December 19, 2014
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Treat a dog like a child and this is what happens
This Side Up

Daddy doesn’t want you to have this here,” Carol said in a voice that could only be for a child.

Ollie didn’t need a second summoning. This was his cue. His tail went into action and he was on his feet, his nose raised. He followed her into the kitchen, where I could hear the plate being placed on the tile flooring and clanking as he licked it. She had left him a bite of salmon and spoonful of rice. And to ensure that he also had his greens, there was a bit of spinach.

He cleaned it up quickly. She hadn’t taught him to eat slowly, to chew every mouthful, but maybe that will come.

I could hear her putting the plate into the sink.

“Daddy’s going to have something for you,” she said.

I was wondering if Ollie understood all of this.

No question, he knew the routine. He trotted back to the dining room, stationing himself beside my chair with an attentive look. I didn’t say a word and he sat down without taking his eyes off me. As soon as I looked his way, he slowly lay down. Drool emerged from the corner of his mouth.

We haven’t been able to cure him of that. I knew if I didn’t get up shortly, tendrils of drool would soon stain the carpet. I picked up my plate and carried it to the kitchen. He was ready; no commands were necessary. I gave the nod he was waiting for. He quickly cleaned up the morsels left for him, then stepped on the plate to keep from pushing it across the floor and gave it a final licking. He’s a smart dog.

Could this be the same dog that has undermined the fence; that has wormed though those holes and escaped into the neighborhood; that tore apart the passenger seat in my car along with the headliner; that is uncontrollable when onto a scent?

Is he Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? But then again, maybe there’s been a conversion. If only that is the case.

The loving side of Ollie is finally coming out after more than a year of residency. He actually acknowledges you and you don’t have to be carrying a treat to get a friendly wag.

I was surprised on arriving home recently to hear him bounding down the stairs to greet me. It was a first. Usually I have to hunt for him. This time he was a whirlwind. He charged right past me and then, realizing what he had done, spun around and came back. He pawed at my foot, a sign of affection (or so I like to think) and raced into the dining room. He was back with his favorite toy, a knotted short section of rope for a round of pulling.

Carol has noticed the transformation, too. From the day he joined the household, he’s maintained an air of independence and aloofness. Pet him while he’s keeping vigil for the cat next door and he wouldn’t budge. You can imagine him thinking, “How do they expect me to do my job?”

And dare interrupt him when it’s naptime. His eyes would flitter open and he would growl.

But that’s changed. Occasionally we get the growl, but more frequently he’ll lift his leg and roll on his back, an invitation to rub his belly.

Is this the new Ollie? I like to think so.

Might there come the time when he can ride in the back seat without howling whenever we pass a pedestrian? Pass a pedestrian with a dog on a leash and it’s a cacophony. No wonder Carol wears earmuffs when driving. Could the day come when we call or whistle and he’ll come?

We’re seeing a new side to Ollie. Perhaps it’s paid off to save that final bite from the dinner plate. Maybe he understands who’s mommy and daddy.


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