My dog is smarter than…well, maybe not.

I’ve lauded my dog for many of her finer attributes, but you’ll know, if you’ve been reading this blog, that I’ve never claimed she was all that smart. You know those dogs who perform complex dance routines with their owners? Not our Jelly. The ones who race through agility trials–over seesaws, through tunnels, up ladders? Not our Jelly. The ones who herd large groups of animals back into their pens? Not our Jelly. Sure, she can steal my lunch off the counter, but that speaks more to my stupidly leaving it within reach than her intelligence.

No, Jelly is a simple girl. She knows when it’s time to wake up and time to eat, she lets us know when she needs to go out by pacing relentlessly, and sometimes when she’s at the off-leash park, she even comes when I call her. If she thinks she’s going to be rewarded with a treat, that is.

Despite a good two hours of walks daily–we lesbians take our parenting seriously–our not-so-bright dog sometimes gets a little rangy in the house, especially after meals. I’ll admit we haven’t done a great job of teaching her to occupy herself independently. Although she will chew on her toy bone occasionally when we are otherwise engaged, Jelly normally expects us to entertain her. I do admire parents who can send their kids off to play in the other room so they can enjoy an adult conversation without interruption. We are not those parents.

Bassett hound with elongated yellow toy sticking out of side of mouthEvery so often, when she’s in play mode, I encourage Jelly to find her favourite toy, her elongated yellow fuzzy number that closely resembles male genitalia, at least from what I’m told. “Where’s your penis? Fetch your penis!” I say excitedly, and back Jelly runs with her (our?) favourite toy sticking out of the side of her mouth. A rowdy game of fetch ensues down the long hallway.

After a few weeks of telling Jelly to get her penis on a fairly regular basis, I suddenly had the proud parent’s realization that my dog had learned the name of her special toy. I’d tell her to get her penis and back she’d run with her penis. Wow! Thereafter, I showered Jelly with praise and told her what a smart dog she was whenever she fetched the penis on demand. My reaction must have been akin to a parent’s hearing a toddler’s first “meow” when she sees a cat. What joy I felt. I revelled in our dog’s brilliance. Time to enrol her in herding school, I thought.

Then, a few nights ago, Jelly was gearing up for her after-dinner play. “Get the penis! Where’s your penis?” I cheered. Jelly searched high and low and raced back to me within a few minutes…with her little red ball.

What a rude awakening. All this time, I had thought Jelly knew the name of her (no, obviously our) favourite toy, when in fact, she just knew I wanted her to fetch something and that I’d respond excitedly if she did. I guess she’s not so smart after all. And clearly neither am I.

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