Sam is not exactly full of surprises, unless you count the number of visits with various vet specialists over the past few years. In fact, Sam is fairly simple, she likes to eat (no really, she’s a hound – this borders on crazy like a starving refugee left alone at a buffet – in fact, she’d probably claim starving refugees don’t truly understand the depths of hunger certain beagles have to endure), she’d also like to free range at the litter box if she could (she’s a wee bit gross), she likes to dramatically fling herself on the kitchen floor if cooking or eating is occurring, and she likes to be about a foot away from us at any given time. That’s Sam’s personality in a nutshell – food, trying to get food, litter boxes and flinging herself down dramatically if food is being prepared.
Before we got Sam, I knew I was going to go through a rescue site and I knew she’d likely be a hound of some sort. I did a lot of reading on beagles where I learned the downsides: she might suffer from epilepsy thanks to decades of inbreeding (so far, no signs), she would probably want to chase cats (it turns out that no, they’re horrifying balls of fluff and tiny sharp claws which cause her to cower in fear if they’re too close), and she’d be completely driven by her nose and stomach (all true – as her foster parent told us, if her nose is on, her ears are off – in fact, you can sneak up on her while she’s on a good sniff and bay by walking up and tapping her). There were also the cuter things that I read like that beagles love stuffed animals and they love to play.
The day we got Sam, we ran to PetSmart and bought all sorts of food and toys to keep her beagle brain active and happy – balls, tugs, a Frisbee (just in case) and a stuffed cow that we named “Cow”. I know, it’s incredibly clever. The only toy that wasn’t a complete bomb was a puzzle toy that dispensed food if you rolled it around enough – the rest were a huge epic failure. Sam had no interest in tugs or balls or stuffed animals and if we threw one, we’d get a look that said, “Why would you do that? Now you’re just going to have to go pick that up, you fool.”
The toys became the decorations for the crate top with the idea being that I would find them a good home for someone who had a playful dog (I still have them, come see me and I’ll load you up). And we put Cow in Sam’s crate just in case she had a change of heart, which she did. Cow is brought out whenever anyone is eating and Sam would like to eat, too. She’ll put her head in her crate, haul out Cow and eyeball us while biting Cow’s feet. If she gets a treat, Cow is ignored, if she doesn’t, she’ll try biting Cow a little more and then give up in order to give us the stink eye.
All attempts to play with her and Cow were met with a submissive, “ok, if you want Cow… I mean, I was enjoying Cow, but clearly you want Cow… I’ll go under my blanket now since you’re a mean Cow thief and a bit of a bully. Good for you, way to steal a toy from a creature about 1/8th of your size.” Which leaves you feeling like a bit of jerk and you try to make up for it by patting her under the blanket.
We got Sam when she was 4 years old and I’ve always wondered, since we know she was around a little kid, if she was just told “no” one too many times when she tried to play with her owner’s toys and she understood that all toys were off limits.
Well, a few weeks ago Kendra came over and saw that Sam was chomping Cow, since Sam wanted attention, so Kendra unknowingly got on the ground to play with Sam and Cow. I watched and didn’t warn Kendra that Sam would throw up her paws and wander off to sulk once Kendra had possession of Cow; I just let it play out. And then an extraordinary thing happened – Sam played tug with Kendra over Cow. Sam wagged excitedly and tugged away and was frisky. I called in Jay to watch and we just sat in awe. In four years we’ve never seen Sam actually play with another person. It was surprising, our dog actually knew how to play with a toy. Exciting stuff! We decided that maybe something clicked on in her little beagle brain, so a day or so after Kendra left, we tried. Sam immediately gave the Cow up to Jay and stared at him.
My best guess is that it’s maybe a pack thing. Maybe she sees herself as the Omega pet in this house and Kendra, not part of the house pack, is ok to struggle over toys with, whereas if we are trying to take the toy, well it’s her duty to surrender it. Regardless, it makes me a little sad especially after seeing how much fun she was having with Kendra.
That just leaves me with one plea: KENDRA! Come over and play with our dog, please! Sam needs you!