Monday, December 19, 2005

Something You Don't Want to Hear from Your Dog Walker

"Which one of you taught Junebug to use a zipper?"

That was the phrase that greeted me when I took a call from B, our dog walker, this afternoon. Yes, that clever dog of ours was able to unzip B's purse, sniff out the unopened box of Andes Mints, open it, and devour all but four of the mints in the roughly 60 seconds it took B to pick up another client's dog.

Junebug is easily the smartest dog I've ever had. She's also one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met, which is certainly a survival trait -- it's probably why we kept her despite all the havoc she created when we adopted her. Junie is part rottweiler and part German shepherd -- she's undersized and we don't know anything about her lifestory before she arrived at the pound. All we know is that she'd been abandoned, then was at the pound, then a foster home, then another foster home. So by the time we got her (in July 2000), she was a wreck -- to say there was separation anxiety is an understatement. Because she kept messing up our house we took to putting her in our room when we went to work, which was a big mistake -- her anxieties only increased. Then we tried crate-training, but that so freaked her out that she literally broke through the soldering to get out of the cage. She drove us nuts, and each of us was ready to take her back to the pound, but somehow we never wanted to get rid of her at the same time. The calm spouse would talk the enraged spouse down just in time for the roles to reverse.

Ultimately two things led to her turning the corner. The first was hiring B. The second was the rainy evening I literally picked her up when we were outside for a walk, to prevent her from going back inside the house before she'd gone to the bathroom. There's nothing like showing a dog who's boss, and apparently it was something that hadn't been made clear before then. After these two changes, Junebug still made messes, but gradually she became more comfortable, to the point where they occurred less and less. These days it's the exception rather than the rule to come home and find something to clean up. That's not to say that even five years later she's ever wholly reformed, particularly when she stays at B's (B is also our dog sitter). In addition to using the floor for a bathroom, Junebug will make you regret it if ever you leave food or the trash within reach (including counters) -- even if it seems impossible for her to reach, she'll get to it. However, because she only performs these stunts when no one's around, none of us know exactly how she does it. Discovering the answer to this mystery is the one reason I may someday invest in security cameras.

Today B couldn't figure out how Junebug got the plastic surrounding the box off without tearing a gash in it -- apparently it was left relatively intact. Such is the genius of Junebug.