Saturday, 12 January 2008

Oliver Twist

Well the panto season might be over, but here at Bingley HQ but we have our very own in-house version of Oliver!

Bing has developed a fascination with pockets and with whatever is in those pockets; especially handkerchiefs or, even better, a tissue which can be turned into an instant snowstorm. In the morning when I sit down on the kitchen sofa with my first mug of coffee, ever optimistic Bing wanders over hoping that dad isn't quite wide awake enough to notice that his pockets are about to be picked. Of course, ever vigilant I'm usually aware of the little brown muzzle heading for my pocket like a small cruise missile; and if I miss that cue then the intense snuffling push for the hanky grabs my attention.

The always useful 'ah-ah' normally works in this case, though only when I've noticed what he's doing. He's becoming quite adept, and there have been a couple of times when I've walked into the lounge and wondered what he's chewing on the rug only to realise that he's caught me unawares and nabbed my hanky after all.

Handkerchiefs aren't the only item of clothing which he's determined to nick: he's also acquired a rugged determination to collect all of Jane's slippers - especially the one's which she’s wearing. If he fails to pick my pocket in the morning, he then moves on to Jane's feet. But with this target he tries much harder and is really quite cunning! He'll wander away, to all intents and purposes looking for a toy to play with, but all the while surreptitiously glancing at Jane's feet and weighing up the chances of success. If Jane has her legs crossed with one slipper hanging loosely, he knows that it's just a matter of timing. He has two classic approaches: the toe grab and pull, or the more sophisticated heel and catch.

With the first move he just wanders past minding his own business, but then quickly turns his head and grabs the slipper by the toes: one pull and he's away. The second tactic requires Jane to have forgotten that this sort of thing has ever happened before: the slipper is hanging loosely with a nice tantalizing gap at the heel. Bing comes along, flips the slipper upwards with his muzzle, catches it and runs.

It doesn't end with clothing of course; he's also got a taste for dishcloths and has managed to grab four this week. The first time this happened I thought that it must be a fluke and that I'd left the dishcloth lying over the front of the draining board, within Bingley's sight. It's easy to tell when Bing has got something which he knows he shouldn't have: he either hides under the kitchen table and won't come out, or he runs into the lounge and spins round to face me with his chin on the ground and his bum in the air, tail wagging furiously. ‘Ah-ah’ definitely doesn't work at this point.

As I was saying, I thought that the first dishcloth was a fluke; but 2, 3, and 4?! I'm sure that I'd left those at the back of the draining board and out of his reach. I know that he can now lift his paws onto the worktop, and he gets a firm telling off if I catch him doing it; but surely he isn’t big enough to reach all the way over to tiles at the back? Well...I was hosing down the back yard yesterday afternoon; I had the back door open with Bingley shut out of the way on the kitchen side of the baby gate. I've done this many times before, he knows I haven't gone far and every now and then I'll look in through the back door and we’ll wave at each other. Yesterday I was brushing around the back gate area and I happened to look at the kitchen window, and there, resting his paws on the worktop, was this great big dog looking back at me. It was one of those moments: I suddenly realised that little Bing isn’t so little any more. But then, trying to get a higher view and see if I was brushing away all those nice leaves, he went on to do a wonderful impersonation of Tigger jumping which I wish you'd all seen, and he reminded me that he really is still just a puppy.

Hankies, slippers, dishcloths (and it’s amazing how soggy a tea towel can get after a few minutes chomping). But it doesn’t end there. He now regards anything left on the kitchen table as fair game. Yesterday it was the invoice for the coal delivery; earlier it was a card that came with one of his gifts. Last week it was the plastic ring-binder in which I kept his training notes: he left me in no doubt whatsoever as to what he thought of my carefully worked out schedule, and ‘ah-ah’ was definitely not the phrase I chose to use that time!

So until we manage to overcome this particular hurdle, Jane and I have to train ourselves out of leaving anything lying on the kitchen table or on the worktops.

Bing's a quick study though, and I’m confident that we’ll get it sorted. Meanwhile I'm currently trying to turn all this to my advantage by teaching him to identify five & ten pound notes. That way the next time someone makes a fuss over him on one of our walks we might be able to quietly make a canny profit.


Anonymous said...

wow, such a fab dog you have. Just love to read your comments, you should write a book, it would make such good reading.....

Rob said...

Thanks for your comment, it's great to have some feedback.

You're absolutely right about Bingley, he's a totally fab dog and despite all his mischief we love him to bits!