Look at Gimpy's face:
From any angle it's a sweet face. That's because he's so sweet.
He's my go-to dog for hugs and kisses, the most affectionate dog I've ever had. He'll cuddle with anyone who'll sit still long enough, bestow kisses on anyone who'll allow it. He's smart, friendly, funny--a wonderful dog, really. The only problem with Gimpy is, he's a...well, there's no use trying to put a polite name on it...he's a thief. A repeat offender.
He's been stealing things since his first days here. He seems to have a fetish for soft things: towels and washcloths (freshly laundered and folded or, better yet, used), small blankets or throws, and the occasional paper towel or tissue someone has accidentally left where he can find it. His favorites are dishtowels and dishcloths. He can and does (several times a day) snitch them from way back on the kitchen counter, which means he's stretching up and putting his front paws on the counter. His criminal acts are increasing my towel-washing and counter-wiping chores.
It's annoying when I reach for the dishtowel I used half an hour earlier and it isn't there, but I know right where to look for it. Gimpy hides things in the same places all the time. The missing item will be in the den (either on the futon or in his crate), in my bedroom on Levi's bed (go figure), or on the living room rug on the far side of the coffee table. Often I'll find Gimpy right there with the booty, lying on top of it or holding it lovingly between his paws.
I know he knows he's doing something wrong when he steals, because he's sneaky about it. He never ever takes anything in front of us, and the fact that we can't catch him in the act makes it difficult to correct the behavior. It's the stealing we want to stop; nobody cares if he snuggles with things as long as they aren't our things.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I had an idea: a booby-trap. I gathered the supplies...
...then put the pennies in the can and taped over the top:
I wrapped the can of pennies in one end of a dishtowel, then laid it on its side with the rest of the towel just on the edge of the kitchen counter. It must have looked like easy pickings, because it probably wasn't twenty minutes before we heard a crash and Gimpy came bounding into the living room with eyes as big as saucers. We made a fuss, of course, loudly scolding while quietly hoping his brain synapses were firing and making a connection between the noise and the towel.
We immediately set up the booby-trap again, of course, and another couple of days passed (something of a record) before he stole again. When he did, he took a different towel, one with a different pattern and one that was harder for him to reach than the towel with the can in it. (I was actually kind of proud of his thought process and problem-solving skills when he avoided the trap.) This time I wrapped the can of pennies in a third towel, another different pattern, and set it up again. He fell for the trap the next day, bringing the can crashing to the floor and harsh words raining down on his spirit.
Once again I wrapped up the can of pennies, setting it well within his reach in a different place on the counter. That was about a week ago. He hasn't touched it yet, nor has he stolen anything from anywhere else in the house. At this point we're beginning to feel some cautious optimism.
My next challenge is to figure out what kind of cuddly thing I can give Gimpy that he'll like as much as a towel but won't confuse with one. The soft things he presently "owns" don't seem to meet his cuddling needs. Except for Lucy.
Gimpy (right) on the futon in the den with Lucy, a dog bed stolen from
the bedroom, a towel stolen from the dirty clothes, a stuffed-animal carcass
and a tennis ball. Gimpy does the stealing and willingly shares with Lucy.
He's a good dog, really, with a great big heart and a bad habit.