Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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June 3, 2013

Cathie Shaffer: I’m smarter than the average puppy: 06/04/13

GREENUP — I was out of town all last week, leaving my live-with-me grandgirl to hold down the fort. Normally, it’s a pretty easy fort to hold down. But since we’ve added the puppy to the household, the task has new challenges.

The good news is that at the age of four months, the new dog, Carmen, is beginning to understand what a puppy pad is for. You’d think that would be a cinch for her to learn since we keep pads down for the big dog, Maggie, just in case we’re gone longer than we think.

Not Carmen. At first she thought it was a very thin sleeping place. Then she decided they were meant to play with. But she is a little older now and starting to catch on.

She’s also figuring out the difference between going out on the long lead to play and going outside to do what the puppy pads are for.

Maggie has decided it’s time for Carmen to become a good dog. In the last week or so, my big Sheltie girl has begun herding Carmen with the occasional bark and snap to make sure the young one knows what constitutes proper canine behavior. What she needs to teach Carmen — and as quickly as possible — is to learn all she can about cats.

There are three in my household. The five-year-old, Tabby, is a Siamese in a grab tabby body. Her mixed lineage is obvious in her lean frame, long legs and impatience with everyone and everything she decides is annoying her.

Carmen is at the top of the list. The dumb puppy can’t seem to figure out that although Maggie has more tenure, Tabby considers herself the matriarch of the clan. The two young cats, Bitsy and Batman, have an uneasy peace with Carmen. They flee to higher ground when Carmen comes bouncing toward them, such locales as the open dining room window or the top of the old treadle sewing machine.

Tabby stands her ground. She is secure in her belief that although she only weighs about six pounds and the dog probably weighs 40 by now, she will win. Always.

Tabby was sitting in the bathtub when I got up this morning. That is also a favorite place for Batman, so I can understand why Carmen stuck her nose over the edge to see who was in there. What I can’t understand is why Carmen didn’t catch a clue when Tabby hissed long and loud at her.

No, no. Carmen’s play route for those moments was romp into the hallway, back into the bathroom and put her front paws on the edge of the tub to apparently make sure Tabby knew she was there.

Carmen’s memory is as short as Tabby’s is long. She apparently forgot the kind of mood Tabby was in when we reached the kitchen. As is our regular practice, I filled the cat’s dishes while the dogs waited for their own food.

But Carmen was curious. She decided to sniff Tabby’s dry food to see if it smelled any better than the dry dog food she was only seconds from being served.

Tabby did not take it well. The bathtub might be considered shared turf but her dish has always been hers and hers alone.

Before I realized what was going on, she launched herself at Carmen’s big blond puppy self with the intent of doing bodily harm. My awareness came on the heels of a prolonged hiss, a shocked yip and a yellow streak as the retriever headed straight for the basement and safety.

To her credit, Tabby didn’t gloat. But she did clear the kitchen of the two other cats and Maggie — and I made my own hasty retreat because unlike the puppy, I know a bad mood when I see one.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net

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