9: The Price of Protection

9: The Price of Protection

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

The Price of Protection

Fun fact: Dogs have only about one-sixth the number of taste buds that humans have. Often, they prefer strong-smelling foods since they enjoy their food more with their sense of smell than taste.

We don’t have a home security system. We have a dog — a good-tempered pooch who sheds a lot, eats a lot, sleeps a lot, and loves us in that uncomplicated way animals have. Whenever he gets into mischief, my husband reminds me, “One day, he will save your life.”

I’m not so sure. He seems more concerned with his stomach than our security. If he’s done any guard-dogging, it hasn’t been in my presence.

One evening, my husband and I were running the kids to various activities. I arrived home first with our older daughter. It was dark, and when we pulled into our driveway, we saw the interior door was open. My daughter panicked.

“We’ve been robbed!”

More likely, the last kid out was running late and forgot to shut the door. Still, I needed to exercise caution. I opened the car door, and my daughter grabbed my arm.

“Mom! Don’t go!”

We have a dog, I told her. He’s either in the house or not. If he’s not, I’ll come back.

She looked at me as if she might never see me again. She nodded her head, and then locked me out of the car.

I approached the house, calling my dog. Nothing. I opened the storm door and called again. Still nothing. I poked my head inside and saw a flash of tail scurrying behind the television.


Then, I saw the problem.

We have a split-level home, which means I can see into my kitchen from the front door. And in the kitchen, all over the floor, was garbage. Apparently, my nine-year-old “puppy” was taking advantage of our absence to nibble the trash. Now, guilt-ridden but not terribly sorry, he was hiding.

Never mind if there was an axe-wielding burglar in the upstairs bathroom.

I called his name, trying to hide my annoyance. The dog wasn’t fooled and remained hidden. I looked at the car. My frightened teen peered back at me. I looked at the tail behind the television. Unbelievable. It was a dog’s shining moment — the moment my husband had alluded to for years — and our dog was cowering in the corner.

I entered the house, walked to the fridge and opened the cheese drawer. My dog knows the cheese drawer. Sure enough, he bounded over the trash-strewn floor and sat like a prize show dog. My champion.

Holding the cheese in my hand, I inspected the house. Every room he entered with me, he got a bit of cheese. My feelings were conflicted. On one hand, I was bribing my dog to protect me. On the other, I did feel safer entering those dark rooms with him at my side.

Once I confirmed the house was safe, I got my daughter and swept up the garbage in silence. My dog watched me expectantly.

Was he in trouble? Was he a hero? Was he thinking, “Eat trash, get cheese?”

My husband returned. While the dog circled his legs, I explained what happened. He frowned at his trash-eating pooch, but couldn’t resist patting the dog’s head.

Granted, it only took cheese to get him to come with me. And cheese is cheaper than a home security system. Let’s just hope his loyalty doesn’t hinge on who’s holding the cheddar.

~Nicole L.V. Mullis

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