When Gary and I were reading up about Australian Shepherds before committing to one, we found a lot stuff on the Internet that said, "Aussies are very smart dogs. Sometimes too smart."
"What's too smart?" we'd ask one another. "Like, they correct your grammar during an argument?" We didn't know. So we threw caution to the wind and got ourselves a too-smart dog.
It was great at first. He was instantly crate-trained and quickly followed it up with sit, stay, down, roll over, crawl, jump, and do-a-spin-move. We even coaxed him into fetching inanimate objects, like tennis and soccer balls (more on that later). But our proudest achievement was the establishment of "the line". Basically, we have an invisible boundary in our house, right down the middle of our hallway, which Nugget is not allowed to pass. He's allowed to hang out in the living room, kitchen, and, of course, his own bedroom, but he's not allowed down the hall to the bathrooms or other bedrooms. We initially created the barrier with boxes and then started removing them one by one, correcting Nugget if he ever tried to cross "the line". We slowly downsized to just a piece of string lying across the carpet and then one day...all the training wheels were off. The line was officially invisible. And much to our pride and joy, Nugget stayed on his side of the line.
Until his too-smart kicked in.
First, it started with the visitors. When my little sister Jill came up to visit, Nugget fell in love with her. And Jill, with all due respect, is a bit of a push-over when it comes to puppy dogs. Nugget quickly made a mental note of it. One evening, while I was distracted, Nugget snuck over his line to kiss Jill goodnight IN AN OFF-LIMITS ROOM. And she didn't kick him out! She petted him.
Even after she left, the seed had already been planted. Inch by inch, Nugget would slowly start extending his line further and further down the hallway.
Nugget now has a "reminder pillow". But as you can see, he still toes the line. (And gripes about it.)
In addition to his testing of boundaries, Nugget also flat-out ignores the line when he knows he can get away with it. I'll be sitting in the bathroom and suddenly hear Nugget sniffing under the door. "Hey!" I shout. I quickly wash my hands and fling open the door. But by then, of course, Nugget is lounging lazily in the living room. When I ask him what kind of cheeky move he's trying to pull, he'll give me half a disinterested glance before returning his attention to his television program. This happens frequently. I've never caught him in the act.
But Gary did once. It was a Saturday and Gary had been outside all morning. Nugget must have assumed he was at work. I was taking a shower in our master bathroom when Gary decided to come inside to get some socks. When he came into our room, he saw Nugget curled up next the bathroom door. Before Gary even said anything, Nugget's eyes got big and he slinked outta there real fast. Busted!
The other thing that Nugget can be "too smart" about is what he will or will not chase. Teaching Nugget how to fetch was a pain because he only likes chasing things with a working heartbeat. We finally came to an agreement that he will bring the balls and frisbees back in exchange for a treat. Gary rarely gives Nuggets treats, so when Gary throws a ball and give the command to "go get it!", Nugget still brings it to me. Because guys, this is serious work. It deserves payment.
I used to be pretty bummed about Nugget's insistance on only chasing living things, but today at the dog park, I realized that it can sometimes come in handy. I don't have to bring a ball with me to the dog park, nor do I have to throw it repeatedly and worry about other dogs stealing it. Instead, we chase dragonflies.
This morning, there was a particular abundance of dragonflies. I just pointed to one and said, "There's one, Nugget! There's one!" And off he went, sprinting and darting around like a champion herding dog. I then got to walk back over to a picnic table and just watch as he exercised himself. I also got to overhear a woman ask someone else what in the world was that little dog chasing. "The ghosts, of course," I wanted to tell her.
I just realized that I've spent half the day with only one of my socks on.
Simon's Cat - Double Trouble: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VLcLH97eRw&feature=relmfu
T-Shirt War: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKWdSCt4jGE
On Friday, Gary and I went to our favorite crawdad spot. There's a big pipe running out into the river with large stones on either side, which provides a perfect hideout for little crawdads and easy access for us. We tie hot dogs onto a string, attach the string to a stick, and lower our bait into the water. Once crawdads start chomping on the hot dogs, we slowly pull them up and snag them with a net. We didn't catch very many this time because I, um, slipped off the pipe and fell into the river.
Please meet our resident evil, Ursula:
The only thing that can combat the bloom of doom is the kiss of a cute little puppy dog.
Just outside our neighborhood is a field in between a church and an elementary school. The lawn is well kept, but it's rarely used, so Nugget and I take frequent field trips there. I let Nugget off his leash at one corner and he sprints to the other corner looking for birds. Occasionally, there will be a crow or two for him to chase off. Above everything else in the world, Nugget loves chasing birds. The only thing that can sometimes break him off a bird chase is a stern voice and the promise of a hot dog. So imagine his excitement when we went to the field today and there were three (three!) crows and a handful of small birds all sitting around gossiping.
I took off his leash, watched him sit there twitching for a moment (because it's hilarious), and finally gave him the verbal "okay!" to which he exploded like a cannon. He raced as fast as his little pencil legs could carry him in the hopes of finally catching his very own crow. But alas, it was not to be. The good news, however, is that he succeeded in once again ridding his beloved field of the scourge that is birds.
After Nugget chased the birds off, he started frolicking around the field, inspecting the areas where the birds had been to check for any loose change that might have fallen out of their pockets during the hasty escape. And that's when I noticed the swallow. It was a very cute black swallow and, as swallows are wont to do, he was flying low to the ground. Unlike the other birds, he had decided not to flee the scene. But here's the best part: he was following Nugget around. No matter where Nugget went or in what direction he turned, the swallow stayed close behind. I was surprised because the swallow's flight was cool and easy, not at all like he was agitated and trying to attack Nugget.
I kept trying to show Nugget the swallow, but it was tough because the bird was so good at keeping to Nugget's rear end. When Nugget finally saw it, though, he kicked into high gear again and sprinted his little heart out trying to get to it. He was especially excited because the swallow was flying at exactly his height off the ground. So there they went, little Nugget and the little swallow, chasing each other around the park. At several points, they would get stuck in a circle, going round and round and round trying to catch one another.
Nugget has the heart of a champion but only the lungs of a very small dog, so after several minutes of running/flying together, Nugget collapsed to the ground and seriously contemplated throwing up. The little swallow friend must have felt for him because once he realized that Nugget just couldn't keep up anymore, he excercised good sportsmandship and politely left the park altogether. Nugget had to rest for a good long time before he was ready to make the trek back home.
When we got home, Nugget got a nice big drink of water. And then he asked if we could go play with the swallow again tomorrow.
Two snowmen are standing in a meadow. One snowman turns to the other and says, “Do you smell carrots?”
A few nights ago, Nugget was sniffing intently around a post in our backyard. Gary went out to inspect the situation after we saw the ground moving. Gary came in and said, "There's a critter out there that has a long mouse face with a little tiny pig snout."
"A mole!" I shouted gleefully. We googled mole pictures just to verify. And sure enough, this is what Gary saw:
(Yeesh, someone needs to trim their fingernails.)
By the next morning, our little mole frienemy (I say friend, Gary says enemy) had already started edging / aerating our lawn.
(His path is now five times as long as this, running along the edge of our patio and backyard.)
Nugget was put in charge of getting rid of the mole, but since he's not allowed to dig, it's been a real challenge for him. He's been really stressed out about it because, you know, his allowance is riding on it.