Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Last Trick Up My Sleeve (and on the Kitchen Counter)

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.

Even if he does seem to know he's doing a bad thing, it's clear that he hates being thought of as a bad dog. He practically turns himself inside out with shame when we confront him with the stolen goods, and I'm sure he'd avoid going through that embarrassment if he could. Maybe he's a kleptomaniac.

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.


  1. Maybe he does all this because he is such a sweet boy and wants to keep you constantly entertained. Looks like it is working. Good boy, Gimpy.

    1. The easiest thing to do, I suppose, would be to buy more dishtowels. I may have to do that if the can of pennies doesn't work.

  2. Oh, Gimpy is such a sweetie! He shares at least! Sounds like you came up with an easy cure. My dog Zoe has always had to take something outside with her. We have a doggy door. All her toys, and anything we leave where she can get to it are up for grabs in her mind. My daughter learned to not leave bras and panties on the floor or they would be out in the yard. We have all learned to pick up shoes, socks, toys --- you name it. Zoe will never bring anything back inside for some reason. She has even tried to drag a dog bed and a blanket out the door. If she gets things stuck she just leaves them half in and half out.

    1. Now, that's funny!!! Although your daughter probably didn't think so.

  3. Ohhhhh Gimpy!!! That boy is so sweet, I would have to give him the towels!

    I can't remember if I told you about the musician that lived in my building when I first moved here... He played bass in Michael Jackson's band and I befriended him because I often had my patio door open and his dog, a cocker, would come to my door and whine for some of whatever I was cooking. He loved fried okra!

    I adored that dog and became friends with the humans too. It was a running joke at their place because the dog had an initiation ritual with first time visitors. He would run and get a towel. Thinking the dog wanted to play tug, naturally, the visitor would hold on. He would mimic tug for a few minutes but then would latch onto your hands with his paws while he "relieved his male urges" with the towel. Most people were too intimidated to simply drop the towel.

    Returning visitors never picked up the towel!

    1. Hahaha! Great story, Holly. Now I have a better understanding of the term "throwing in the towel."

  4. Velvet...Sister Helen wants you to make her young and skinny with your magic air brush!!!

    1. Betty, Helen is beautiful as she is and does not need touching up. Besides, take a look at the crow's feet and under-eye bags in this selfie. Don't you think I'd have retouched those if I had enough skill?


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