The relative intelligence of our dog, a poodle-lab mix named Ted, is sometimes a point of contention in my house. I am firmly in the Ted-is-the-smartest-dog-in-the-world camp; someone else who lives with him doesn’t always agree.
“Boy, that dog is dumb,” is something I occasionally hear, and I always rise to my furry friend’s defense.
I’ll admit that Ted is a tightly wound, highly sensitive pooch with two missions: 1. To bark out hysterical alerts that squirrels, walkers, cars, dogs, bikes, birds, the mailman and the wind could be nearing the perimeter of safety that he’s established around our house; and, 2. To carry things around. He loves carrying all sorts of things: Paper, balls, bottles snatched from the recycle bin, clothes snatched from the laundry basket, mail, and socks.
Oh, how Ted loves socks.
When he was younger, we’d chase Ted around the house to get back whatever it was he was carrying (usually one of my kid’s socks). It was a lot of fun for Ted, who’d tear through the house — up the stairs and down — like an Olympic sprinter. One day, after chasing Ted as he ran with a paycheck in his mouth, I began training him to instead bring me whatever he had. In the beginning it was strictly quid pro quo — he’d give up whatever he had in exchange for a treat — but now he gives up the goods for my love and praise.
See? Like I told you, he’s a smart, smart dog.
Need more proof?
Ted’s hierarchy of the humans in his house shows just how smart he is. I am the Goddess, the one who is adored and obeyed. My husband is the Caretaker, the one who mixes up Ted’s special dinners, fills his bowls with food and water, and buys him treats. And my only kid, Will, is the Bro, Ted’s wacky sidekick who is always losing things.
Will’s inability to keep track of his stuff is legendary. Now that he’s driving, I’ve given Will his very own basket by the front door so he can toss in his keys and wallet when he comes home.
“Put them in as soon as you come in the door and you’ll always know where your stuff is,” I told him. “Make it a habit. Because if you don’t have your keys and your wallet, you can’t drive.”
It sometimes works.
This week started like most, except that Will was anxiously on the hunt for something.
“I think he lost his cell phone,” my husband said as Will dashed up the stairs.
So, I thought I’d help. I dialed his phone.
Will answered on the first ring.
“Hey, you found your phone!” I said.
“I’m not looking for my phone,” he said, sounding frazzled. “I’m looking for something else.”
“Something else?” Perhaps Ted had snatched his socks.
“I can’t find my wallet,” Will said, just before he hung up and bounded down the stairs, obviously frustrated.
“This always happens when you clean the house,” he said as he searched around. “My stuff always goes missing when you clean. Did you put my wallet somewhere?”
“You know, if you would’ve put your wallet in the basket when you came home, you’d know where it is,” I said.
“That’s not very helpful,” Will said.
Ted, who had been sleeping, roused up; our conversation seemed to make him nervous. He moved around to the back of the couch, and paced back and forth, like he was looking for a spot in which to escape the hullabaloo.
“It’s not my job to know where all your stuff is,” I said. “If you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to keep track of your wallet.”
“Are you SURE you didn’t put my wallet somewhere?” Will said, opening and shutting drawers.
“I told you I didn’t see it,” I said. “And you’d better hurry up and get ready for school. You’ll have to catch the bus if you don’t find your wallet because you can’t drive to school without it.”
Will scowled and, realizing the time, stomped toward the shower.
Then, just a nano-second or two after Will left the room, Ted came out from behind the couch. He was walking proudly, and in his mouth was something square, something brown, and something kind of leathery looking.
I did a double-take, realizing what it was. Ted had Will’s wallet.
“Oh, my gosh,” I said to my husband. “Look, look! Ted found the wallet!”
I called Ted over. He proudly dropped the wallet into my open hand. Just like that.
Gobsmacked, I called out to Will, who hadn’t quite reached the shower.
“You won’t believe it,” I said. “Ted found your wallet.” (See? I told you Ted was smart: I am sure he understood what we were fussing about, and I’m certain he went looking for Will’s wallet.)
“Don’t you think Ted is smart now?” I asked.
Will didn’t say a word.