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Life with Dogs and Cats

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Twinkle: the Devilish Dog of My Childhood

The first dog I shared my life with was a beagle poodle mix, back before there were such things as designer mutts. Her fur was mostly black, with single white hairs stippled throughout. Kind of a salt-and-pepper look, though mostly pepper. She had a beagle-shaped body, with wavy not-quite curly poodle fur, and a beard that always dripped when she drank.

The runt of her litter, she seemed to have been born with a pushy attitude; she earned the nickname Diablo because she would nip at her siblings to get her spot at the Mommy Bar. We probably should have kept her nickname, or some devilish derivation thereof. Twinkle, which we came up with due to certain glint in her eyes, turned out to be a bit too small and cute for her personality.

Smart as a whip, Twink knew what she wanted and knew how to get it. She loved people food and surely could not imagine why she didn’t get it more often. As in, Always. So, if we didn’t give her people food, by her Right as Dog of the House, she would just go ahead and help herself.  And there were ever so many ways to get it.

Ya Gotta Hand it to Her  
My mom kept a free-standing pantry in our laundry room, where crackers and cereal and soups and snacks were kept. Twinkle’s nose informed her of its contents, and it was only a matter of time before she figured out how to access the goodies. She was way too short to reach the handles (and there was that minor issue of lacking opposable thumbs), but Twink discovered that if she banged on one door in just the right way, the other door opened. That first victory must have tasted sweet. 

As for me, I was awakened that night by a series of moans.“Oooommmoooonnn. Hhhhhhmmmnnnnnnooooon.” I sat up and saw Twinkle sitting on the floor by my bed. “What’s the matter?” “Hhhhhmmmmmmooaaaaaaaaaannnn.” “All right, show me what you want.” I followed Twink to the kitchen where she sat patiently in front of her water dish. Ok, she’s thirsty, I thought, and filled it up from the sink and went back to bed.

It seemed a little funny that she was so thirsty in the middle of the night, as my mom always kept her water bowl full. But I didn’t really think about it much. However, when the scenario was repeated over the course of several evenings, and we kept finding the laundry room cabinet opened, we didn’t need to call in the detectives to put the clues together. Simple solution: boxes of cookies and biscuits were moved to the upper shelves: Twinkle-height shelves were now filled with cans of soup and other non-edibles.

Not that something so simple would stop Twinkle. Even after that, every once in a while, she would come into my room and moan me awake. “Now what? Show me what you want.” And she’d lead me to the kitchen pantry where her dog bicsuits were and paw at the door. “You want a snack?” She would look at me. I’d give her a Milk Bone, and she’d trot off satisfied. “You woke me up for that?”  Hmmm. Guess who was training who?

I didn’t really mind, though, because I was so pleased that she chose me out of all the members of the family to serve her treats.

Those snacks are for me, right?  
Twink was never one to miss a Snack Opportunity whenever it presented itself. One time, my mom had set out milk and cookies on the table for my brothers and I before we went to bed. Though she called to us to let us know, we all took a little time heading downstairs. And my trusting mom left the kitchen unattended. 

I was the first to arrive. What I saw simply didn't compute. It was so wrong that I couldn't figure out exactly what I was seeing. For a second or two, I simple stared stupidly into the kitchen. Standing on the table was Twinkle with her snout deep in a red plastic cup. At my exclamation, she looked up, startled. Milk dripped from her beard, and cookie crumbs decorated her snout. She growled at me, like I was the one with the issue here. And then, grumbling and snarling, she hopped off the table, onto the chair and to the floor, and slunk off under the dining room table, where I’m sure she spent the next few hours bemoaning my interruption and mulling over ways to try that trick again.

Behind those adorable furry eyebrows was a master planner.

When my older brother turned 13, my grandparents flew in to be there for his Bar Mitzvah. My grandmother had baked a traditional braided Jewish bread, a challah, and lugged it all the way from Michigan in a paper bag. The challah was huge, the size of a 9-month old child; I could just imagine my Grandma cradling in her arms during the trip, protecting it from flight attendants who might have asked her to stow it. 

At one point during the weekend celebrations, someone had moved the bag onto the kitchen floor, not knowing what was in it. Once again, I was the lucky one to catch Twink in the act, seeing only her rear end and tail sticking out of the bag. “Twinkle!” I yelled. She pulled her head out, growled, and stared at me with a crumb-covered muzzle. “Get out of there!” As I grabbed the bag to get it out of dog snout range, my mom walked into the kitchen. I told her what happened and, as we pulled the chewed-up challah out of the bag, we pondered whether we should tell my grandmother or not.  We stared in dismay at dog-head sized cavity that extended about 6 inches into the bread.

And then my grandma walked in. We had no choice but to explain, and I was bracing myself for her to be devasted. Instead: “Hey, the dog should enjoy the challah, too!” (Best rendered in a typical Jewish grandma tone of voice.) We cut off the offensive 6 inches, and served the rest of the bread to the guests.

