Close Call

Meadow has always enjoyed finding, stealing and guarding items that have my scent - socks, gloves, shoes. 

She does this whenever I leave the house. Usually, she finds one of my slippers or socks, and brings them from my upstairs bedroom down into the living room. I'll come home to find them moved, but unmolested. Occasionally, rather than a slipper, she steals a shoe from my bedroom closet.

Meadow hoarding one of my Mion shoes.

Some days I return to an entire collection of items - maybe a slipper, two socks, and a glove. Other times, I can tell she took her favorite toy - her teddy bear - upstairs with her on her quest for one of my belongings. She leaves the bear in the spot left by the slipper that she steals and takes downstairs.

A fair trade, in her estimation.

The dogs and I have a set goodbye routine whenever I leave the house. Each dog gets a small piece of rawhide chew as a "I'm leaving, I'll be back" treat. It's the only time they get that particular treat; it's a shorthand reassurance that I'll return soon. Occasionally, after I've closed the door behind me, I'll remember something I need inside the house. Reopening the door, I often discover Meadow already upstairs, hunting for a sock or slipper. She wastes no time. When I do return from being away for awhile, I make a big deal over Meadow when I discover whatever it is she has stolen. "Meadow! Did you steal my sock?! You silly girl!" These exclamations reinforce the behavior, making it fun for both of us.

On rare occasions, though, Meadow takes it too far. In her nearly twelve years with me, I have come home twice to find a chewed TV remote. My scent is all over the remote, so I understand why she takes it. But chew and destroy it? She always has access to the remotes - they're usually kept at malamute level on the sofa or a table - yet has only taken and destroyed them two times over the years. Why? She doesn't chew my socks, shoes or gloves. I've never figured out what the difference is, in her mind. Other than bones, she's not a chewer. It's an unsolved mystery.

Meadow is as a prankster, a dog with a subtle yet well-defined sense of humor. Her stealing items from my room and closet when I'm gone, displaying them downstairs for me to find, is just one example. Another favorite example: when the girls were young and accompanied me and my friend Mike on trail runs, Meadow would frequently hang back as we approached a switchback. Stealthily, she'd cut the switchback, laying in wait for lead dog Maia to come around the bend in the trail, pouncing on her in surprise. Maia would act annoyed and briefly wrestle her, while Mike and I laughed at Meadow's audacity. 

Meadow's an actress who knows how to play to her audience.

A couple days ago, however, Meadow's sense of humor and penchant for stealing things with my scent almost caused what would have been a minor disaster for my current book writing project

Who, me?
 Shortly after feeding the dogs dinner, I notice Meadow heading out the dog door onto the deck. Something about her more-jaunty-than-usual step as she makes for the dog door catches my eye, but then, often right after eating she's in the mood to play. Finn's favorite braided felt rope toy is on the deck; maybe that's what she's after. I continue futzing about in the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, I look out the window and notice Meadow happily chewing on the rope toy, like she normally would a bone. Something in the back of my brain says, "That's odd; she never chews on that toy, never plays with it except to steal it from Finn. In fact, she never chews on any toy." I decide to investigate.

When I get onto the deck and bend down in front of Meadow's head to see what she's chewing on, I get a shock: she's got my digital voice recorder between her paws and she's gently gnawing on one end of it! "Meadow! No!" I say as I quickly snatch it away. Meadow gives me a look that says, Well, you left it on the couch, and it smells good...!

I've been recording interviews with people as part of my research for my book Growing Up Boeing. The interviews still on the recorder have yet to be transcribed! It's lucky my gut told me something about the scene didn't quite add up - Meadow's body language said Oh boy, have I got something special! as she pranced outside. The toy I thought she was chewing - Finn's toy - didn't match the joy she exhibited.

 I caught her just in time.

My digital voice recorder, snug in its cloth sleeve, snatched from Meadow's jaws.

The recorder outside its sleeve, just a scratch on the top from Meadow's teeth.

Later, I watch as Meadow - thinking she's unobserved - returns to the scene of her crime. The recorder had been resting on top of yellow legal pad with two pens, on the couch. She sniffs the pad and pens, then the couch, clearly hoping to find the recorder.

The recorder now resides on high surfaces or inside my desk.

Sneaky Meadow. Keeps me on my toes.

Rebecca WallickComment