My dog is smart. He’s a flat-coated retriever. I knew he’d be clever. What I didn’t realize was how clever, how full of canine ingenuity his furry two-year-old body is.
Chief came from a farm family in Oregon that claimed to find him wandering across their land as a lost puppy. So right off the bat, he’s got the same origin story as Wolverine.
The family gave the new-found pup up because their husky felt threatened and physically intimidated him. That’s how he came to live in the chaos of The Shire.
With five dudes coming and going, not to mention the constant parties, Chief never had a chance to get comfortable or grow out of his life-long timidity. When Grant had knee surgery, I adopted Chief and drove him out to Montana with me while I looked for a job.
He rode shotgun in my Camry that whole summer, and the first time I realized he was always listening, always learning, was when he learned that the difference between “go for a ride” and “go for a walk” was him helping me look for his leash.
My living situation in Brooklyn isn’t as generous to him as it was in Montana. He doesn’t have a backyard anymore, and he rarely gets a car ride. (That’s going to change this autumn.)
His intelligence manifests itself when he’s desperate. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that as the first stable thing in his life, I’m never going to get total privacy if we’re in the same building — I’m typing this with his chin on my feet, one of his favorite positions.
When I’m in my room with the door closed, he’ll get on two legs and paw open the door like a damn velociraptor. It’s insane. When I’m out of the house for a couple of hours, and his anxiety kicks in, he’ll paw open the drawer under the sink and drag out the garbage can to keep busy.
His dexterity amazes me, and it’s taught me that even when I don’t think he’s paying attention, he is. He’s finally thriving and learning how to live in the kind of comfort he never should’ve had to live without.
Happy anniversary, big guy. Thanks for being my wingman for the last 12 months.