On our front porch: ruler of her domain.

Having a Ball  
Twinkle wasn’t all about food. She also was a true Ball hound; she loved for one of us to throw a Ball for her when we were outside. She’d eventually chew the rubber ball into pieces, and after a while all we had to throw were Ball Pieces, but she’d chase after them as well. Twink was tireless when it came to Ball Chasing. Her tongue would be hanging out, slung sideways over her teeth, she’d be panting like mad, but she still wanted more. I used to sit on top of our picnic table and lower a bucket attached to a jump rope. “Put the Ball, Twink,” I’d say, and she’d drop the slobbery, shlorby rubber ball in, impatiently wait for me to reel it up and then take off in anticipation of my throw. Twinkle loved playing Ball, and she loved being outside. 

Yes, that's a very young me, holding the remnants of a slimy rubber ball. According to Twinkle, if it was big enough to fit in her mouth, it was still a Ball and therefore qualified for throwing.

When the silly humans decided it was time to go back in the house, Twink would sit on the hill in our backyard and ponder the request. She’d look at me, then look off in the distance where it would be fun to explore other backyards. Back to me. Then to other yards. Me. Other yards. And then she’d just trot off, not in a hurry, but completely ignoring my calls to Come. And forget about chasing after her; that would just start a game of You Can’t Catch Me. Instead, she’d appear at our back door a half hour or so later, waiting to be let inside.

What a Drag  
Twinkle’s favorite indoor game was Tug. Though of course, she put her own spin on it. Basically, she’d hold on to the Tug toy, and someone would pull her around the floor. She’d lay there like a seal, back legs dragging behind her, her eyes smiling underneath her furry eyebrows. There were other toys meant for Tug, particularly fuzzy slippers. To be specific; fuzzy slippers on someone’s feet. My mom or I would put on those fuzzy, furry slippers to keep our feet warm, and the next thing we knew, we’d have a dog attached to one of our feet. I learned to drag Twink along as I walked through the house: Step. Tug. Drag. Step. Tug. Drag.

Playing Twinkle's version of Tug. She holds on, you drag her around the floor.

Tall Tails 
As I was growing up, we added other animals to our menagerie. Twinkle was really my mom’s dog, so I wanted an animal of “my own” and eventually convinced my parents to let me have a guinea pig. Prior to Piggy’s arrival, I could sometimes convince Twinkle to come hang out on my bed with me. Often I’d coax her into my room when my parents were out at night. I’d lead her on to my bed with a few doggy cookies. Twink would follow obediently, hop up on my bed, and munch on the treats. Only a few minutes later, she would “hear” something outside, and bark. “Hark! There is a sound that only I, the Dog, can hear. I must go investigate. Unless you have more cookies?” And off she would go. I never knew dogs could tell fibs, but I swear there never was a noise; she just didn’t want to stay in my room. Unless there were snacks.

Wasn't a Dog Enough?
Once I adopted Piggy, though, Twink wouldn’t even bother to go through the charade. She’d come up on the bed for the cookies and then jump right off. I think she was offended that I had another animal in my room. Of course that wasn’t half as offensive as the white rabbit we adopted not so long afterwards.  Snow was a large, pure white, sweet and friendly bunny that my brother and a friend found in the woods while walking home from school. Long story short, the friend’s family said they couldn't keep it, and we found ourselves with a pet rabbit. Snow lived in a hutch we kept on the front porch, and we brought her inside the house at night to hop around our rec room while we watched TV.

Piggy the guinea pig, Snow the rabbit, and Twinkle the dog hang out on the hill behind our house.

Snow was pretty smart for a bunny. She was potty trained; she went to the bathroom on newspapers placed in a corner of the room. An affectionate creature, she loved to sit on a person’s lap and snuggle, and lick his or her arm. Sometimes she’d get a little nutty, and start tearing around the room making bizarre snizzing noises. A few circuits around the floor and then she’d take a flying leap into someone’s lap.

Except. She never got the concept of look before you leap. Or that a lap required a person in the chair. And every once in awhile, she’d do her snizzy running circles and leap into the air--and land on Twinkle. Twink would jump up and off the chair and slink out of the room, looking back at us as if to say, “Why? Why would you do this? Why would we need such a creature? The indignity of all. Humph.”

 Snow would sit on the chair and blink in confusion. Where was the lap? She never learned.

When Twinkle had enough of rabbits and guinea pigs or sometimes human guests, she had a few hiding places where you could count on finding her. She’d lay behind the couch in the living room, where she could keep an eye on things from underneath it. Or, her most favorite spot was under the dining room table, which had a floor-length tablecloth on it. There, she’d be completely hidden, unless you knew to look for her. Often all you’d see of Twinkle would be a nose and two eyeballs watching everything--from the safety of her lair.  I'm sure she was planning her next move.

Twinkle: looking for her next adventure.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! She was an adorable pup. Twinkle was a smart dog, and she knew how to play the cuteness card very well.