such monotheistic nonsense grabbed hold of and enshackled the billion+ practitioners of monotheistic cults for millennia, indicates that monotheistic sky-daddies must serve a purpose for ‘his’ [never ‘her’] adoring adolescents who would never dare proclaim that their sky-daddy resides w/in them. the regnant monotheistic phenomenon is as puzzling as it is nescient.

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  5. must be. it’s the only reasonable hypothesis; it makes eminent sense given that during those millennia when femmes were too overwhelmed w/ feeding, protecting, deterging, gathering, and cooking for their young to have the luxury of becoming literate, agitate for their rights, and educate themselves sufficiently to create and incite a groundswell of consociate female authority figures.

    denise, you must be a noctivagant [not meant in the pejorative ‘night street-walker’ sense, but simply as a ‘night-worker’]. when you replied to my quondam comment, it was around 16:00 on a drizzly tuesday afternoon here in the philippines, which means it was 03:00 in ohio, the wee morning hours of tuesday for you. are you a chronic night owl or an insomniac? either way, your posts are preternaturally articulate, and your comments are as inspiring as they are engaging; they compel one to respond.

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  6. Thanks again for the kind words. And yes, I’ve been an inveterate night owl all my life. One of the best things about being retired is that I can keep my own hours now. I will admit, though, to frequent insomnia over the last few months. No matter how late I stay up, I still can’t sleep. This is something new for me, and I have no idea as to the cause. Baffling.

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    1. marcescence perhaps, winding down to full-on senescence? as the bromidic nostrum goes, aging is not for the faint-hearted. most of our retired septuagenarian and octogenarian acquaintances suffer from insomnia. in any case, our deliquescing bods require naught but a wee scintilla of sleep, so best to do what you do… ignore the clarion call to creep into your connubial chamber and carry on being productive.

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