Great Moments in Human Intelligence

I never got around to writing my annual sappy Happy Birthday Ardala post, so I’m going to make up for that here. Ardala was adopted in 2006 from the Pasadena Humane Society. She was identified as a German Shepherd Mix, but at around 25 lbs, I had my doubts. We really have no idea how old she is (they estimated 2.5 years, a vet guessed up to 5) or even how many owners she’s had – she had been picked up as a stray by another shelter, spayed and adopted and then relinquished to PHSSPCA a few months later. Our best guess as far as breed is corgi mix. Or maybe Swedish Vallhund. Though she may possibly have some Australian Cattle Dog too… basically, she’s got some herding something in her. She may even have been trained to herd by her first owner; when learning a basic “STOP IMMEDIATELY” command in our intermediate training class, we chose an arbitrary word and hand gesture and she not only did it perfectly the first time, she dropped into what the trainer called a “cattle-dog down”, meaning lying on her belly, totally still but in full alert mode. That was also the class where she herded the cocker spaniels during her free play time. Mostly she has been tremendously lazy and happy to act as a sponge for all sorts of affection from all people, dogs and the odd cat. She came to us fully housebroken and friendly as anything and we cannot for the life of us figure out who would let this dog go.

Maddeningly, Ardala’s spent most of the last 9 month sick or injured. It started with a 1.5 month ordeal of a mystery disease misdiagnosed as pancreatitis, complications due to spondylosis and a possible slipped disc. It was actually a pretty severe e. coli infection. Then there was the psych-out CCL tear, the bonus Christmas actual CCL tear and subsequent TPLO surgery and recovery, ending with the latest bout of god only knows what, characterized by inability to use either back leg, the right one pulled tight to her body, the left rigidly extended. About $1200 spent on xrays, hospitalization and drugs later, we were left again with the slipped disc diagnosis, which will be a $1500 MRI so we know where to operate, thank you very much. Following our gut we decided to take her to physical therapy, both her back legs are positioned normally, she is off the steroid, the anti- back spasm pill and the narcotic she had been prescribed, and are now working on getting her walking again. For the first time since October, she seems to be back to her old self. I had almost forgotten what her personality was like.

Yesterday De went into her room to Skype her parents. Being a herding mix Ardala gets agitated if we’re both in the house but she can’t see us simultaneously. Since she’s only on 2.9 legs right now she’s also a bit bored, and acted out as bored dogs often do – through barking. Whatever kind of mix she is, it is one possessed of a bark roughly five times louder than it should be, and as apartment dwellers, we do not have the luxury of being good trainers about this and just ignoring her. I decided to help her into De’s room, where Ardala’s exercise pen and bed also reside. I brought my book and we all sat around for a few minutes while De continued her Skype call. Ardala sniffed around the room looking for stray treats and settled on her bed. I was ready to go back to the living room when the barking began again, this time from her nest. I was reading my book, De was chatting with her parents – and Ardala was getting absolutely no attention.

Look, I know the wrong thing to do in this case was reward her, but come on! Poor thing was sick or hurt for nearly a year! She can’t run and frolic with her friends! Also, loud barking and neighbors! So I made the second Bad Servant Monkey decision of the morning and went in to her ex pen to give her pettings and attentions. She immediately gimped off her bed and pushed past me through the open door of the pen.

I’m not proud to say that I actually sat in the pen for a minute or two just staring at the empty bed and then deciding I was bored. Turning to get my book and noticed Ardala sitting quietly in alert posture, back to the ex pen door, guarding me against all intruders – or possibly preventing my escape. My own f-ing dog herded me into her ex pen.

Dog people, do not ever underestimate your pet, no matter how lazy and indolent they might seem. They are only waiting for the right moment – and the opposable thumbs – to herd us together, lock us in an ex pen and take over the world.


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