Dog Behavior

I walked through my neighborhood three days ago. When I walk, I carry two blue hand weights. I work my biceps and triceps, and what are those muscles that pull back the cord on a lawn mower? Deltoids? Altoids? No, that’s the muscle used to pick up a breath mint.

My physician says I should run sometimes to raise my heart rate.  I don’t like to run carrying my weights because these are no namby-pamby weights – they weigh 5 pounds each. Doesn’t sound like much until you do ten repetitions with them. Half-way through my route, I put the weights down on a curb and jog one quarter of a mile. Or maybe it’s an eighth of a mile. I have no idea because last time I tried to measure it with some measure-my-distance device, the device didn’t work. I’m not a Serious Athlete, so I don’t care exactly how far I’m jogging.

Three days ago I placed my weights on the curb and proceeded to jog. I didn’t see my neighbor and her dog pass by my weights a few minutes later. If you know about dog behavior, you know dogs like to mark things. If something new is lying on the ground, the dog thinks, “That’s a New Thing. I might want to play with it later. Or chew on it. I will mark it to show it’s mine.” In a perfect world, the dog would carry a Sharpie and write his name on the item. This is what a cat would do. Or maybe a cat would get a restraining order and nail up a sign saying, “According to Statute 12345, this Thing Belongs to Me, the Cat. If you Touch it, I will Claw your Eyes Out.” But dogs are not into restraining orders. They aren’t good writers. Most canines are bad at phonics and reading comprehension. These areas of a dog’s brain are underdeveloped.

But dog noses are another matter. Dog noses have 300 million olfactory receptors. Humans have a measly 6 million.

My neighbor’s dog stopped and sniffed my hand weights. He said to himself, “Look! A new thing with an interesting smell. I smell human scent on these hand weights. I smell a bit of cat on these weights, so the human probably lives with a feline. I smell that this human has a theology degree. Sounds like a useless degree, so I know the human is not too smart. And the human cooked something with onions last night. These are interesting smells, so I will claim these weights.”

If you know canines, you know what happened next. The dog peed on my weights. Fortunately for me, the dog was with his human, and the human was a woman of integrity. She said, “No, Rover! Oh dear, you peed on the weights.” Then she wiped the weights on the dewy grass and set off to find me.

She hung her head and confessed for her dog.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. “I tried to wipe them off in the grass, but that’s the best I could do.”

I laughed, looked at the dog and said, “You silly dog!” And I thought, This would make a good anecdote, because nothing bad happens to writers, just good anecdotes.

I walked home (half a mile away) and filled up two orange plastic cups with water. I grabbed a roll of paper towels and the keys to my minivan because I didn’t intend to walk half a mile back to the peed-on weights. I drove back, doused the weights with water, and hauled them back to my house in the minivan. Then I washed them with soap and water because I like dogs, but I don’t like dog pee.

I told the whole story to my cat, Rory, who rolled his eyes.

“Why do dogs urinate on things right out in the open?” asked Rory the Cat. “When I urinate, I do so properly, in a litter box. Even outdoor cats know how to do their business discreetly behind a bush. Dogs are uncivilized.”

“I won’t argue with that,” I said. “But puppies are cute. And I think some dogs — golden retrievers, for example – are incapable of sin. I can’t say the same for you.”

“I’m beautiful and smart and civilized. As for sin, God did not create me to make moral decisions. I am God’s cat, created for God’s pleasure. I am one level below God, several levels above humans, many levels above dogs.”

“You’re arrogant. Why do I keep you around?”

“I don’t pee on your weights.”

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