Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Dumb Dog:Evil Genius Or Idiot Savant?

I have come to a conclusion of late. Well, actually, I guess it's not really a conclusion since I'm really of two minds about this particular subject and I can't really decide. Perhaps laying out the details here and seeing it in black and white will help me to actually come to a conclusion. It has to do with the dumb dog.

I know, it's been a while since I've related anything about Tilly. It's not really a falling-down-on-the-job on my part. It's her fault. She's the one who has been normal. Well, normal for Tilly, which, you know, is said with a snort and an eye roll. But lately? Lately I've been trying to decide if Tilly is an evil genius or an idiot savant. Let me back up.

The last week of school, my class celebrated with a morning at a nearby park and then a picnic at my house. That's right. My class of four and five year olds and their parents and siblings came to my home to eat. The teacher I work with totally volunteered me for this plan. And because I am, as you well know, not right in the head, I stared at her, agog readily agreed.

The weekend before the said invasion picnic, I scoured and scrubbed my home. Well, my main floor anyway. I threatened my children with bodily harm if they so much as dragged in a blade of grass on my newly cleaned floors. As you can imagine, I was a joy to live with. But, my house was spotless, which is what I was going for. (It has since fallen into a state of crapification that will require my children, with their fluent Whinese, to help decrapify.)

I cannot overstate the coming sentiment: it was a joy having my class at my house. Let me say it again, and be sure to take it without my usual sarcasm--it was a joy having my class at my house. The kids were delighted to see where their teacher lived and that she is (relatively) normal. The parents were gracious and very sweet. It was really fun. And to prove that I am totally insane, I am stating here that I would do it again.

So! Where does that leave the dumb dog? You see, I had put her in the mudroom and closed the door. I knew that she would be okay there and that as long as no one opened the door, she would stay put. Sure, she would wish she was out with us, and she might whine, but soon enough she would settle down and take a nap mudroom rug.

Now, we have a crate. We bought it the same day we adopted Tilly. We were working on crate training the dog and we would leave her in it when we went to church and stuff, but she slept out of it. She really was not a big fan of her crate. And when I say "not a big fan" I mean it brought her to the brink of her slim hold on sanity each time we put her in it. She wouldn't go in it on her own as I'm told some dogs do. We had to trick and bribe coax her in gently and then when the door was closed she proceeded to lose. her. tiny. little. mind. We would leave, assuming that, like a toddler with separation anxiety, she would eventually recover herself and be okay. Wrong. We would come home to the sound of crazy barking and her claws scraping the floor and clanging on the bars of the crate door. Our house smelled like anxiety and fear and overwrought dog. Then we'd let her out and she'd tear around the house before eventually falling in a heap and having a hard snooze. After several experimental trials of letting Tilly have her run of the house, it was decided that she was trustworthy enough not to tear the place apart in our absences and the crate was taken down and stored in the basement. Ever after, when we would need to keep her away from guests, we'd either put her on the leash until she calmed enough not to lick our guests to death, or we'd put her in the mudroom.

So on picnic day, I gave the children the boundaries of our yard and home: they could play in our yard and on our swingset, they could see whatever they wished on the first floor, but they weren't allowed upstairs, as Mr. Ganey was in his office working, and they should not open the mudroom door, because that was where Tilly was resting. Then I showed them her picture so they could see her without, actually, you know, seeing her.

All went well until nearly the end. Then somehow, Tilly got out into the house. Of course she made a beeline right for the center of the circle of children sitting on m family room floor trying to do a craft. Do I have to draw a picture for you of the chaos that ensued or do you have a pretty good idea? Yeah. I thought you would.

After reassuring the children and families that while Tilly was, um, enthusiastic, she would not harm anyone on purpose. She was a nice dog. Just, well, overly so. I apologized and the families were very gracious.

I didn't know how she got out. I assumed that in the mess of children somehow a toddler sibling had just been overlooked for a second and opened the door. I gave Tills a stern warning and closed the door on her, checking to be sure that it was, indeed, closed.

Not 15 seconds later, she was out again. After corralling her again and apologizing again, she got out again! This time, one of the moms agreed to hold the door closed until we were done with our activity. Meanwhile, I was mentally scratching my head about how the dog was getting out. Thankfully, she remained in the mudroom until we all headed outside to end our day.

But in the last several days, Tilly has escaped not out of the mudroom into the house, but out of the house--out of the house!!-- through the door that separates our garage from our mudroom. She is opening a door--that opens inward--and getting out through the open garage door. (I must mention here that she manages to trap herself in bedrooms all. the. time. She has been unable to open the doors inwardly.) I leave the garage door open, because I encourage the children to come and go through the mudroom so that the rest of the house doesn't get trashed with shoes and wet beach towels and toys. (No, the rest of the house is trashed with shoes and books and blankets and wrappers, but whatever. You say tomato, I say give me a Bloody Mary!) Several times over the last few days we have had to give chase to the dog, who is, I must say, having a grand old time tearing through the neighborhood.

Just yesterday I was sitting on the patio reading a book and watching my kids play when I registered somewhere in my brain the clink of her dog tags. I looked up, confused, when I noticed the back end of a dog trotting around the pine trees in our yard and headed into our neighbor's yard. I went back to reading and thought, "Huh, I guess a neighbor's dog came for a visit." About a minute later, the mental picture of that dog and its perky tail floated to the top of my brain. I ran inside and asked Maggie, who was sitting in the family room, where the dog was. "Inside somewhere? I dunno," was her reply.

I called for the dog. Nada. Then I walked into the mudroom and saw the door hanging wide open. I bypassed yelling and whistling for the dog, knowing that the attempts would yield me nothing for my efforts, and grabbed my purse and got in the van. After chasing her around the neighborhood in the van and watching her give us the doggie equivalent of "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah! You can't catch me!" we finally tired her out enough that she slowed down and deigned to climb in the van. By the way, this is now my go-to way to catch the dog. She climbs in the van as easily as a trusting child when approached by strangers with candy. No wonder she wound up at the pound.

So, now, we have to open and close the big garage door every time, lock the mudroom door, or have the kids enter and exit through another door. Which, you know, sort of defeats the purpose of a mudroom. I don't think, although I haven't checked closely, that Tilly has somehow sprouted opposable thumbs. I think the problem is the door handle, which is a paddle style rather than a regular round type handle. So guess what's going on my beloved's To Do list for next week? Did you guess "install a new door knob"? You are amazing!!

So what's your opinion? Is Tilly an evil genius with a Houdini-esque style for escape? Or is she a doggy version of a savant, with her area of, um, savant-ness being mastering opening inward opening doors--but only inward opening doors that lead to the outside?

I'm coming close to forming a firm opinion, but I don't want to sway you. And I am honestly thinking of setting up a "sting" and rigging my video camera to catch her in the act. That could either be wildly entertaining or as bone-crushingly boring. I think I'll have to sit on the patio with a glass of wine and think about it some more.

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