Sunday, April 18, 2010

My purpose in life... least from the perspective of Butch and Kadi, has been made clear to me: I am their maid.

Judging from their recent behavior, it's a good thing I retired when I did. They adapted so quickly to my being home all the time that I suspect they may have had previous discussions about their need to hire additional staff. Part-time help just wouldn't cut it anymore.

For example, Kadi has always loved to have her belly scratched, and I've always loved to do that for her. But she used to wait until I'd sit down on the sofa to roll over at my feet and expose her belly. Now she's just as likely to race past me when I walk through the house, hurl her big body across my path, flop onto her back right in front of me and stretch all four legs into the air as if to demand, "Stop! Scratch me now." I don't think this has as much to do with the itchiness of Kadi's abdomen as it has to do with my increased availability.

An issue that's bigger than the belly-scratch-tripping-hazard is the way they manipulate me for treats. Especially Butch. Years ago I thought it made sense to give each of them a treat when they came back in the house after taking care of their doggy business in the yard. I wanted them to be happy to come in quickly when I called them. This was especially important when I was working and their outside time was often a quick trip in the morning or sandwiched into a lunch hour.

Once I retired, though, Butch, began asking to go outside many, many, many times a day. He's always had a bladder like a bathtub. Unlike Kadi, he still does. So I've tried to ignore him when I know he's been out only a short time ago. But he's persistent. He'll stand at the door and scratch it every ten seconds or so for as long as it takes to wear me down. My daughter suggested that if I let Butch stay outside longer, he might not ask to go out so frequently. But for Butch it's not about being outside; he's an inside dog through and through. The whole bunch of us can be outside, and Butch will ask to go in by himself. It's all about coming back in. It's about the treat.

It's hard to relax with all of the extra interruptions. I mean, come on, Butch doesn't just pop outside and pop back in again. He's blind. It takes him a while to find the perfect spot to squeeze out two or three drops to prove he needed to pee and another little while to find the back door again. I often have to stand in the door and clap my hands to help him navigate. I'm trying to figure out how to communicate to Butch that it would be easier on both of us if he'd just learn to ask for a treat and stop the whole fake in-and-out thing.

I know Butch is faking it because I can predict when he's going to do it. Example: Both dogs stand at my knees while I eat my meal, and usually, if it's something that isn't bad for them, I will give the last two bites to them. Kadi considers her bite a treat. Butch considers his an appetizer. He'll wait about one minute before he goes to scratch on the back door. Every. Single. Time.

But maybe Butch is getting tired of the charade, too.

The other morning I woke up about five-thirty and let the dogs outside. As soon as they came back in, I gave them each a dog biscuit, then went back to bed. Usually, they'd go back to bed, too, and maybe they did, for a while. All I know is that just before seven I heard a little whine and there they both were, tap-dancing eagerly beside my bed. I knew they couldn't possibly need to go outside again so soon, but I stumbled out of bed and headed to the back door anyway. I opened the door and stood waiting, finally realizing I was alone.

I turned around and there were Butch and Kadi, twenty feet behind me, standing side-by-side with their noses stretched upward to the package of rawhide chews I'd left on the dining table. Because they did this together, I can only assume they had discussed their plan beforehand and agreed between themselves that it was perfectly fine to wake me up to to give them rawhide.

If I'm being honest, the unnecessary interruptions bother me, but it's the manipulation that bothers me more. It's the fact that Butch thinks he's so much smarter than I am. And Kadi probably is smarter than I am, but it hurts my feelings that she uses that against me.

Seriously, although I've groused about some of their annoying habits here, I am loving spending more time with these two old dogs. Butch turned twelve in March, Kadi will be thirteen in June, and I'm no spring chicken myself. I consider it a privilege to grow old with these two sweet souls.

Even if they do take advantage of me.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on April 18, 2010.)