That morning, I decided to have a toasted bagel with cheese for breakfast. I cut the bagel in half, then turned to get the cheese out of the refrigerator. I turned back with cheese in hand and stared at the plate. It took me a few seconds to process what I was seeing, or more accurately, not seeing. Where did it go? Half of the bagel was gone.
I looked down at the floor, in case I had accidentally knocked it off the counter. Nope, not on the floor. It couldn't have disappeared. I turned to my right to look at the floor behind me, just in case. As I lifted my head, I caught sight of Farley standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room.
My gaze focused on him. The half bagel was hanging out of his mouth. I did not expect to see that because he had never stolen food before. I don't know how he did it. There wasn't much space between the counter and the back of the open refrigerator door. I was also surprised that he had been able to do it so quickly and quietly, without my noticing. He must have been in stealth mode. Great, now I had to deal with a ninja dog in my life.
I'd already fed him, so he couldn't be hungry. And even if he was still hungry, he could have taken it into another room and eaten it. I would never have known. That's not what was happening here. He was standing there, waiting for me to look at him. He wanted me to see him with the bagel.
Worse yet, he was taunting me. There was a glint in his eyes, and I swear he was smiling. I said, "You give that to me, right now." His body tensed slightly, and he stood his ground. The smile became a smirk. Now he was challenging me. That was it. Game on, buddy.
I took a step toward him and he took off running into the living room. I ran after him. He went around the armchair. I couldn't see him, so I assumed he was standing between the couch and the coffee table. When I got into the room, I saw him standing on the couch, bagel still in his mouth. That was strike two against him. He knew he wasn't allowed on the furniture.
I took two quick steps to get around the coffee table and lunged towards him. He wasn't expecting that, and it scared him. He leaped over the far end of the couch. Unfortunately, his eyes were on me and not looking in the direction he was headed. Mid-air, he knocked over the lamp on the end table.
I turned to see him standing in front of the fireplace, lamp on the floor to left, bagel on the right. He stood with eyes wide, and his body frozen in place. He knew he was in trouble, and he didn't know what I was going to do. This was a first for both of us.
I did a quick visual check to make sure he was unharmed. He looked good. Scared, but good. I calmly walked past him and put the lamp back onto the table. Then I turned around and picked up the bagel. He stood still the whole time, watching my every move. Then I looked him in the eyes, and quietly, yet firmly, said, "Don't you ever do that again." Then I walked back into the kitchen and continued making my breakfast.
He never stole food again, with one exception, although I can't say he stole it. We had an extended family get-together. I can't remember what the occasion was. One of my nephews was sitting on the footstool in the living room. He held his plate of food with one hand while it rested on his right knee. He was looking to his left while talking to someone.
Farley sat beside him. He looked at the plate and then at my nephew's face. No reaction. He did it three times. It was his polite way of asking. Since he didn't hear the word no, he took that as a yes. He moved his head toward the plate and gently took a piece of cheese with his mouth.
My nephew's head quickly turned and he stared at Farley for a moment. Then his eyes flew open in surprise. He had not expected that from Farley because he'd never done it before. (In my nephew's defense, he didn't have a lot of experience with dogs.) I had watched the interaction unfold, and I couldn't stop laughing when it was done.
I know, I was wrong. I should have intervened. It would have taken one word from me to stop Farley. He was that well trained by then. Instead, I let it play out. My curiosity got the better of me. It was worth it to see my nephew's reaction.
Farley was the first dog that lived indoors with us. Back then, I didn't know that dogs, like people, go through a rebellious, adolescent stage. It only happened with food that one time. He challenged me in other ways, and we always worked through it. Truth be told, I admired Farley's defiance. Perhaps we tested each other, and with time, we both passed. I learned so much from him.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.