Just Grazing

Dogs Are Smarter Than A Lot Of Humans

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”

Dogs are smart. People are dumb.

There are some things about the behavior of people that I don’t understand. At the top of my list, just above people who trash our communities, are those who abuse and neglect animals, especially dogs.

I understand that some people, through misfortune, become unable to care for their animals. I get that. But what I don’t understand are people who get dogs that are not spayed or neutered, let them breed and decide after the puppies are grown that they don’t want them or can’t give them away. So they drop them. Usually, out in the country.

What is the mindset that makes so many people thumb their noses at the idea of keeping their dog on a leash when it isn’t on their property? Or spaying or neutering a dog that shouldn’t be bred for a host of reasons? Don’t even get me started on people who chain dogs outside.

I love animals, especially dogs. We have four. Two are clear-cut rescues, and a third is what can best be described as a project. A neighbor was desperate to find a new home for him. Jack is a young blue heeler, a cow dog. Heelers are intelligent, energetic and loyal. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile—while stealing your heart.

So far, we haven’t given him an inch. He’s learning. He no longer tries to herd us around the yard by nipping at our heels. He doesn’t leap into our laps unless we invite him, or crawl into my lap while I’m driving.

If that isn’t enough, over the weekend he proved he’s smarter than I am.

I drove to a friend’s house to deliver eggs. When I arrived at the gate, I saw her down in the pasture and decided to get out of the truck. She had walked up to the gate, and we were talking when I heard the unmistakable sound of the door locks being triggered. I turned to see Jack in the passenger seat where he belonged, but with his front feet on the armrest where the power door and window locks are located.

The truck windows were up, and the engine was running. Jack was smiling. I wasn’t.

With no spare key in my pocket and miles from home, I was feverishly racking my brain for the best way out of this mess when my friend said, “Jack’s a smart dog. Maybe he’ll unlock it for you.” I clearly detected a bit of amusement in her voice.

I walked over to the passenger door, where Jack was smiling like a mule eating briars. “Jack, put your feet there. Move over a little. A little more. You can do it,” I coaxed.

“Ummmmmmmmmmmm.” That was the sound of the window rolling down as Jack kept his paw on the button, still smiling. I quickly reached into the cab, grabbed the key and praised him.

Like I said. Dogs are smart. It’s people who foul things up.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, is an organic farmer and beekeeper in Rutherfordton, where he and Anita Saulmon grow blueberries and raise dairy goats, chickens and turkeys.

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