The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Kelly Kazek

January 8, 2012

Lucy smarter than the average dog

My beagle Lucy loves to hang her head out the car window when I am driving. Whenever we get in the car, she’ll hop in the backseat and stare at the window, tongue lolling, waiting for it to move.

I think Lucy believes the window rolls down because she is mentally commanding it.

As soon as she jumps into the backseat, she is thinking: “Begone, you clear thingy that separates me from the outside world. Begone … now! No? Okay, then …now!”

When I finally push the button that makes the window go down, Lucy wags her wholeself, which means she is very proud of her accomplishment, or that she itches in a place she can’t reach. It can be hard to tell.

As the automated window comes down, Lucy’s nose follows it, magnet-like, until it finally clears the barrier and — happy day! — she can smell the fresh air. Well, usually it’s truck exhaust and the Dumpster at Taco Bell, but Lucy seems to like it.

After finding Lucy as a stray about two years ago, my daughter Shannon and I have learned that she is a very smart dog. She quickly learned to lie down, shake and rollover, although she usually does all three at once no matter which command she’s given. She also knows that when I put on my tennis shoes, she will likely get to go somewhere. She stares up at me with hope-filled eyes until I say, in baby talk: “Woo-cey wanna go for a walk?”

After that, it’s on. She begins to run in circles around the living room, hurdling her cat-siblings and knocking over lamps, until I say, “Bring me your leash.” Lucy brings it, right after I go get it and set it in front of her and repeat, “Bring me your leash,” about 10 times.

She has another habit that has me worried about her intelligence level, though. Whenever she has a bone — if I haven’t bought her a new one in a while, she’ll bring a blackened and limp piece of rawhide from the yard — she places it on the floor and proceeds to roll over it repeatedly. Apparently, this is part of a dog ritual in which they can only chew items that are properly seasoned with eu de dog.

Lucy also has a propensity for finding her “treats” in the kitty litter box, which could not be considered smart.

I was thinking perhaps I should give Lucy one of those doggie IQ tests. You know, the ones in which you place a ball under a blanket and see if your dog is smart enough to find it?

I went online and came across numerous tests. I stopped when I saw the one with these instructions: “1. Use your own dog …”

Let’s give the writer the benefit of a doubt. Perhaps he or she has known people who grabbed random dogs from around town and tested their IQs in hopes of fending off a doggie coup or canine bid for the presidency, which, if you think about it, makes more sense than some of our current choices.

Or perhaps he or she had been fooled in the past by a neighbor’s dog using fake ID.

But I doubt it. Now I can state my initial response, which was: “Say wha…?

I picked a test to try:

Test instructions: No. 1 — Pick a time your dog is sitting about 2 meters away from you.

Me: Find metric conversion chart from fourth grade.

Test: No. 2 — The dog must not have been told to stay or sit.

Me: Find a time when the dog is unlikely to move without being told to stay, say when she’s comatose or standing in drying cement.

Test: No. 3 — Stare intently into your dog’s face. When your dog looks at you, count silently to 3 seconds and then smile broadly.

Me: Stare intently at this instruction until it makes sense or the words begin to run together, whichever comes first, then smile broadly. Your dog will conclude you are the stupid one, which she already suspected when she had no trouble training you to bring her the leash when it was time to go out.

I’m sure she’s thinking: “Hey, you’re the one who picks up dog poop and throws it away.”

I have decided not to test Lucy. Partly because I accept her as she is, but mainly because I recently read a story on the AP wire about a dog in Utah that shot its owner. Seems the man was hunting when the dog stepped on a shotgun. The man had to have 27 pellets of birdshot removed from his hindquarters.

The AP reported: “It wasn’t clear whether the safety on the gun was on at the time,” but authorities did rule the shooting an accident.

Sure it was. Those investigators really need to check that safety for paw prints.

In the meantime, I’m going to take Lucy for a ride in the car and roll down the window so her ears can flap in the icy winter wind and I shiver in the driver’s seat.

Now who’s the stupid one?

Don’t answer that.

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