31: The Busboy

31: The Busboy

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

The Busboy

Fun fact: Most experts say that “guilty look” our dogs give isn’t really guilt but rather the fear of being punished.

As my sister and I washed the dishes after our holiday meal, we heard a loud tinkling noise in the dining room. It sounded like glass, though not a breaking noise. I sent my sister in to check it out and bring in another stack of dishes to wash.

“Oh, my God!” I heard her gasp. I hurried into the room to find my sweet, one-year-old, seventy-five-pound Alaskan Malamute–German Shepherd mix standing in the middle of the dining table licking the meal’s remnants off my fine china. His tail curled up into the crystal chandelier, and as he licked with gusto, his tail automatically moved inside the chandelier, causing the tinkling noise.

“Sitka!” I hollered. He stopped licking and turned his head to look at me. I swear I saw him smirk, a look I had seen on his face every time I found him doing something he knew he shouldn’t. He was one of the sweetest dogs I’d ever known, but he was clearly still a teenager and often challenged behavior norms. I never knew what to expect from him. I’d already taken him to puppy training where I was pretty sure they had only passed him so that I wouldn’t bring him back.

“Get off the table!” I said in a loud, stern voice. Instead, he crouched into a play position. A doggie grin spread across his jokester face, and his huge tongue dangled out of his mouth. He began rapidly moving his giant paws from side to side — his game challenging me to play. I envisioned my fine china and crystal glasses flying and shattering into millions of pieces. I had to act quickly. I didn’t want to reward him for bad behavior, but I knew I had to do something to save the china and crystal. I changed my demeanor and tone.

“Sitka, sweetie, lie down nicely,” I cooed, taking slow, easy steps toward him. His big brown eyes softened as he watched me. When I reached him, I began to gently pet him and continued speaking in soft, soothing tones. “Oh, you’re helping me clean the dishes. What a thoughtful doggie.” He mellowed and began lowering his large white-and-black body onto the table, right on top of the dishes, eventually lying sideways and offering up his stomach for a tummy rub. As he spread out his legs, he began pushing the crystal and china to the table’s edge. I grabbed them before they fell and handed them to my sister. “Yes, that’s right, you lie down, yes, anywhere you like,” I cooed affectionately.

My sister stood in mild shock, her eyes asking me what to do. I whispered, “Very slowly, gather up the dishes. I’ll keep him preoccupied.” Jordana began removing dishes, first those behind him, but as soon as she reached for the dishes in front of him, he playfully laid his paw over her hand, preventing her from removing them. He began thumping his tail in a hard wag, attempting to play with her and causing the remaining china and crystal to rattle and jump in place. I reached over and laid my hand over his tail while still rubbing his stomach, gazing into those sweet chocolate eyes full of adolescent love and whimsy. It worked. Within a few minutes, Jordana was able to remove all the dishes, except those under his body.

“Now what?” she asked.

I rolled Sitka over to scratch and massage the sides of his stomach and chest. “Grab ’em quick!” I said, as the window of opportunity to remove the dishes was brief and fleeting. She grabbed them, and finally the only thing remaining on the table was my silly dog.

I stood back, hands on my hips. “Bad, bad dog!” I admonished him. “Get off the table! Now!” He stood up and looked at me with understandable confusion, turning his head from side to side. “I said now!” Sitka lowered his head, the silly grin gone, his tongue firmly inside of his mouth. He jumped off the table and started to slink away in shame and dejection. He didn’t get far before I grabbed him by the collar and led him out to the back yard where he stayed all evening.

I was prepared to leave him outside all night but my husband said he probably learned his lesson, as we hardly ever banished him to the yard. When I went outside to bring him back into the house, he got up slowly, hanging his head low. He wouldn’t look at me. Like a child who knew he had done something bad, he focused on the ground.

“You know you were a bad dog, right?” I asked him. No answer. He wouldn’t even look up. I kneeled down in front of him and gently took his face into my hands, massaging the sides with my fingers and forcing him to look up. He stared at me with all the sincerity of a child truly sorry for being caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar. “Are you going to be a good doggie now?” I asked in as sweet a voice as I could muster. He bumped his big black nose against mine, giving me a little lick, which I took for an apology.

I stood up. “Okay, you can come inside,” I said in a cheery tone. “No more standing on the dining table. Got it?” He cocked his head to the side. “All right, come inside,” I said, waving him toward the back door. “Time for bed!” He got it and raced me to the door — winning, of course.

~Jeffree Wyn Itrich

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