Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nosing Around Reason

Our dogs are commandment breakers.

To be fair, in seven years or so we've had at best a modicum of success in teaching them things like "sit" or "stay," so to expect them to know, much less understand, the 10 commandments is most likely definitely beyond our training acumen. I'm hoping God will blame us, not them.

In any case, they covet. Not our neighbor's wife - although I'm not sure about their intentions toward our neighbor's dog, Xena - they covet their own food.

Avery, our smallest dog, who's quite possibly the most dominant being in the household - something I don't wish to dwell on - goes to great lengths to protect her food. She doesn't take it off and bury it in some secret location, instead she has this uncanny ability to stack various items, leaves, sticks, stray pieces of paper, and even rocks on top of the food in her bowl.

Let me be clear, Avery doesn't have opposable thumbs, she doesn't even use her paws to accomplish this feat...she uses her nose. It's amazing really. She can flip various debris into her food bowl at a pace that would have Olympic committee members drawing blood samples. In a matter of seconds, she can have her small bowl littered with a pile of stuff which she seemingly thinks will fool any interlopers into believing there's nothing edible within range.

This approach might work if her food were under siege from squirrels, possums, or any of the other creatures who inhabit our back yard. It fails miserably though when it comes to the primary target of her attempted deception...her brother, Winston.

Avery may have an instinctual desire to protect, defend, covet her small portions of kibble, but Winston has a far stronger eat anything that may or may not be edible. This includes leaves, sticks, rocks, newspaper, Avery's food and, of course, my dirty socks.

So while Avery completes her task of engineering kibble concealment, Winston will wait for her to take a few steps away and then make a charge for her bowl.

This usually results in various reactions. Amy and I scream, "No, Winston!" and similar commands which he has become quite adept at ignoring...we might as well be saying, "Sit! Stay!"

Avery, on the other hand, goes on the offensive...sparking a din of growls and barks until we physically intervene by shoving Winston away. The upside is that it usually gets Avery to consume the source of conflict.

It's a ritual we've grown accustomed to, if not amused by.

I should add, that Avery usually manages to nose the protective layers onto her food without getting any remnants of her debris choices on her small snout. She stays clean during this process. One of the few things she does which doesn't result in her white fur taking on a grey tint.

The same can not be said for least not the clean part.

Winston can be a very clean, pretty little dog.

But it's only temporary...believe me.

Winston covets not only Avery's food, but his own as well. Unlike Avery, he doesn't masterfully cover his meager meals through delicate concealment. Frankly, he wouldn't ever leave enough food in his bowl to make that exercise worth the effort. Instead he'll often take one small piece of food and decide that tiny morsel merits saving or stashing away by attempting to bury it, usually in the muddiest spot he can find - which isn't always easy in this land of perpetual drought. The reasoning behind this, like most things Winston does, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

The result, though, is obvious.

First off, Winston works very hard to find an appropriate hiding spot. Then, he too uses his nose. Unlike Avery, he doesn't try to cover the food. Rather, he makes an attempt to bury it. He often becomes frustrated by this process - or he simply forgets what he was doing and why - so he'll end up eating the food that had been intended as buried treasure. We can always tell when Winston's covetous streak appears because he's invariably covered in evidence.

He saunters around wagging his tail with giant globs of ever-hardening mud on his nose.

It's really quite pitiful.

Yet, I suppose there's a lesson here.

I think whenever I've allowed myself to give "things" value they don't deserve, the net result has always been that I've ended up with mud on my face too.