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When your dog calls the shots

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It's hard to get your work done when Ollie is around.

It hasn’t always been like this. Our adopted spotted coonhound from North Carolina, via the East Greenwich Animal Protection League, has always had an aloof side. He only hears his name when it is attached to an activity that he enjoys.

“Ollie, come” doesn’t work because it is too vague. Add the words “dinner” or “walk” and he takes note, although unless he really believes you – he somehow can identify the ruse to get him to come – he turns away uninterested. As I’ve written in this column, we have an electric “invisible” fence that for the most part has done a good job of keeping him in the yard. That’s a plus. However, when you have a dog that generally disregards your calls, it’s reassuring to know where he is. Hence Ollie is outfitted with a goat bell.

He knows the routine when it’s time to romp in the yard. We’ll ring the bell and unless he’s taking a siesta, which he does more and more frequently, he’ll promptly appear to get outfitted with his electronic collar and the bell.

There are a few other things he responds to. Cardboard tubes from a spent roll of hand wipes or toilet paper have a special place. The longer the tube, the better. I start the game by growling or meowing in the tube. The amplification and distortion of the sound has him racing, usually feet scrambling on the kitchen tiles. He’ll stare at the tube, cocking his head to one side, eyes wide with excitement. I’ll lift the tube and he’ll jump to catch it. A few more growls with his name thrown in and he’s ready. I’ll drop it and he’ll snatch the tube immediately, charging off to the living room. Once there he’ll toss it in the air, chase it around and finally get down to what he really wants – that’s to tear it up into tiny shreds.

The pullie is the other object of adoration. We have so many of the knotted pieces of rope that there’s sure to be one in every room. Ollie has favorites and even though there’s one within reach, he’ll head off in search of the newest one – his Christmas gift – when I excitedly challenge him, “get the pullie!”

What ensues is a tug of war or hide and seek. Once free of his jaws, I’ll make believe I’m throwing it. That has him looking in another direction, and then I’ll quickly slip it under the couch or hide it in my fleece pullover. Ollie will wheel around, bewildered not to see me holding the pullie.

“Find it,” sets his tail to rotating as he conducts a sniff search. And once he’s retrieved the pullie, it’s a celebration of prancing around and shaking it.

Usually, we’re the ones to initiate a game.

That’s why I was surprised when I looked down from the computer screen as Ollie nuzzled my elbow and looked into my eyes. No question he wanted to play.

Nonetheless, I continued with my email. Ollie wasn’t dissuaded. He was back pushing his Christmas toy into my lap. I pretended I didn’t notice. He nuzzled me again, then backed off and sat watching me attentively.

What was I to do?

He gave a challenging growl. I thought that was my role, especially when there’s a cardboard tube. Now he was calling the shots. I suppose I could have clamped my jaws around the pullie. No, I love my dog, but not that much.

I grabbed one end of the pullie and he instantly latched on to the other end. Email can wait. Ollie can’t.

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