Friday, January 18, 2008

Trash Hound

I think it's high time we investigate our dog.

You see, Hviezda is a trash hound. She is an inveterate raider of garbage. And we want to know why. Just tonight, as I was heading upstairs to write a magazine article, she passed me on her way downstairs with something in her mouth. She nary gave me a glimpse as she proceeded into the living room, lay down, and began gnawing on whatever it was she had pilfered. It was a tube of toothpaste. Crest Vanilla.

At least she cares about oral hygiene.

But that's not the point. Just a few minutes after we had gotten home from a walk, Hviezda had sauntered upstairs, stuck her snout in the trash can in the bathroom and snatched the toothpaste tube. All while she knew I was downstairs.

Now that is brazen. And it needs to stop.

Trouble is, this behavior has been going on for a while, and we're not sure how to put an end to it. It started a few years ago, if memory serves. Sporadic swoops into the kitchen garbage, usually because a tasty morsel of chicken or some other salivating food had been thrown away. (For the record, we waste almost no food, so we're talking minuscule scraps.) Understandable, we supposed. After all, a chicken tender sure is tempting.

Then the naughtiness escalated. The year I was at Columbia getting my master's degree, my wife would come home nearly every day to find the kitchen garbage can knocked over and its contents strewn about. Orange peels, banana peels, coffee grounds, tuna fish cans ... you get the picture. Pretty messy. Some days, Hviezda would up the ante, ferrying each item of trash into the living room and arranging them in a pile, as if she were creating a work of art. Damn if she didn't seem proud of her work.

So, during these years, we've gotten sort of a bead of Hviezda's favorite trash treats. Here's a sample:

1. Paper towels with turkey bacon grease.
2. Soap boxes
3. Any kind of chocolate
4. Broccoli stubs
5. Green bean tips
6. Any meat product

At least Hviezda's choices of garbage snacks are relatively innocuous. I remember one poor girl whose dog, Jackson, loved to snack on other dogs' poo. This was in Providence, and we'd take our dogs in the winter to a fenced-in softball field, so they could romp around. This girl would let Jackson off the leash, and Vroom! he was off in search of the nearest, freshest pile of droppings. Not a pretty sight. Or smell, I'd imagine.

So, back to our problem. At times, we've thought about setting up a video camera to catch her in the act. But what would that do? Prove something we already know? Showcase her technique? Doesn't make much sense, now does it? Reprimanding, as you might guess, doesn't work either.

There's a school of thought that says dogs are incapable of associating a past act with a present punishment; in other words, you must catch them in the act to have them understand why you're mad at them. I'm not so sure I buy into that. All I know is that often when we come home and see the trash has been emptied, Hviezda is nowhere to be found. Then, minutes later, she'll appear, simultaneously wagging her tail and with her head bowed in remorse. It's apparent she can't decide whether to be overjoyed to see us or she's bracing herself for the scolding she thinks she'll receive.

That all brings me back to the fact that we've run out of options, short of producing no garbage.

Or buy a better dog-proof garbage can.

1 comment:

Leeann said...

You guys clearly need to get a better trash can! You have this tiny rubbermaid, lidless pansy-ass trashcan that is right at her level. I don't blame her at all! Just shell out the bucks for a good quality, heavy lidded trash can, for goodness sake!

But, I like the idea of the video camera, if for no other reason than to see that classic Hviezda smile when she gets a good score!