My dog is smarter than me.
That’s not a high bar to clear, I’ll grant you, but I have recently discovered that Lucy, our 10-month-old yellow Lab, is pretty much able to trick me into doing exactly what she wants me to do — every time.
Lucy has always been a very alert, curious and attentive puppy. When she looks out the window, for example, she’s not just gazing at the world passing by, she’s intently observing the activities of birds and squirrels. She very early on figured out that if one of those critters passed out of view, she could go to another room to get a look.
She’s also very interested in what we keep in our drawers and cabinets — and is clever enough to figure out how to open them. And we though our days of baby-proofing everything were over.
Lucy also knows how the back door works. We have a handle on that door, rather than a knob, and she knows to grab it and pull down. She just hasn’t quite figured out how to get enough leverage to pull the door open — but I assume she’ll figure that out soon enough.
She also obeys some commands, but, not unlike my kids, will do so in a manner that leaves no doubt that she’s only doing it because wants to, not because I told her to.
But realization that she is out-smarting me came just recently as I was slicing up a nice piece of steak. Lucy, being a curious dog, likes to stick her nose up on the counter, and she was very interested in the steak. I politely told her she needed to get her nose out of my dinner, which she did. But then she went down the hallway and started pulling something off my wife’s dresser in the bedroom. When I went to investigate, she circled back to the steak and grabbed it. The only thing that gave her away was the clatter of the knife on the plate.
The thing is, I should’ve seen this coming, because she does it to our other dog, Max, all the time.
Max is a 10-year-old black Lab mix. Max is the sweetest, most loyal dog you’ll meet, but to be honest, he’s not much on brains. He loves to run, and we sometimes call him our Forrest Gump dog: he’s not a smart dog, but he knows what love is.
Max’s favorite thing to do in the whole world is play ball, but it’s a pretty simple game for him — we throw the ball, he fetches the ball, repeat until exhaustion or dinner, whichever comes first.
Lucy, on the other hand, likes to make playing ball a little more complex than that. She seems to think fetch should involve running all over the back yard, stopping to dive in some bushes, some wrestling and a little bit of tug-of-war before bringing the ball back to be thrown again. When we all play together and Max gets to the ball first — he’s still much better than she is at scooping the ball up on a hop, and can out-muscle her if they get there at the same time — Max will bring the ball back and then guard it from Lucy so she can’t go gallivanting around the yard with it.
However, Lucy has figured out that she can lure Max away from the ball by grabbing his tail. He’ll usually ignore her first couple of attempts, but then he’ll have had enough and turn around to chase her. She’ll draw him far enough away from the ball that she can spin off of him like it’s a pick-and-roll, grab the ball and dash off.
He’s usually left standing there barking at her as if to say, “Hey! That’s not how you play!”
I thought that was all pretty funny — until she started using that trick on me.
I’ve wised up to it now, but I do wonder what comes next. I can’t imagine it will be too much longer before Lucy comes to me with a request and somehow manages to convey that it’s OK with mom if it’s OK with me …
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at email@example.com.