Rescue dog: Rule breaker or just plain cute? Pawing the line

Rescue dog Albie reveals his gluttonous side and pursues a prized biscotti as some rules give way in his household.

Courtesy of the Zheutlin family
Albie dozes happily on Noah Zheutlin's bed, paying no heed to the no-dog-on-the-furniture house rule.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to be able to eat only when someone else offered me food, and then being able to eat only what they offered. In other words, I’ve been wondering what it’s like to be Albie, our half yellow lab, half golden retriever rescue dog.

When he first arrived about three months ago, he didn’t seem particularly obsessed with food. Perhaps he was just happy to have what seemed, at last, like a real home with people who loved him and thought he was the cutest thing since Shirley Temple sang "The Good Ship Lollipop."

But of late, Albie, now assured of our undying affection, has shifted his focus to all things edible, including a chipmunk he managed to snare, and which I managed to save, all while I was holding him on his leash. He’s quick.

He isn’t sitting next to us at the dining room table looking like Oliver pleading for a little more porridge – not yet, at least – but he does watch us eat, and when food is left out, he is displaying some deft opportunism.

A few nights ago, as we were cleaning up, Albie quietly circled the coffee table where we’d put out some noshes for friends who’d come over to watch the presidential debate. You could tell he was torn between retaining his self-control and going for the vanilla almond biscotti (one of my personal favorites).

Our kitchen is open to the family room, so he knew he was being watched. After about five minutes and a dozen circuits around the table during which he feigned disinterest, he quietly and gently made his move. Rather than the out-of-control lunge that you might expect of a dog driven mad by a food aroma he can’t resist, he carefully took one biscotti off the plate as if he were at high tea in "Downton Abbey."

I have to confess that little by little, we are giving way on some of the “rules” we thought we’d establish when Albie first arrived, mostly because he’s so darned cute when he breaks them. I mean, look at him doing homework with our son, Noah, on Noah’s bed (photo above). That’s the “no dog on the furniture” rule being flouted.

And I no longer try and stop him from jumping up, front paws on my chest, to greet me when I come home because his joy seems so unrestrained and it’s a welcome change from the general indifference that meets me whenever I walk in the door.

As for the no stealing food from counters and tabletops, well that’s proving tough to enforce, too. I’ve read that dogs have a sense of smell between a thousand and ten million times keener than a human’s, and that Labs have an especially keen nose, so they’re apparently at the higher end of that scale. It sounds like exquisite torture. Since I can hardy pass up a vanilla almond biscotti when I see one, I can’t blame Albie for cadging one when the aroma must be utterly intoxicating. At this rate, we may be drawing the line at no driving the car after midnight.

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