Refrigerator Commando

Refrigerator Commando

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Refrigerator Commando

Ever consider what they must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul—chicken, pork, half cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!

Anne Tyler

A golden barrel on legs—that was our first impression of Max when my wife and I saw him at the AnimalWelfare League. His unique ability to inhale a full cup of dog food in less than seven seconds had enabled Max to enlarge his beagle-mix body into the shape of an overstuffed sausage. Even after Heather and I adopted him and helped him lose weight, we were continually amazed at his voraciousness. His escapades became the stuff of family legend: his seek-and-destroy mission involving several pounds of gourmet Christmas cashews, his insistence on chasing birds away from the feeder so he could eat the seeds, his discovery (far too gross to discuss here) of the yeasty joys of Amish Friendship Bread batter. And of course the refrigerator story . . .

One day during her lunch break, Heather called me at work. “Did you shut the refrigerator door tight thismorning?”

“Think so. Why?”

She paused just enough to let the suspense build. “Max raided the fridge.”

We got off lucky: we were overdue to go to the grocery store, so there hadn’t been much in there. He’d gotten the last couple of pieces of peppered turkey and maybe a third of a bag of baby carrots—no surprise there, Max loves carrots (then again, Max loves potting soil). Still, no real damage done. We wrote it off to a sloppily closed door (probably my doing), and the next morning I made sure everything was shut good and tight before I left. After all, we had just loaded up with groceries the night before, and we wouldn’t want my carelessness to help Max get himself into trouble, right?

Turns out Max didn’t need my help at all.

Again a phone call to me during Heather’s lunch hour, this time straight to the point: “I think he knows how to open the refrigerator,” she said.


Max had made himself a sandwich. A big sandwich: a pound of turkey, a pound of Swiss cheese, a head of lettuce, half a tomato and an entire loaf of bread. He’d also ripped open another bag of carrots and polished off the remnants of a bag of shredded coconut (for dessert, I assume). Heather found him lying amid the flurry of destroyed plastic bags, tail desperately thumping at her displeasure, as if to say, Please don’t be mad, it was just SOOOO good . . .

Still, we didn’t really believe it. He couldn’t reach the handle, and the door seal was tight. How was he doing it? I caught him that night, after putting away our second load of groceries in two days. I just happened to be passing by the darkened kitchen when I saw his stout little body wiggling, pushing his narrow muzzle into the fridge seal like a wedge. Then, with a quick flick of his head, he popped the door open.

Apparently, Max, while not understanding the gastrointestinal distress that results from eating sixteen slices of cheese, had a full understanding of the concept of the lever. Where was this dog when I’d been in science class?

This was serious. He now had the skill, the determination and, most important, the appetite to literally eat us out of house and home. The next morning, as a temporary fix, we blocked the refrigerator with a heavy toolbox. Surely he couldn’t move a barrier loaded with close to twenty-five pounds of metal, could he?

Another lunchtime phone call. I think I answered it: “You’ve got to be kidding!”

The moving of the toolbox still remains a bit of a mystery. I’m guessing he used that lever principle again, wedging his muzzle between the box and the door and then just pushing for all he was worth. And once that barrier was gone, he got serious.

More bread, more meat, more cheese. The rest of the carrots. Apples—many, many apples. A packet of cilantro, smeared like green confetti across the kitchen floor. He’d also popped open a Tupperware bowl of angel hair pasta and had been working at its sister container of tomato sauce when Heather found him. The only items left on the bottom two shelves were beer and pop, and the only thing that saved those was his lack of opposable thumbs.

That night we decided to hit the grocery store for a third time and invest in a childproof lock for the fridge. Before we left the house to buy it, we hovered anxiously around the refrigerator for a while. There wasn’t much left in there, but still, what if he tried to climb to the top shelves? What if he conquered the freezer?

But what could stop him? The toolbox had been no match. Finally, I half lifted, half dragged the seventy-five-pound safe from my office closet, dragged it to the kitchen and thudded it onto the floor, flush against the door.

Max sat behind us, watching. Calculating.

Heather leaned into me, almost whispering. “Do you think it will work?”

I said, “Well, I think we’ll find one of three things when we get back. One, everything will be fine. Two, the safe will be budged a couple inches, and we’ll have a beagle with a very red and throbbing nose. Or three, we may come home and find he’s rigged up some elaborate pulley system that’s lifted the safe out of his way. If that’s the case, I say from now on, we just stock the bottom two shelves with whatever he wants.”

We dashed to the store and back in record time. We practically ran into the kitchen and found him lying there, thinking deeply. No sore nose, no pulley system. We sighed big sighs of relief and got the plastic and vinyl childproof strap installed. So far it’s done its job. So far . . .

Sam Minier

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