Think Dog

Think dog. Aline is an excellent trainer and she credits some of her success to her ability to ‘think dog.’ In other words, to put herself in the dog’s place to find a solution to a problem. Like the other week when Gibbet refused to take the high jump when heading toward a certain wall of the building. The other direction? No problem. What was different? Well, for one thing there was a large sign extolling the benefits of our dog training club which was leaning against the offending wall. On a hunch, we turned it around so only the blank side was visible. Bingo! Gibbet took the jump without hesitation and Aline said you just have to think dog.

So I told her use her technique to probe Glynnis’ mind and tell me what she was thinking. Aline changed the subject.

You see, that’s the problem. No one knows what Glynnis is thinking, not even me, and I’ve lived with her for about nine years. Not that I haven’t tried.

First of all, there’s this indoor/outdoor business. Glynnis’ personality does a complete about face when she walks through the doorway. Inside, she curls up at my feet if I’m reading, her head in my lap or else she’s nudging my hand to remind me to keep massaging her. If I’m in the den with the door closed, she’s sleeping against the door. If she’s off somewhere else in the house, she appears at my feet instantly when I call her. Or if I open the fridge.

Outside, she ignores me. Totally. She won’t come when I call her or even when I wave the most delectable of treats in the air. And if I walk towards her, she maintains a you-can’t-touch-me distance. Now I can understand a Beardie wanting to enjoy the great outdoors. But get real! We’re talking about mid-summer in central Florida where the daytime temperature hovers around 98 degrees. And she’s wearing a fur coat! The rest of the gang goes out in the morning, then races back into the a/c. Granted she’s got her shady spots not to mention a subterranean hideout, but it’s still hot. Though the heat doesn’t bother her, thunder does. A couple of good, solid rumbles will send her scurrying to the front door. And there’s a lot of it around at this time of year. It’s one surefire way to get her to come in.

When I drove off to last year’s specialty, I left the stay-at-home dogs in the care of a couple of friends. I also left word they could call my friend, Aline, if they had problems with any of the gang. Sure enough, Aline got a frantic call the first evening. They couldn’t get Glynnis back in the house. She came over to help and the trio tramped around my property, through bushes, around trees and amid all the other flora. Then Aline ran face first into a spider web and said, “That’s it. Let her stay out for the night.” (The property is all fenced.) Glynnis came in the house the next day but from then on, she only went out on lead.

Sometimes I suspect Glynnis suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. Like when I optimistically do a bit of obedience training with her and she’s doing beautifully. And then a fly buzzes by. And I’ve lost her.

For another thing, Glynnis seems to take perverse pleasure in attempting to nip at Gigi’s rear whenever she walks past her. Seeing that Gigi is a Briard, is it really a good idea to antagonize the largest dog in the household? Fortunately, Gigi is a pacifist.

“Let the phone ring at least four times,” I tell people who might be calling me. That’s because Glynnis gets in front of me when I dash to answer the phone. Then she slowly saunters like she’s out for a Sunday stroll, weaving casually from side to side so I can’t slip around her. Now and then she throws in a U-turn to keep me on my toes — or off my feet. She also takes particular delight in sleeping in doorways. And then deciding to get up when I try to step over her. This may account for the bruises I acquire from lurching into doorframes, counters and assorted furniture. It’s a little like broken field running.

This dog who has perfected the art of slowly sauntering inside, is the same dog who can’t resist trying to outrun any vehicle that drives down our street towing a trailer. Since there are two horse farms and a landscape business on the road, she gets a fair amount of exercise racing along the inside of the fence like a furry, jet-assisted Greyhound. So I thought I’d try her in lure coursing. Her attitude clearly said ‘why should I chase a couple of bags?’ Maybe if they had been towing trailers.

Okay, I’ll admit when Glynnis puts her head in my lap and stares at me with her misty morning eyes, I tend to forget those irritating traits of hers. Glynnis may be a Beardie but she’s unequivocally one of a kind. Thank goodness.

— Alice Bixler,