We have a dog. A very evil dog. Her name is Tessa but we call her Tessie. She is a yellow lab mix and weighs around forty pounds- a beautiful short hair pale yellow dog with black eye liner.
She was eight months old when we adopted her and in the beginning we thought she was the sweetest of all dogs. We have now learned the truth. As she began to learn about mastering exploration and how to navigate the desert mountain landscape where we live, we could see that she had intellectual abilities far beyond simply sniffing out carrion and eating it, although we were very quick to learn that food was an exceptionally powerful motivation for her.
Before she came to live with us, our other less mischievous dogs were quite satisfied to search the hills and valleys for animal treasures they could bring home. And for awhile, it seemed, Tessie was also content with these prizes, but she needed more of a challenge, it seemed..
Our nearest neighbor in the valley below is approximately a half mile away, and there are two restaurants at the highway intersection three quarters of a mile away. In the summertime there are occasionally hikers who sometimes camp on the Federal land nearby.
None of this has quite explained where Tessie, one fine summer day, got the unopened loaf of bread she brought home, nor the stick of butter she carried home a few weeks later. None of these places has quite explained where Tessie got the half pound of cottage cheese, the packet of burnt toast, the partially eaten hot dog in a bun, the opened medium sized bag of potato chips, the prepackaged sliced beef with mashed potatoes and gravy lunch, the partially eaten cheese and cracker snack packet or the shrimp salad in a sealed Tupperware bowl, the half pound of very moldy cheese or the large partially eaten sweet peach.
Granted, these things have appeared in the warmer months when there could be work crews somewhere out on the Federal landscape. We have also come to suspect that Tessie has visited the restaurants or our neighbor during their family cook outs, or workers camp sites as well as the campers camp sites where she has managed to wriggle her way close to the food by worming her way into the hearts of the unsuspecting victims with her considerable charm and beautiful eyes. Then, just when the folks have let their guard down- bam-O! She strikes, grabs the food and runs off for home. We guess that this would often take some careful calculations on her part in order to carry out her escape from the scene of the crime without being thwarted and forced to drop her bounty. The source of these food gifts that appear on our deck just outside the back door of our house has puzzled us for years.
Just the other day Tessie demonstrated her ability to calculate her careful timing for dastardly deeds and how closely she could manage her time for crime. It went down like this: we have a barn cat. His food is placed on the floor in the same spot each morning and evening. The dogs and I often go into the barn and pass by the food dish. Sometimes there is uneaten food still in the dish. Tessie knows that she is not to go near the food dish and she diligently walks around it. If the dish still has food in it more than an hour after putting it down for the cat, we will move the dish to a bench top where he can eat it later on. Sounds like a nice plan, right? It is a nice plan and it works well. Except, the other day, when Tessie suddenly stopped short right in front of the food dish. I turned just in time to see her puttting a steady look on me. She looked down into the full food dish and back to me. Clearly, I was too far away to pull her out of the dish if she should attempt a snap and gulp maneuver. In that frozen moment I could see Tessie calculating her time sequence and suddenly, like a dog possessed, with me yelling for her to stop, she violently thrust her mouth into the dish and gulped down two huge bites. She had calculated the timing perfectly. The time it took me to cover the five feet to get to her was enough time for her to frantically empty the dish. She knew I would not physically hurt her and she was willing to suffer my yelling and ranting about what a bad girl she had been- all for the glory of the cat food trophy.
In the six years since we adopted her we have never seen her be quite so brazen or disobedient. She had gotten the food down in record time- my yelling could not change that. Once she had downed the food she did act as if she were sorry for her evil deed. Well, for one or two minutes anyway. She was, after all, a hardened criminal.
It is this sort of precision timing we have come to believe that she uses to continue to succeed in her reign of crime. She could steal the food right out of your hand so long as it was a surprise attack and she was sure she could make her escape.
Even with this knowledge it doesn't look as if we are going to stop her sly evil deeds any time soon. What can we do? She is our Tessa, and we love her dearly.
Copyright 2014 by Richard McDonald
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