PD is a bright dog.
Before we even adopted PD, we wondered how our new puppy was going to let us know he needed to go outside. Well, PD picked up on house training really quickly. And he picked up on training Wife and I to understand him really quickly, too.
PD would go to the door and bang on it with his paw. He used this technique to go outside. And he used it to be let into any room in the house. Obviously just pushing on a partly open door that swings away from him is a cinch. But, what about those doors that have to be pulled back toward you to open?
PD learned that if the door was not completely shut, his pawing on the door will open the door without our help. He has two techniques for this. One is to paw the outside of the door to make it close and bounce back open. The other technique is to insert his paw or nose into the opening between the door and the door jamb, and pull the door open. He’s little, so it doesn’t take much of an opening for him to get through the door. Sometimes, PD will use a combination of these techniques. First pushing a door to get it to bounce out a little, and then using his nose to pull it open far enough for him to enter.
If PD can’t open the door on his own (he’s too short to reach the doorknob), then he will recruit someone to help him. If someone is in the room, he makes eye contact. If eye contact isn’t enough, or if there is no one else in the room with him, PD will bark until someone comes to check on him. Then, he’ll paw at the door so that we understand.
These behaviors led me to believe he was smart and a good communicator. But at the same time, they were ego-centric, self-serving behaviors. One incident, however, really made me believe in his brilliance and maybe even that he understands what someone else wants and is willing to accommodate them.
One spring day, I had some work to do around our old house. I had to climb up to the second story to do a bit of work on a window. This window faced the back of the house. There was a very narrow ledge for me to stand on beneath the window.
I put the ladder against the ledge, but did not extend the ladder very far past the ledge. I climbed the ladder got off onto the ledge and did my repair.
When I turned around to get down, the ledge suddenly shrunk. It was much smaller than when I had climbed up. And the ladder was too short. I didn’t have room to lean over to grasp the ladder. It was a lightweight aluminum ladder. And the ground was uneven. And the wind had come up, threatening to blow me and the ladder to the ground.
I simply did not think that I could get down the ladder by myself. I needed someone at the other end to hold the ladder for me.
I looked into the backyard. Henry was laying under a tree chewing on a stick. PD was sniffing around the back yard to see what critters had been visiting.
I called for Wife. No answer. I called again, a bit louder. No response. I may have called a few more times. And my voice got louder, with a bit of panic in it. Wife was deep in the house and could not hear me.
I thought. I knew it was crazy. All those Lassie movies? No dog really would go running off to find a family member if you fell in the well. Would they? Well, nothing else was working.
So, I called out “PD! Henry!” PD looked over and ran toward the ladder. Henry continued to be involved with his stick. PD looked up at me, with his head cocked to one side, and his ears pricked forward.
“Go get momma!” I said, in desperation. “Go get mamma!” I repeated. PD ran over to the back door and ….
… he barked! PD started barking and barking. Wife could not hear my voice when she was in the house. But she DID hear PD’s bark. Wife came to the back door to see what PD was barking at.
Finally! Wife was at the door and she was close enough to hear me. I called down to her and asked her to help me get down, which she did.
Brilliant, Brilliant dog!!!
Oh, and Henry? Henry was still chewing on his stick.