Jackson is a really good dog. He is three and a half-year old, he is now neutered, so he’s in that wonderful stage of being a dog where he is young and energetic but has outgrown the crazy puppy years. We’ve worked together training since he was just eight weeks old, we can trust him in the house without worrying that he will get into something, and he is just generally a well-behaved member of dog society.
Until he sees a napkin.
Jackson is obsessed with paper napkins and paper towels. Aiding him in his quest to chew and consume napkins is his sharp memory and ability to associate my actions with opportunities for him to obtain a beloved napkin.
Take, for example, breakfast. Breakfast is a “everyone fend for yourself” meal in our house, and I typically have my morning coffee and a bowl of cold cereal while sitting on the sofa with my legs tucked under me and the morning news on TV. Jax knows that there is not usually a napkin involved in this meal.
There are some mornings, though, when I will choose to make oatmeal in the microwave. Because the bottom of the bowl stays hot for a long time my habit is to grab a napkin or two to keep my hand from burning on the hot bottom of the bowl.
With the first sniff of my standard Melaleuca brand cinnamon oatmeal wafting his way, Jax is ready. He enters the kitchen and watches me grab a napkin from the holder. “This is not for you” I tell him each time, “not for puppies.” Jax thinks otherwise.
As soon as I sit in my end spot on the soft, Jax is in front of me. He never begs for actual food. I could eat the most delicious smelling hunk of meat and he will not beg. He simply wants the napkin.
Most days he stares at me with his big beautiful but intense eyes, willing me to give him the napkin. Sometimes he gets brave and rushes up and grabs a nibble, although he has not done this since he got in trouble after dumping the entire bowl of hot oatmeal into my lap.
Other times he will go to the side table next to me and reach out to grab the remote control or a magazine, trying to distract me to get the napkin. I am onto him, though. He understands “Don’t you dare steal my stuff” as he is in mid bite trying to take my latest issue of In Style. He will gently open his mouth back up, release my magazine, and back away as if to say “What, I was just checking it and I have deemed it to be ok.”
This afternoon I had a sandwich and some chips for lunch, also consumed on the sofa instead of at the table. Because I am logging and counting every calorie I put the chips in a small container and weighed them on the scale, and that is what I kept them in to eat them. I made the sandwich on a napkin so as not to dirty a plate. Somehow Jax missed the fact that I had used a napkin.
I forgot that I had left the container on the side table with the crumpled up napkin inside of it as I worked from my sofa all day on a writing project. A few minutes ago I got up to pour a fresh glass of water and Jax took the opportunity to steal my seat from me, something he does quite regularly.
I turned and watched as he started to nestle into the soft cushions of the sofa but stopped in the middle as he either smelled or saw the napkin. I watched and suppressed a laugh as he very gingerly reached his mouth into the container, grabbed the napkin, lifted his head and looked me in the eye, white paper napkin hanging out from his teeth. He then spun around, jumped off the sofa, and back to his dog sofa to chew his prize.
Tinkerbell was immediately on the bed with him, checking out his ill gained loot, although she did not inherit the napkin loving gene from their line of ancestors. Jax’s full litter mate brother did, though.
I will never forget when the dogs were about a year old I met up with our friend/breeder to watch her show Jax’s brother in a conformation show. Since she is a professional dog trainer I marveled at the impeccable leash and social manners that Jax’s brother had, compared to my sweet boy who was still a work in progress with a less experienced trainer.
The day of the show it was pouring outside and our friend was soaking wet right before her time in the ring. She grabbed a handful of paper towels to dry herself off and was standing with them in her hand talking to me, with Jax’s brother on his lead. He stood there perfectly on his thin show lead waiting for her next command. I laughed as he reached his beautiful head, so identical to Jax’s, up to his owner and opened his mouth ever so slightly to grab a piece of the paper towel.
“He’s a paper thief too!!” I exclaimed, laughing! Jax is obsessed with paper towels and napkins!
So today as he began to tear off little pieces of his napkin I let him get in a few small bites before I went and took the rest away. After all, it was a great find for him, as happy of a moment as when we put on a coat at the start of cold weather and find a $20 bill in the pocket.