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Modern Parenthood

Rescue dog: Getting inside a dog's head and his futon fixation

Rescue dog Albie is may not tell us exactly what he's thinking about us, his new home, the presidential election. But we think we know his thoughts on our futon.

By Correspondent / August 23, 2012

Rescue dog Albie's futon fixation may just be his discerning eye and nose for fabric.

Courtesy of Peter Zheutlin


In the living room of our small cottage in western Massachusetts, there’s a futon that doubles as a sofa and, when the back is dropped down, an extra guest bed. As it turns out, the futon cover is made from a fabric very similar to the L.L. Bean dog bed we bought for Albie, our half-yellow Lab, half-golden retriever rescue dog. (I stood firm against having it monogrammed.)

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Peter Zheutlin is a freelance journalist and author whose work has appeared regularly in the Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor. He has also written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications in the US and abroad. He is the author of "Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride" and the co-author of three other books. He lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and two sons.

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I doubt I’d have ever noticed the similarity until Albie, who never jumps on the furniture at home, quickly made himself comfortable on the futon.

In our ongoing effort to try to get inside his head and discern what he’s thinking – about us, about his new home, about the presidential election – we surmised that Albie made the connection between the two fabrics and figured since he’s allowed on the dog bed, he’s allowed on the futon. Now, this may be imputing a power of logical deduction beyond your average dog’s ken, but it’s the kind of analysis people make all the time when they’re trying to understand what animals are thinking, especially dogs.

If Albie had surmounted the futon and lain there with that happy face he often displays – ears perked up, eyes wide open, mouth slightly agape and pulled
back in what we are convinced is a smile – we’d have said, “Aw, look how proud he is of himself,” even though I defy anyone, even the Dog Whisperer, to truly know if a dog is capable of feeling pride.

But Albie didn’t surmount the futon with that look. Rather, he promptly put his head down on his paws, dropped his ears, and stared at us with slightly downcast, dark brown eyes filled with what I would call “doubt.” Our interpretation? Obvious. He wanted to be on the futon but was unsure if he’d broken the rules, and was waiting to either be admonished or reassured.

The first time we shooed him off, but when he persisted, again with the same baleful expression on his face, he looked so cute and pathetic at the same time that we “made an exception,” a concept I’m sure he will readily grasp. I promptly went out and bought a lint brush, since Albie sheds and I’ve been known to be a bit of a fussbudget.

The futon has become his spot of choice when we’re at the cottage. He sleeps there and chills out there, but we discovered the futon serves another vital purpose.

Albie and I have grown quite attached to each other, but when Judy takes him out for a walk, I don’t sit at the window like a Nantucket sea captain’s wife waiting for him to return from a 10-year whaling voyage to the South Pacific. But the futon allows Albie an unobstructed view of the front of the cottage so that whenever I leave the premises, whether for 10 minutes or a couple of hours, he can stare intently out the window looking for signs of my return. (Judy took the above photo of Albie standing guard on the futon while I was at the market.)

I don’t think it’s occurred to him that these hours of watching and waiting only mean he will learn of my return about 15 seconds earlier than he would otherwise, but I’m flattered that he finds the investment of time so worthwhile.


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