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K9 Corner, Feb. 21

By HELEN PALMER

Contributing writer

I read a news item on the internet last past week about horses communicating with humans and it reminded me of the antics of one of my dogs.

The news item was of a study in Japan where researchers hid some carrots under a bucket out of reach of a herd of eight horses being studied. When the horses’ handlers walked into the area, not aware of the bucket or carrots, the horses went to their individual trainers and proceeded to nudge and stare at the bucket that was out of reach. Finally the men got curious why all the horses seemed so interested in the bucket and went over and raised it. Obviously the horses were rewarded with the carrots. (I was amused that the article specifically mentioned that carrots are a favorite treat for horses.)

That brings me to the story of one of my dogs, long since gone to her reward. I had agreed to puppy-sit a friend’s toy poodle-mix for a weekend and the first night was a horror as the pup cried and howled. The next day I was determined to exercise the pup enough so the animal would sleep through the night. Taking the pup out on a 40-foot cord along with my other three dogs, I tried to get her to explore and play.  Nothing, all the pup would do was sit or lie down. 

Now one of my dogs happened to be a problem solver and able to think for herself.  Obviously she was watching my efforts to get the pup to move around and finally decided to lend a paw to the situation.

 Walking over toward the pup and standing at an angle about six feet away she did a “play-bow” by stretching her front legs out on the ground and wagging her elevated tail. The pup just stared at her. She repeated the play-bow several times while not looking directly at the youngster. (Direct eye contact in dog language is a dominant gesture so the averted look out of the corner of the eye is used.)

Finally the pup caught on and did a play-bow back, at which my dog took off running while looking back at the pup – a perfect invitation to play tag. The pup responded and started chasing her and I scurried to the center of the yard still holding the 40-foot cord.

My dog seemed to realize the area allowed by the cord because she did an abrupt U-turn, leaped over the pup and headed back toward the house with the pup scampering after her. Forty feet in that direction, she did another U-turn and cleared the pup to head toward the back of the yard. This kept up until the puppy was stretched out on the ground panting heavily. My dog offered to continue the game, but the pup was worn out and didn’t budge. (She slept well that night and my friend picked her up the next day.)

Thank goodness my dog realized my predicament and figured out how to help me.