Intelligence is a desirable trait. I enjoy talking with smart people, especially if they have a sense of humor. I thought I wanted a smart dog too, but now I’m not so sure. I joke that the next time I get a dog, I want one that’s dumb and lazy. I’m only partly kidding.
We have a Kelpie named Gryphon. She’s similar to an Australian Cattle Dog, and one of the most intelligent breeds. She’s certainly the most observant dog I’ve ever had, watching us all the time, anticipating our commands. When I get ready to go somewhere, she watches me nervously and then goes to her safe place/bed, her crate. I don’t mean to make her anxious, but I imagine some of my own nervous energy rubs off on her, particularly when I’m running late and rushing around. I try to coax her out of her crate, but to no avail.
She keeps a tight schedule. Around seven each night, she starts getting antsy about going to bed. The humans in our house don’t go to bed that early. If I give in and put her to bed, she gets annoyed that we’re still making noise, communicating her irritation through a series of overly dramatic groans. Bedtime is a ritual. First, she lets me know she wants out by turning circles near the back door. I open the door, and she goes out to do her business. Then she zooms off to bed, waiting expectantly for a treat. If we vary from that ritual, she gets grumpy.
Bath time is another ritual. My husband takes her out to play frisbee in the yard, to tire her out. Then we coax her into the bathroom and close the door, preventing escape. Treats are strategically placed in the tub so she’ll jump in, and then we turn on the water, spraying her back gently so she doesn’t freak out. She tolerates the bath, but she doesn’t like it, and it takes both of her adult humans to keep her calm. Any sudden moves will result in a wet dog leaping from the tub, trying to open the door with her paws, even though she’s too short to reach the handle. Thank goodness she doesn’t have opposable thumbs.
I have no doubt we’re partly to blame for her sense of entitlement, but she was strong-willed from the start. With a personality like hers, she would have been a pack leader. In our pack of four humans, a piranha, and a dog, we’ve had to establish who is dominant, and make sure it’s not Gryphon. She can be incredibly sweet, but she can also act like a toddler, digging in her paws when she doesn’t get her way. There have been times when I have looked her in the eye and actually said, “I am the alpha. Do you understand? I am the alpha.” I’m fairly certain she gets it, though she still pushes boundaries. (And yes, I am that crazy woman who has one-sided conversations with the dog and assumes she comprehends what I’m saying. I know for certain she understands the word treat.)
There are other times when I look at her and wonder if she’s part velociraptor. She’s protective of her family, and sounds ferocious when anyone rings the doorbell. The nice thing about this is ever since she came into our lives, we don’t get a lot of door-to-door solicitors. I had a golden retriever when I was a kid, and he was the sweetest dog. If our house had been robbed, he probably would have followed the thieves around, hoping for a pat on the head. Would-be-burglars be warned: Gryphon will eat your faces.
She hasn’t eaten any of our faces (yet), but she’s not a lap dog. Gryphon doesn’t mind if we pet her, but she’s not the kind of dog you can pick up and cart around. She does like being active though, and loves when we go for walks or toss a ball around. She loves the water too, and is fond of chasing waves on the beach. We’ve even taken her for a ride in our canoe at a nearby lake, though she did jump overboard, and we had to fish her out.
In spite of the challenges of having a smart dog, we’ve enjoyed having her around. Gryphon is a quick study, easily learning tricks. She’s eager to please and will do almost anything for praise, playtime, or a treat. She is adorable too, despite occasional bouts of grumpiness. She has doggy eyebrows, resulting in facial expressions that can be downright human. She’s comical when she chases her own tail, holds a treat in both paws so she can nibble on it, or rolls over a toy again and again to make it squeak. My kids love her dearly. I do too, most days. Other days…well, let’s just say on other days I prefer the piranha over the dog. At least the piranha knows who’s boss.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016