I know I can be pretty harsh on my animals in this space. And face it, they are, on the whole, pretty goldang worthless, if you measure worth in their ability to get along without primates to feed, house and otherwise pamper them, especially compared to their wild cousins, who are out there in all weathers sleeping in a hole in the ground and surviving on raw rodents (and the occasional lagomorph).
But they have their moments, flashes of intelligence or at least cunning showing through the sleep-on-the-bed-until-dinner-is-served sloth and obliviousness.
Take Rhys, for instance, our rescued corgi from the mean streets of Roanoke, Va. He has decided that small dogs such as himself, who possess feet but no legs, should not have to walk as far as larger dogs, such as his stablemates Cooper and Zeke, who are medium-sized at 40 pounds or so, and thus tower above his diminutive self. Corgi, after all, is from the Welsh “cor” meaning dwarf and “gi” meaning dog, a fascinating, though somewhat demeaning fact I just learned from Merriam-Webster's Ubnabridged online.
The snag in his plan to ditch the walk after a mere score or so of yards, which satisfies his atavistic desire to bark with fierce ferociousness and caper about pretending to bite Cooper, is me, the primate in the sketch, who strides out semienthusiastically with the purpose of getting some good, healthful exercise, as recommended by my teenage doctor and my beautiful wife, both of whom, for quite different reasons, want to control the size of my belly before it requires a separate ZIP code.
For the year or so that the aging and more portly Rhys has tried to duck out of the morning stroll, it has been pretty easy to get him back. I would look back every now and then, and, if I saw signs of flagging enthusiasm, sternly call the lazy miscreant to me, turning back again only when he was well on his way.
Rhys has found a way to outsmart me, though. He bounds along with apparent excitement, eyes alight with corgi joy, tongue flapping ludicrously in carefree delight. I look back a couple of times and am reassured. Then, as soon as I turn the corner from the pasture into the cornfield, where the view behind me is obscured, he hotfoots it back to the porch, there to bask in the comforting company of my marvelous mother-in-law as she enjoys her morning coffee.
By the time I begin to wonder what happened to the tardy one, it's too late to turn back and Rhys has won another round.
The dogs and Ginger, the tabby cat, also have forged one of those odd interspecies compacts that crop up from time to time in the pet world. I first noticed this with a dog-cat pair back when I was a budding journalist in middle school (my first, self-imposed assignment being investigating the differences between boys and girls). The cat would chase a bird out of a bush, into the waiting jaws of a dog, and the pair of them would lie down together and amiably eat the bird.
The entente that has broken out at Chez Davis is not quite that nifty, but they do cooperate to get into the kitchen garbage when none of them could have done it alone.
You see, the dogs are too stupid and clumsy to open the cabinet door under the sink where the garbage can is stored, and the cat is too light and the quarters too cramped for her to knock the can over. But Ginger, with her delicate little paws and diabolical little cat brain, can winkle the door open, and the dogs, well, knocking stuff over is kind of a point of pride with them.
Usually I make enough noise coming downstairs to alert them, and they have time to move away from the scattered trash and act innocent. But they are fooling no one. Maybe someday I can figure a way to outwit them.