The Rip Van Wrinkler, Volume XIV, Issue 4, November 2010

Page 7

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Revisiting Jim’s Truisms
(previously published twice in early Wrinklers)



For anybody keeping track, when I looked out the window at dawn today, the sugar maple tree in our front yard had just popped its first few buds of the year. Just a few hours later at evening now, the whole tree is bursting with clusters of unfolding leaves and flowers.

Looking up the road, the next maple in line is still locked up tight, but that tree is a hundred feet north of us, and spring here comes slow.

True is somewhat mellower now than when I used to tell of his antics as a puppy a couple of years ago. Just the other morning, Karen was passing idly through the living room when she heard a mysterious "crinkle crinkle" coming from True's crate.

A quick glance around the room revealed to her that she had forgotten to put away the box of graham crackers she'd been snacking on the night before.

There it was, closed, on the couch, upright. Still, she thought she'd better check the noise.

She found True in the crate with a mini-pack of graham crackers, a full little brick of them in their wax paper wrapping. He'd withdrawn the brick from the box and seemingly closed the box again. True was ever so carefully peeling back the wax paper to get a cookie out. Humans know you have to peel the wax paper all the way back out of the way, or you will crack the cookie trying to get it out. True *had* cracked one cookie without getting it out, and he was puzzling out the secrets of the fiendish paper trap when Karen interrupted him in his work.

True and the Water Bottle

True got pretty good at watching me reach for the squirt can as he tried to sneak either frontways or backways to the trash bag by my chair. The minute my hand would start for the squirter, he'd back up just out of range. The minute I put my hands back on the keyboard, he'd be back on his sneak trip.

So I'd been figuring he was getting conditioned to retreat whenever he saw me reach for the squirter, but I underestimated him. It's more subtle than that.

Last night he was standing patiently with his head on my knee waiting to lick off my plate, when I decided I'd reach for the squirter to see what he'd do. He did nothing. He just stood there patiently with his eyes half closed while I actually pointed the squirter at him. He knew perfectly well that he's allowed to wait for my plate, so there was no danger at all I'd squirt him. It's only when he's up to no good that the squirter alarms him. All this proves is that he knows perfectly well what he's allowed to do and what he's not allowed to do. He just does it anyway. Maybe the risk adds spice and contributes to the game.

He is a dog of discernment in his mischief too. Today I had baloney sandwiches for lunch, and having finished three of the four halves, I left the last one on the plate while I went out to clean and refill the hummingbird feeder on the porch. A little later I noticed that the top half of the last sandwich (along with the meat) was missing, and there was just the bottom half covered with a piece of wilted lettuce left on the plate. I'd never noticed him move.

When I later offered him the plate and the remaining lettuce and bread, he just looked at me contemptuously as if to say, "If I'd wanted that, I would have already eaten it."

True wants a Crispie

True and I don't train formally, but I do try to reinforce basic commands when opportunities arise. For every minute I spend working him, he spends at least two refining and honing my expectations.

Last evening, for example, he scootched himself halfway up onto my chair and stared at me, giving me the mental telepathy that says he wants a crispie.  I told him he could have a crispie, but he would have to sit for it. He said he was already sitting.

I explained patiently that hanging half off the chair was not a sit, and that he would really have to sit this time, no kidding, or no crispie.

He backed half up, then scootched into place again.

"True, that is not a sit. Sit, True; sit!"

No sit.

We spent five minutes correcting each other, and then he gave up and left the chair. Thinking to get him off guard, I commanded "Sit," and he jumped up onto the couch and, in preparation for lying down, sat.

"Good dog!" I tossed him a crispie.

He gave me a disgusted look, snarfed the crispie, and curled up to go to sleep. I figure that one was a tie.


I am *still* waiting for True to show the slightest sign of remorse for anything, however contemptible, he has tried to do. No sign of it yet.

About the closest to shame he shows is when he sees me reaching for the plant mister, and then all he does is back up a little and decide there's someplace else he'd rather be.

We have had many heartfelt discussions, he and I, about the difference between "good dog" and "worthless scum from the gutters of hell," but although he listens carefully, he doesn't buy the difference yet.

Both Karen and I have said to each other: "The dog isn't talking to me today." He's perfectly content to make *us* ashamed of how we've sometimes treated him, but so far there's no reciprocity in the deal.

True’s IQ Soars

Attention! True has shown signs of brains. I herewith apologize for anything I may ever have said to the contrary.

True has recently undergone intensive training in solving the "Mug" test, as pioneered by Pig Magoo. In the first series of tests, True failed to overturn a tea mug placed over a treat.

In the second series, True failed to overturn a clear glass jar placed over a treat.

In the third series, True had a nervous breakdown when the same clear glass jar was placed on the floor, lidless and upright, with a treat in it.

Yet now True has triumphed. In this latest series of tests, all the jars and mugs were dispensed with, and the metal *lid* from the clear glass jar was placed over a treat, so that the lid was balanced and only partly touching the floor, allowing the aroma to escape and providing a little glimpse of the treat to the test subject (said dog).

True first pushed the lid a short distance across the floor and under a magazine, which prevented him from getting the treat. In order to discourage the dog from pushing the lid (and the magazine) further, which seemed the primary goal of his agenda, the test objects were removed and replaced in the middle of the floor.

True then pushed the lid under a second pile of magazines, and was similarly aided by the tester in starting over.

True then managed to hook a canine tooth under the edge of the lid and... and... AND!!!!! He picked up the lid.

At this juncture, we have a dog with a lid between his lips and a treat on the floor. A tester hovers expectantly nearly. The dog looks at the treat, looks at the tester, looks at  the treat, and stands there with a lid in his lips.

Tester removes lid from dog's lips and dog stares at treat. Dog turns to tester and says: "Aren't you going to pick it up and throw it for me?"

The next morning, tester -- out of treats -- has to drive to pet store on icy roads in aftermath of snow-storm, belatedly realizing along the way that dog, in spite of *failing* this test time after time, has somehow managed to consume three whole bags of treats in four days.

Obedience Competitions

Is there then an event where the dog can remain in his crate while the *owner* runs through various "sits," "stays," "downs" and whatevers?

True might stand a fair chance in that one, although I have to admit I don't down as quick as I used to in the old days when I was limber, and my scent disaffirmation is nowhere near what it ought to be. Come to think of it, if there are no treats, I'm not doing it either.


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