Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Goggie's Great Bear Plan

I was just reading a Seattle Times Article discussing Marc Bekoff's research with animal emotion/cognition, and it reminded me of a rather elaborate plan my pitbull Hunter had once hatched.

Hunter was not allowed to have stuffed animals as toys. He had plenty of Kongs, rope tugs, and balls but no stuffed animals. This was because Huntie liked to pick them apart. I think he was slightly obsessive-compulsive. He'd sit there and pluck at the fuzz, the eyeballs, whiskers, strings, seams ... within minutes the fuzzy animal I'd bought would be completely deconstructed, white fiber innards scattered all over the room. So after a few such expensive mishaps I gave up on buying stuffed animals for Hunter.

His sister Rocksy, however had a small collection of stuffed bears, rabbits, et al. I found this rather ironic because Hunter the dreaded "vicious pitbull" was nothing but a gentle playboy with actual live animals and only destroyed the cloth kind, whereas Rocksy the Jindo would proudly sit on her collection of stuffed toys like a mother hen but given a chance, enthusiastically eviscerate the real thing.

Rocksy guarded her stuffed toy collection jealously from Hunter and he knew better than to challenge her on this. One day, however, I brought home some presents for the two of them and Rocksy's gift was a simple brown bear with black plastic eyes. Hunter gazed goggle-eyed at the brown bear even as he happily de-fuzzed his tennis ball (he loved making these "naked" tennis balls; the rubber centers were extra bouncy and great fun to fetch).

For a couple of days, the new brown bear sat snugly on Rocksy's bed amongst its fellow fuzz-cousins. My suspicions were aroused one day when I noticed that the bear was suddenly eyeless, and two black plastic buttons were lying neatly on the floor next to Rocksy's bed. I showed her the eyes and asked whether she was responsible for blinding her bear. She sniffed at the buttons and looked curiously at me but indicated no sign of guilt. If she had plucked the eyes, she would have avoided looking at them, flattened her ears and looked away from me. In this case, she simply looked up at me blankly.

Rocksy's bed was in a small spare room separated from the den by an arched, tapestry-covered doorway. One evening as I sat in the den, my eye was caught by movement at a lower corner of the tapestry. I was mightily surprised to see Rocksy's brown bear emerging from behind the curtain. I knew Rocksy was outside patrolling our yard for intruders. As I watched, the bear slid out from the curtain into the den-side of the room, followed by a pink-black-and-white snout which quickly disappeared.
Rocksy came in later that evening and I left the bear in the den to see what would happen next. Rocksy did not retrieve her bear, and we all went to bed.

Early the next morning, I was once more jolted from routine by Hunter awakening before me. Usually, both dogs would wait until I woke up, then they would stretch, yawn, and Hunter would make early-morning yowls that sounded like "a-la-loo-loo-loo." The two dogs would bow to one another, and we three would go out for our morning playtime at the park with our buddies.

This morning, however, Hunter quietly woke up and left my room. He actually looked like he was tip-toeing. I silently followed him and was astonished to see him creeping over to the den, where he oh-so-gently approached the brown bear he'd slid into the room the previous evening. He managed to grab it without awakening Rocksy and immediately ran for the basement, hunched over like the world's strangest little criminal.

At that point, I stepped out and declared, "aha! You little thief!"

I have never seen a dog look so guilty or drop a toy so quickly. He actually splayed out like a red-handed bandit, relinquished his prized booty and practically slid down the basement stairs.

I would have been laughing if I had not been so shocked by the realization that my pitbull had just planned and executed an elaborate overnight robbery.

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