50: Chew Bone Chicanery

50: Chew Bone Chicanery

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

Chew Bone Chicanery

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.


Kirby came to us several years ago, when he was little more than a pup. Weighing in at just over twenty pounds, he’d grown larger than his apartment-dwelling owner had expected. He was also a high-energy dog that needed a yard to run around in.

Next, Dakota joined us. She was five at the time, a white fluff ball of a Spitz who’d lived her entire life with an elderly couple, my husband Grover’s godparents. When Grover’s godfather passed away, his godmother Ruth, who at eighty-five was nearly blind, moved into a nursing home. We told Ruth we’d make Dakota a part of our family.

Then, about a year ago, my daughter’s little Yorkie, Bella, needed a home. Toni had moved into an apartment that didn’t allow pets. She asked if we’d take Bella.

Bella is a nine-pound bundle of energy with an attitude. And, having been an only dog all of her life, it didn’t take long for her to show us how determined she could be. She’s jealous. She’s dominating. She is the yappiest little thing I’ve ever been around. She’s also very smart. This I learned quickly, as Bella maneuvered to get what she wants despite two older, bigger dogs who had been there longer than she had.

We never intended to have three dogs. It had been easy, petting two dogs. After all, I have a hand for each. With three it’s trickier, and Bella does not tolerate being left out. She barks and growls for attention if I’m petting the other two, her expression furious. If I don’t get to her right away she climbs onto my lap, then works her way up until she’s nearly in my face, growling and casting sidelong, I-dare-you-to-do anything-about-it glares at the other dogs.

Dakota, gentle and even-tempered, will sigh in resignation and walk away. Kirby doesn’t give up quite so easily, but eventually he too gets tired of Bella’s noise and wanders off. Once she has me to herself, Bella is, at last, happy and blessedly quiet.

There are the occasional scraps over toys, even though there’s more than enough for everyone. Sweet Dakota usually lets Bella have her way, but once in a while even she gets tired of being bullied. Kirby doesn’t fight. If he has a toy and Bella approaches, all he has to do is emit a low growl and she backs off. She knows that he’s not quite the pushover Dakota is.

The chew bones, however, are another matter. I buy extra large rawhide bones, which give the dogs many hours of contented chewing. The bones are nearly as big as Bella, making her a comical sight when she carries one in her mouth. It’s even funnier when she tries to jump on the sofa with one of them.

I buy several at a time, and there are always at least three of them in circulation. Somewhere. I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that the extras are always getting lost under a sofa or behind drapes, leaving one bone for three dogs.

Of course, Bella wants that one bone. And so it was not that long ago I witnessed an act of cunning on her part that surprised even me.

Kirby was on the sofa, contentedly gnawing on the only visible rawhide bone. Bella stood a few feet away with a covetous expression on her furry little face. Being busy, I wasn’t paying much attention.

Suddenly Bella ran to the sliding patio doors on the far side of the room, yapping energetically. When one dog barks, they all have to bark, even if they don’t know exactly what it is they’re barking at. So of course Kirby and Dakota both sprang into action. Also woofing at the tops of their lungs, they ran to the patio doors to look out at the back yard, where there surely had to be something to warrant all this attention. There they were, all three of them, sounding like an army of frenzied canines.

“Oh, my God, what is going on here?” I yelled over the noise. I opened the patio doors and three dogs exploded forward, like a herd of elephants stampeding across the deck.

At least Kirby and Dakota stampeded. They were already halfway down the steps when Bella stopped, made a quick U-turn, and came back into the house.

No longer barking, she trotted over to the sofa, hopped up and took over possession of the chew bone. When the other dogs came back into the house a short while later, Kirby spotted Bella with his former chew bone. But he looked so puzzled as to how this had come about that he didn’t even attempt to take it from her.

I might have believed this to be a one-time trickery, but a few days later Grover said, “Have you seen what Bella does? She lures the other dogs outside, then doubles back in and gets the chew bone.”

We let her have it. We figured anyone who works that hard to get what she wants, deserves to keep it.

~Jean Tennant

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