One morning this week when I got up to go feed the dogs, I was met at the basement dog by our senior dog, Idgie, wagging all over herself, so glad to see me, good morning, good morning, good morning. I was surprised because the last time I had seen her was the previous night, when I put her to bed in her crate. The crate she was still supposed to be in. Idgie had staged a crate-break, so I knew something was up.
Idgie is very smart. She misses nothing. If there is something new or different in the house, she knows it. She is also agile, cunning, and an inveterate food scrounger, so she excels at counter surfing. If something of interest that might be food or a reasonable substitute is on the kitchen counter or any other surface in the house, she thinks it is fair game. We wouldn’t have put it there if she wasn’t supposed to get it. This notion and this talent have gotten her in a lot of trouble over the years.
When she was young, we weren’t fully aware of just how strong her drive to get food is. Its very strong. We occasionally came home to find empty wrappers here and there. She became more adept; we remained clueless. We found avocado skins and seeds neatly stripped of flesh, hollowed out cantaloupe, banana peels, slimy tomato seeds, empty wrappers from bread, cereal, any kind of food that was not put up in the cabinet or on top of the refrigerator was Idgie bait. She ate all of another dog’s prescription of a very strong medicine. The bottle had been left on the back edge the counter, obviously still in Idgies range. She earned a trip to the vet to have her stomach pumped for that escapade. She tried acorn squash once, but found it a bit hard to chew.
Gradually, we got the message. Don’t leave anything on the counter or Idgie will get it. But, we are humans, forgetful, distractable humans. Idgie is not. She never forgets. She always notices. Like the time we were getting packed for a trip. I filled my pill box with a week’s worth of medicine, then got distracted and didn’t put it up. By the time I returned to the kitchen, Idgie who was probably attracted to the scent of fish oil capsules had eaten most of my pills and slobbered up the rest. Off to the vet we went again for another lavage.
One of her favorite foods are tomatoes. She loves them. So do I. As you know, you are not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes because it kills the flavor. I leave them on the window sill now. I used to leave them on the counter. After loosing too many heirloom tomatoes to Idgie’s tomato habit, I figured it out. What really upset me though was after I nurtured tomatoes through the very short Laramie, WY growing season, Idgie would beat me to the harvest and eat the ripe ones right off the vine.
Some things it just doesn’t occur to you that she would have an interest in. Once I left the house leaving a five pound bag of flour on the counter. I came home to a godawful mess. The kitchen floor was white. White with footprints through it. The culprit was easy to spot. Black dogs should stay out of white flour.
As time passed, we have gotten much more consistent about putting everything away. I am home much of the time now, and Idgie spends part of her days sleeping in her crate. All this combined means that there are fewer opportunities for Idgie to pursue her hobby of seeking extra food.
So, I was a bit surprised to see that she had escaped from her crate, but immediately knew why. To save time in the morning, I had started filling the food bowls, then putting them in the bathroom sink in the basement where the crates are. I feed Idgie first, so she always “helped” me get their breakfast. She remembered that the food was no longer locked away where she couldn’t get at it. Two bowls of kibble were there for the taking. Who could resist?
I learned quickly this time. That night I went back to the old routine of not filling the food bowls. I also put two bungee cords on her crate as well as running a long screw into the slot where the broken closing mechanism had been. The drive for food is strong in Idgie. As with all dogs, the hope for extra food springs eternal. The second morning when she greeted me at the top of the stairs, I knew that I had to put Idgie in a different crate, one with functioning fasteners. I didn’t want her to hurt herself trying to escape. To make doubly sure, now I fill the food bowls, but put them back into the locked dog food cabinet. Its kept locked now, because years ago, guess who figured out how to open it.