Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One Smart Chihuahua

My wife and I like to think our three year old Chihuahua Ninya is the smartest dog ever born, and the other day she did something that only reinforced that contention.
Like most dogs, Ninya has lots of toys and, again like most dogs, she knows the names of most of her toys. But unlike most dogs, Ninya makes up her own games to play with them. One of her favorite toys is what we call "stringball." It's a rubber ball with a string tied through a hole in the center so that, when it's thrown, the two eighteen-inch long strings trail tantalizingly behind it. Ninya likes to take stringball out on our patio, place it precariously on the edge of the fountain, then, taking the string in her teeth, nudge the ball into the fountain and pull it back out with the string. She will also take stringball or one of her other balls up on the chaise lounge and, standing on her hind legs, drop the ball against the back and let it roll down so she can chase it.
While we don't make a habit of feeding Ninya from the table, it has occurred with sufficient frequency that she often sits on the floor beside my chair staring soulfully up at me while I'm eating. Usually, when I ignore her, she'll go get one of her toys and bring it to me, is if to say, "Well, if you're not going to feed me, at least you can play fetch" (though I sometimes suspect her real motive is to interrupt my meal as punishment for not sharing it with her).
Last Saturday, while we were having a lunch of Waldorf Salad, I told Ninya that apples and walnuts are not good for dogs. Seeming to understand she went to her toy basket and brought me stringball and dropped it at my feet. When I threw the ball through the bedroom door, it bounced in such a way that the string became entangled in the lower cross strut on my computer desk. Ninya surveyed the situation for a second, then took the string in her teeth and pulled. The ball came up to the cross strut and stopped. She let the ball back down to the floor, then pulled on the string again - with the same result. She then dropped the string, stuck her head under the desk, and grabbed the string right next to the ball. Of course, when she pulled it out, the string untangled itself from the cross strut and she brought the ball back to me for another throw.
Now, I'm not saying Ninya is smart enough to have figured out that one of the two strings was on top of the strut and the other was on the bottom, and that she could retrieve it by pulling on the ball instead of the string. But she was at least smart enough to think, "Hey, I tried that twice and it didn't work. I think I'll try something else" - which makes my dog a lot smarter than most of the people in Washington DC (and a whole lot smarter than the people who keep voting for them).

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