Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Dog, a Duck, and Destiny

Once upon a time, Elka had a duck.

It was not a real duck, as this is not Disney, so we won't have a heartwarming story about a cross-species friendship pluckily beating the odds in a grand adventure.  No, it was just a stuffed duck.  And it didn't squeak, but rather had a thinger in its neck (yes, that's the technical term) and an attached plastic bag in its belly that made it "quack" rather convincingly when it was squeezed in a particular way.

Elka, when given a new toy, will take it gently from your hand, as though she can't believe her good fortune, to be receiving such a gift.  She then runs off with it, and sets it down to inspect.  And then she Selects her method of play.  I'm sorry that I didn't get a picture of her holding the duck by its neck, with the toy draping out of each side of her mouth, like a gun dog on the retrieve. It was picturesque, I say.
The Doberman is, of course, not typically used as a gun dog.  But, the Doberman is also a rather versatile breed that can be trained to any number of tasks.  If one were to train out the vigorous, back-breaking shake that Elka does to nearly everything she picks up (and that includes tennis balls, which have no moving parts), then she could retrieve a duck fairly intact.  She can carry a soda can or a piece of paper without damaging it at all.  We have a "game" that we play, in which Elka brings me an item she's picked up.  I started this to manage the inappropriate mouthing that all puppies do; rather than chase her down to see what was in her mouth, I somehow managed to teach her "bring it here", and I disposed of whatever it was appropriately and gave her a treat.  Now, Elka will clean up empty soda cans, stray receipts, your socks, etc., all in the hopes of a just reward.

She would retrive her toy duck fairly well also, if it was thrown.  She would shake it around vigorously, run at it and pounce upon it with her paws, carry it around, any number of things.  However, Elka and I both learned the hard way that even if a stuffed animal is marketed for a dog, it is never going to be sturdy enough to put up with vigorous, scissors-bite abuse.

Once the white stuffing started to fly, it was all over for Mr. Duck, because the game then became "remove the stuffing from the duck".  No other activity would suffice.  She never seemed interested in actually eating said stuffing, but the limp duck corpse grew disconcerting, and I tired of cleaning up fluffy white stuff all of the time, which I wasn't 100% sure was all that pet friendly either.  I've heard some dogs, nay, some Dobermans, do not pull the stuffing out of the burst seams of their plush toys.  Elka is just of a different school of thought.

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