Meet Happy the Dog: my family’s 13-year-old golden retriever who is, bar none, the smartest and craftiest dog I’ve ever known. Golden retrievers are known as family friendly dogs: docile, sweet, and good-natured. Happy is all of those things during the day; but at night, he is a dog possessed.
When it’s daylight, we pet Happy and chat with him. He frolics gently at our feet, (or engages in my favorite trick: he’ll quietly sidle up beside you, when you’re reading, typing, or just sitting there, and he’ll use his nose to lift up your hand and then quickly wedge his body underneath your hand and arm, so that you have no choice but to pet him). He’ll walk around the house and then flop down–adorably–when he’s had enough of walking. Five minutes before dinner, he’ll go and lay prostrate underneath the kitchen table, waiting for us to soon congregate around him. If we’re all in the kitchen cooking, Happy makes a point of laying down on the floor–smack dab in the middle of everything–so that everybody has to walk over or around him to accomplish anything.
Like most dogs, he spends much of the day sleeping (on the floor if we’re at home, on the couch if we’re away–which my parents have forbidden, but which he does nevertheless when they’re not around). But beneath the pleasant exterior of a contented, sleeping dog, there lurks a scheming, conniving, and devious mind. Happy, you see, is a monstrously hungry dog. And while he’ll do his best to snag people food from family members during the day, the bulk of his appetite rears its head at night.*
We don’t make it easy for him, which, perhaps, is how he’s developed such cunning wiles. Or maybe he was born with it; who’s to know? Regardless, each night, before bed, my family takes ten minute to Happy-proof the kitchen. Every door, drawer, and cabinet must be closed. Rubber bands and rulers are placed on the knobs and intricately twisted to secure them in place. Last of all, chairs are placed in front of every drawer and cabinet.
More nights than not, Happy outwits us all. In the past two years (and this is just a sampling), Happy (impervious to chocolate) has devoured such items as an entire ten pound bag of flour (we awoke to find a sticky, glue-like paste on the carpet where Happy had licked the flour into submission); a whole five pound bag of jelly beans (which left him heaving miserably the next two days); a giant box of Ghiradelli’s brownie mix; whole blueberry pies; whole loaves of bread (he particularly loves bread); one of those big Domino sugar bags; a 15 pound dish of pork bbq (cooked to perfection and down the hatch, probably, in under three minutes); countless bags of hot chocolate powder; leftover Halloween candy (several years in a row); Santa’s cookies; and a giant macaroni and cheese dish (before anybody else even got to try it). But don’t sell Happy short; he also eats his fruits and vegetables: some mornings we’ll come down to discover corn-on-the-cob remains (as evidenced in the above picture), apple cores, peach pits, and banana skins (one night, he took one bite–no more, no less–out of every single pear in a large bag of pears; another night, we found tooth marks in a whole pineapple. We ate the pineapple anyway). Hopefully, you’re getting the picture.
At this point, it’s fair to point out that the individuals in my family are fairly intelligent. But so is Happy. Because for every new guard, lock, or blocking device they create, Happy somehow figures it out. Sometimes it takes a night, sometimes it takes several months. Only one thing is constant: Happy always wins, and he’s only getting smarter, and hungrier, as he ages.
There’s no telling what he’ll do next. Two nights ago my siblings swear Happy made three peach cobblers, ate two, and left one for us to enjoy. (The cobber was delicious.) I wouldn’t put it past him. Happy (who, by the way, speaks though my brother and sister) has informed us that he’s contemplating a dish of ham, potatoes, and green beans next. He’s researching recipes.