The Blue Elephant

When Jax was just a little pup a coworker of mine gave him a small blue elephant squeaky toy. He loved that little toy and it was one of my personal favorites to give to him as a “yes” to the many “no” items that he tried to chew during his first few months.

As he has grown to a big boy of 2 years the little blue elephant has been abandoned in favor of bigger toys that can be tugged harder, and antlers that can withstand his big boy teeth…that is until the elephant made a reappearance tonight.

Jax has a new baby sister. Tink, short for Tinkerbell, is almost ten weeks old and is a mixture of sweetness and spunk. Jax is ecstatic to have a playmate.

Tonight tink was chewing on one of the smaller antlers and Jax was gnawing away at his newest bone. My attention was focused on Tink but I heard Jax abandon his bone and start looking through the toy chest, his doggie tags clinking against the metal bin. I peeked around the corner and watched him take toy after toy out of the bin. He tossed each one on the floor next to him and kept rooting through the vast selection.

Finally he trotted into the family room with the small blue elephant in his mouth. Tink was still chewing on her antler and Jax bent his big beautiful head down and nudged her. He dropped the elephant in front of her. She abandoned her antler and pounced on the elephant in typical puppy fashion, holding the little blue toy in her paws and chewing on it with her sharp little puppy teeth. Jax lowered himself to the floor and watched her as she chewed on the toy for a few minutes before turning his attention back to his bone.

I have lived my entire life with dogs, most of whom were Labradors, and I have seen this sort of compassion once before when my parents brought a new German Shorthaired Pointer puppy home and their yellow Labrador Beau did similar things. Dutch was the puppy at the time and every time he started to get into trouble, Beau would intervene and start a game of bitey face or tug and distract Dutch from the actions that were about to get him into trouble.

Some people claim that dogs are not capable of that sort of complex logic; so how do we explain the rooting through the toy bin for the particular toy that Jax had not played with for so long? The blue elephant has been in the bottom of the toy bin for at least a year. What made Jax get up from his bone, search for the elephant, bring it to Tink? Did he reason that he loved the toy as a puppy, and that Tink was a puppy and would therefore also love the elephant?

After a few minutes Jax left his bone and played a game of tug with Tink, the big dog and the little puppy each taking a tiny bit of fleece between their teeth and pulling back and forth. Jax is gentle when playing tug with her; he pulls Tink a short distance and then walks forward as she “pulls” him back. She is 17 pounds and he is 79. My heart swells at the thought that he lets her win sometimes. Not only is he intelligent, he is compassionate and knows she is just a pup.

If Jax can think through that sort of process, what else can he process? What problems can he solve? What emotions does he have? Most humans already give their dogs way too little credit for their intelligence; I feel blessed that I am not one of them.

jax and tink with toys

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