May 28, 2018
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Cats online shopping; dogs calling 911? Pet antics keep owners on their toes

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Julia Bayly
By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — It has been said that 700 monkeys typing for 700 years would ultimately type the works of Shakespeare.

Any pet owner will tell you it never would take that long.

Over the years, readers have become familiar with the antics of my overly spoiled house dog Corky-the-Shusky — my half shetland sheepdog, half husky — and her grail-intensity quest for treats.

I have been told that, as a breed, shelties are predisposed to overeating. Certainly, no husky I have known ever met an object he did not consider edible.

Put the two breeds together into a shusky, and you have one dedicated eating machine. Sort of a furry shop-vac on four legs.

Keeping one step ahead of her foraging abilities is a nonstop job around here.

If my back is going to be turned for any amount of time, I make sure to put high out of reach any and all desirable delicacies such as cat food, bread, chips, cookies, leftovers or freshly made sandwiches. But who would think a dog would find a zip-lock bag filled with a week’s worth of bicycling energy supplements fair game?

After finding evidence that Corky had eaten a quantity of protein powder, energy gels and other items in the bag, I was not sure if my first call should be to the vet or poison control.

A closed door has proven to be no obstacle if it stands between a shusky and her edible target.

Several years ago she learned how to paw the latch on my father’s front door and gain entrance into his apartment.

At the time, he thought it was so cute, he awarded her with a treat.

That “cuteness” wore off the day she opened the door when it was about 30 below outside and he was napping. He awoke to a very cold bedroom and a smiling shusky next to his bed looking for her treat.

Once taught, a shusky can’t be untaught, so from that day forward, my father has been locking his door to prevent further entry by Corky.

My cycling friend Penny had a wonderful dog named Newman, whom she had adopted after he had been rescued from a very abusive situation.

Poor Newman had been starved the first months of his life and never forgot what it felt like to be hungry.

Over the years Penny came home to find rising bread dough taken from the counter, glass pie plates pulled onto the floor and cleaned out around the broken glass, and even home-baked Christmas gifts unwrapped and consumed.

It did not take long for her vet to answer Penny’s calls with, “What’s Newman eaten this time?”

Newman passed away last year, and I can only hope wherever he is, the counters are at his level and piled high with treats.

This fall, Penny adopted a new friend. A.D. is another rescue dog who is showing some rather Newman-like tendencies when it comes to helping himself to food, books, articles of clothing or whatever else happens to be laying around.

This week, he eclipsed his predecessor when he managed to accidently dial 911 on the cordless phone.

Imagine Penny’s surprise when two members of Presque Isle’s finest showed up at her door.

Imagine their surprise when they discovered who actually made the call.

Little doubt pets can display some pretty elevated intelligence.

My friend and colleague Julie Harris has Brittanys who engage — and excel — in all sorts of sanctioned doggy activities such as field trials and flyball tournaments.

One in particular, Sassy, has cultivated a pretty sophisticated routine to get what she wants around the house.

As a pup, according to Harris, Sassy would bring a toy, plunk it down in Harris’ crochet bag and attempt to choose an item in return.

When told “no,” Sassy would go find a toy she apparently considered of higher value and try again.

This “bargaining” would go on, Harris said, until Sassy would show up with her most favorite toy — the Kong.

“She would deposit it in the bag and proceed to choose a skein of yarn or other thing of high value out of the bag [and] pull it out, tail wagging with self satisfaction that a fair trade had been made,” Harris said.

Over the years, Sassy’s system has evolved to the point she now takes items belonging to Harris and attempts to trade them for other items belonging to her owner that Sassy wants.

We may never know what goes on in Sassy’s mind that led her to this level of analytical thinking, or what goes on in any pet’s mind, for that matter.

My friend Loni has several, seemingly normal cats, but show Gandolf a sock and he goes into pure saber-tooth tiger attack mode until the hapless sock is on the ground and vanquished.

Loni also has taught her other cat Vindicator how to play fetch. An amazing feat when one considers the independent and aloof nature of felines.

Speaking of felines, when it comes to accomplishing mischief despite not having opposable thumbs, it’s hard to beat the two cats belonging to my friend Alan.

When Alan goes to work each day, he leaves his computer on “sleep” mode and any touch to a key wakes it up.

Imagine his surprise the day he came home to discover Abby and Velo had not only managed to wake the computer up, they had somehow manipulated the keys so the screen was open to an online automobile parts store and two tires were in the online shopping basket.

It’s just a good thing his credit card was not laying around.

I have little doubt that, left to their own devices and given the appropriate tools, these dogs and cats could bang out some pretty impressive literary works in far less than 700 years.

Just as long as there were treats left in easy reach.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

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