November 21, 2010

The Good Bone Phenomenon

As I write this, Rosco and Layla are currently helping my wife keep the couch from flying away.  Earlier this morning I witnessed what I refer to as the "Good Bone Phenomenon".  If you own dogs you know exactly what I am talking about.

We buy our dogs a few different kinds of chew bones.  Rawhides are nice because they last a long time and are cheap, but you do run the risk that they will eat part of it and have digestive tract blockage.  The dogs aren't always crazy about them, though - a good rawhide needs a few days of half-hearted chewing before it is fully seasoned to basset tastes.  Bully sticks - basically dried cow tendons - are the most highly prized, but they don't last long and stink horribly while being eaten.  Layla also tends to have some intestinal gas troubles when she gets those and we worry about bloat, so we don't get them very often.  They're also about 5 bucks for a 12 inch piece.  Busy bones are pressed chew treats that last approximately 30 seconds and make a terrific mess.  However, any new chew bones are met with a lot of enthusiasm by the dogs, at first.

Until the new bone phenomenon sets in.

We try and buy bones that are similarly sized, because our dogs will give us indignant looks if they feel that they are getting the short end of the stick.  But it doesn't matter.  Any bones that lasts longer than twenty minutes will eventually prompt the 'Good Bone Phenomenon'.  This occurs when one dog decides the other somehow got a better deal then them.  No matter how juicy, stinky, or delicious their bone may appear, they are certain that the other dog is enjoying themselves that much more.  And so they lay on the floor, their partially-eaten bone discarded next to them, coated in a sheen of basset saliva, and they watch the other dog eat what they believe to be the 'Good Bone'.  No amount of pouting can sway the other dog's attention though - our dogs have become masters at the art of bone-eating, to the point of deception and trickery to get the prize.  We could buy fifty bones that were machined to exact specifications, so that there was no significant difference in size, mass, or taste qualities, and there would be one bone among them all that was the epitome of what a chew bone should be.  Wars have been fought over less.

The deception is an interesting part of dog ownership that I never envisioned.  I have always assumed dogs were the most enviable of animals - cute, although lower on the intelligence scale than cats, with heightened perceptions, and a sense of loyalty that few humans can ever aspire to.  The deviousness and attitude were surprises.

For instance, if Rosco has the 'Good Bone', Layla may try to use his jealousy against him.  My wife may be laying on the couch watching a TV show, and Layla will pull herself up from her pouting session over getting the lesser of two bones.  She stretches, saunters slowly to the spot in front of my wife's position on the couch, and lets out a low whimper.  'Love me', this whimper says.  It's soft at first - she doesn't want to rush things - but after a few more tries, both the players in Layla's game are now fully engaged.  My wife, her affections for the dog now running at full capacity, will reposition herself on the couch to allow Layla some room for snuggling.  Rosco, meanwhile, his attention slightly diverted from the 'Good Bone' by Layla's theatrics, will pause for a moment.  Snuggling is a good thing.  Is Layla going to get some?  From Mama?  Without me being involved?  This bone is pretty good, but...  well, let's wait and see.  She isn't on the couch yet.  Back to the bone.

Layla, meanwhile, will milk my wife's affections to their fullest extent.  She might feebly attempt to jump on the couch - her stumpy front legs barely making it to the cushion, making half-hearted attempts to hoist the rest of her body up there.  Nevermind that during the daily basset chase sessions that occur it looks like the dogs are extras in House of Flying Daggers, and appear to be able to jump over the coffee table to get onto the couch - at this point, Layla might not be able to lift her legs high enough to step over a folded washcloth, and jumping the 16 inches to get onto the couch is an insurmountable challenge.  My wife (or I) will give in and help lift her up onto the couch.  After a few moments of rotation and couch-pawing, she settles into a comfortable position.  Layla emits a content sigh.  Never has a dog been so content.

At this point Rosco realizes he is missing out on something big indeed.  Jealousy overcomes how good that bone tastes.  He rushes over to the couch, jumps up on whatever available spot remains, and looks at my wife, his puppy feelings hurt beyond measure.  His wounded heart is about to get another shock, for at this point Layla covers the distance from her resting position on the couch to the 'Good Bone' - left unattended by Rosco - in approximately two seconds, all signs of basset laziness long gone.  Rosco's face at this point is priceless, unable to believe how he has been duped.

This sort of thing happens all the time.  Treats, belly rubs, chasing cats - all things that can grab a dog's attention for a moment, all are used to remove the current owner of the good bone's attention.

All's fair in love and chew bone competition.

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