Sunday, November 13, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's...or Wait Until Dark

Remember the commercial slogan, “Puppy Chow for a full year, till he’s full grown”?  I have no idea if they still use that jingle; I don’t watch commercials anymore.  I’ve thought about it many times since Cleo turned one, though.  It strikes me that there is just about as much insight into canine development in the slogan as there is nutrition in the food.  In the nearly two months since her birthday, Cleo has grown a little bit, filled out a very little bit, and matured a lot.  But more than anything, it’s in brain power that we see the most development in her lately.

Cleo is what our sitter calls “a reluctant eater.”  Every morning, John and I have to talk her into eating breakfast.  She eats a variety of the Wellness stew flavors, which she clearly enjoys when she deigns to eat them, with a side dish of Wellness kibble for both breakfast and dinner.  She doesn’t like them mixed; if the stew and the kibble overlap too much, she picks the kibble out, sucks the gravy off of it and dots the kitchen floor with the spitty nuggets.  She reminds me of the protagonist of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the young lad with Asperger’s Syndrome who has a meltdown if any of his food touches any other on his plate.  She does appreciate having dry kibble with her stew, just not in it.  And it has to be on a plate, not in a bowl.  This was our sitter’s discovery.  Cleo doesn’t care for the sensation of her nose tapping the edge of the bowl.

So, stew and kibble for breakfast and dinner, kibble soaked in water for lunch and a late night snack.  I know, I know.  People are going to say we over-feed her, but she is so skinny it scares me sometimes.  I see pictures of show Bedlingtons and they are trim, but they have substance.  They’re solid.  Cleo is just a wisp of a girl.  Our vet tells us she’s fine, but I sometimes think I’m more invested in Cleo’s eating than she is herself.  On weekend mornings, we let her eat whenever she gets around to it, usually 2 or 3 PM.  Today, I decided to do a mini training session with her and gave her a couple of liver treats as we worked.  They seemed to jump-start her appetite, because once I broke her loose, she dashed for her food and gobbled it up.  On mornings when we’re on a deadline because we have to go to work, I use the liver treats to lure her to the food.  It works.  Sometimes.

This week, I’m going to see what happens if I allow her to skip breakfast (the most important meal of the day!) and just have lunch when she’s ready for it.  I’m sure she’ll be perfectly fine, but I don’t know how I’ll handle it.  I already obsessively feel her ribs multiple times a day as if she could lose weight from one hour to the next.

I think some of the lack of weight gain has to do with how athletic she is.  She loves to run, jump, climb, bounce, tackle and dig.  If you’ve never seen a Bedlington run, you would never suspect how fast they are.

But that’s not really what I had planned to write about this week.  There has been another change in Cleo since her first birthday.  She has always been beyond cute.  Right after remarking on how much she looks like a lamb, people usually follow up with a comment along the lines of, “She looks like a little stuffed toy dog.”  Now, though, there’s something else.  Ever since picking her up from the groomer last week, I can’t get over how beautiful she is.  It’s like seeing my little tomboy flower into Audrey Hepburn.  The refined face, the contemplative eyes, the glossy and perfectly tassled ears.  Alright, well, maybe the comparison stops with the ears.

Audrey Hepburn.  Or Cleo.  It's hard to tell.
Yet even that is not really what I meant to write about.  It’s the brain development that has been most noticeable lately.  Students who have dropped in to play with Cleo in the last couple weeks have spontaneously exclaimed, “She is so smart!”  Whether it has been the fact that she can find a hidden toy in the blink of an eye or that she has learned to respond to hand signal commands, they are really impressed with her.  In the last few weeks, John and I have enjoyed watching her cogitate.  We can almost see the wheels turning.  When she is faced with something she doesn’t quite understand, she stands very still and ponders.  Eventually she makes up her mind and either curls up for a nap or takes action. 

One of the most awesome moments happened this week as we were watching Jon Stewart on television.  John and I were sitting on the couch with Cleo happily chewing on her toy next to John.  As part of a bit on the show, a photo of a small white dog came up on the screen next to Jon Stewart’s face.  This was a still photo; there was no sound or movement from the dog at all.  In a flash, Cleo leapt up, tail out, legs stiff, and began barking.  She flung herself off the couch and rushed over to the TV, still barking.  She placed her front paws solidly on the screen and stretched her nose towards the dog photo, sniffing and barking alternately.  We hadn’t even realized she was watching the show!  We paused the image while she backed away, staring at it.  “It’s okay!  It’s fake!” we told her.  She stared at the picture for several more seconds, contemplating deeply, then turned her back on it, trotted to the couch, jumped up and snuggled into John, once again happily gnawing away at her chew toy.

According to psychologists, human babies are unable to recognize that a two-dimensional photograph represents a three-dimensional object until they are two years old or a little older.  Animal behaviorists suggest that it takes a considerable amount of intelligence in animals to gain that recognition.  To John and me, we feel like we’re seeing our puppy's brain develop right in front of our eyes.  And we can’t wait to see what the next days will hold.

Can we go home now?

1 comment:

  1. Love keeping up with Cleo. I have to change food or toppings just as we get tired of same old stuff sometimes I boil chicken breasts dice up and watered down broth pour over kibble that is their favorite. Some times I put noodles in broth. Bottom line they are. Not aggressive eaters Hugs jan