Perfecting the Art of Begging

The puppy has now mastered the art of begging.

It’s doubtless that you’ve encountered a begging dog before, but few have seen it done well. Most dogs just sit there and stare at you and whimper a little bit. That’s fairly standard begging procedure. It’s like watching Keanu Reeves act; you get the general idea, but it’s still not very impressive, and it certainly doesn’t tug any heartstrings.

And then there are dogs who go too far. This is the overacting syndrome. If Christian Bale and William Shatner had a child together, this kind of dog would be the result. Churchill – the puppy in question – went through the overacting stage a few weeks ago. I would take him into the backyard, put a leash on him, and then stand perfectly still to wait for him to do his business. He would walk around a few feet, realize he had a restriction attached to his neck, and then fling himself dramatically to the ground, legs splayed, and whimper with all he could muster. He would even include some fiendish high-whining (precursor to actual howling, which he learned a few days later.) When he looked up and realized I wasn’t paying attention, he would pull his feet back under himself, sneakily move closer to me, and then flop down at my feet and repeat the process.

There are bullies, who try to take the food without actually stealing it. I had a dog named Smedley who would push his nose up under my elbow until his face was actually in my lap, and then try to take the food from my plate. (And he thought he was adorable about it, of course.)

Churchill, however, is an award-winning begger at only a few months old. I found him in the kitchen, watching my dad eat a cracker. Just watching patiently. Sitting attentively. Eyes wide open. Happy expression. Tail wagging pleasantly. Not whimpering or doing anything irritating. Just happy to be here with you, Dad. Just happy.

And then Dad moves his hand slightly, and Churchill jumps a little. Just a little bit – just enough to let you know he thought you were going to throw him a cracker. But then he settles back down into the happy-dog pose again. Oh, that cracker wasn’t for me? Sorry – I’m so silly, I thought you were throwing it over here…. More tail-wagging and general pleasantness.

How could you not feed this face?

While he has mastered the art of begging, this does not mean that he is the perfect image of subtlety. As soon as the fridge door opens, all pretenses are gone, and that dog makes a beeline for the bottom shelf (the only one his short little legs have a hope of getting his mouth to.) I had a hankering for some leftover almond pie a few minutes ago, and had to wrestle the dog approximately seventeen times – with a pie in one hand – before I could gain my prize and shut the door with the basset outside it. He peed on the kitchen floor to express his anger. ♠

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