“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.