This just in: DOGS FEEL NO SHAME. At least that’s what animal experts are now revealing in a recently published study. According to the findings by these animal behaviorists, the guilty look they give us (head cowered, ears back, sad eyes drooping with embarrassment) is not an accurate reflection of what our dogs are really feeling. Instead, it’s all nothing more than a play on our emotions; a reaction to our reaction.
I sat back grinning. “All these years … to think I’ve been duped all along by such a hoax:, I thought. But as I recalled the day Buddy played me like a violin, I wondered if maybe these animal experts were onto something.
It was that day I forgot to take out the trash. We’ve all done it. Remembering that giant plastic bag resting by the door as a reminder was a sinking feeling. As I drove home that afternoon, I gradually increased my speed as I remembered some of the contents in that bag. I asked myself the difficult question, “What else would you expect a dog to do?”
There I stood, peering through at the destruction from the other side of the door.
“I’m sorry. I know not what I do” said his stare back at me. Even more anger welled up inside me as I realized I left my key at work. I was locked out of my own home, staring through the glass that afternoon at a kitchen that took a direct hit by an F-5 tornado. Weeks of trash was strewn everywhere. I don’t believe a single inch of floor space was visible. There Buddy lay amongst it all, exhausted, and in pure dog bliss. Upon first noticing my tantrum on the other side of the door, he looked up, delighted to have me home as indicated by the tip of his tail tapping a few loose egg shells. He was surrounded by coffee grinds, Q-Tips, XX and XX. His most prized possession was closest to him; the turkey carcass from last weekend.
Buddy quickly gathered that I wasn’t as happy seeing him as he was me. Instead of shouting “Come over here an open the door this minute”, I opted for the slightly less foolish response, “When I get in there, you’ve had it! … BAD BOY ! “, I shouted at the top of my lungs. The truth was, however, I didn’t know if I was more upset over the fact that I was locked out of my own home or what Buddy did to it. As he stopped wagging his tale, his eyes slowly retreated to their half-open relaxed state. Tired from his fill, he returned his head to his resting spot on the floor and fell back asleep. I stood there helplessly observing it all before me in complete disbelief..
“After all these years, how could he?” I asked myself. I was beyond frustrated. By now, Buddy knew the difference between right and wrong. He knew at some point I’d be home today to see this, but obviously didn’t care.
I soon gave up searching for my spare key and refocused my energy for an unlocked window. Still unsuccessful, I returned to my original position looking in from the other side of the door. I imagine what I must have looked like to Buddy; a red-faced mouth blabbering fool, unprepared and without control over his environment. I finally sat down, conceding defeat. With nothing but time on my hands, my temper gradually subsided. There I sat, reclined in the front seat of my truck pondering how I would deal with Buddy once inside my home. There would be a proper scolding, complete with a raised voice. I would shout that question I’ve asked him so many years, “What is this?, while holding spent coffee filters and an empty milk carton. He’ll then cower, hanging his head with embarrassment and shame for what he has done. After all, he’ll thoroughly realize the mess he has created and the time I will invest cleaning it all up. His punishment will be spending the rest of the evening on his bed without any recognition of his mere existence. How dare he only look up at me without care for what he has done? How could he commit such a selfish act without any consideration for me whatsoever? Especially after how hard I have worked all day. And then, to come home to this? What a disgrace he will think he is.
But my thought process gradually mellowed like the setting sun that afternoon. I remembered that these so-called “dog experts” preach that dogs can learn from bad behavior, but rewards or punishment are only most effective right after the wrongdoing itself. Considering how many hours have passed, any reprimanding now would be obsolete at best. Clearly I have lost my opportunity. Besides, who am I kidding to think it would make a difference in Buddy’s later years anyway?
I was almost finished mowing the lawn that afternoon, when I remembered that other spare key under the seat of my truck. But by then I had come to terms with it all.
Buddy hung his head extra low when he noticed me putting the key in the door. But to his surprise, I greeted him with praise and open arms. I sat with him in the garbage as he licked my face wagging his tale. How happy he was to have me home. “Good Boy” I said proudly, knowing someday I would come only wishing he was there to leave me such a mess.