When the Thief Gets Old

     I've written before about my Pharaoh hound and the Extortion Game.  From the time he was a puppy, Jet would let himself into the house, steal something then run outside with it.  If we ignored him (you know, to extinguish the unwanted behavior) he would amuse himself by ripping it up.  We taught him to bring the object back in return for a treat--hence, the name of the game. 

     The pastime evolved as Jet got older.  It became less a game of Extortion and more like Post Office.  Since most of the purloined goods in the original game were mail, magazines and newspapers, he began bringing us unwanted pieces of paper in hopes of getting a treat.  I suspect that, in his mind, magazines in a rack or papers in a recycling container had been his hostages all along. This behavior was usually stimulated when I stood at the stove cooking something Jet thought he would like.  I could hear the periodicals plopping down on the floor behind me as I stir-fried and sauteed.  The dog could empty a stuffed magazine rack in 5 minutes.

     Now, at nearly twelve years of age, Jet is somewhat slower and his chestnut coat is covered with patches of white.  By the time he has spent the morning hunting for mice or playing vigorous games of Tug with Sasha, my nine-month-old puppy, he is too tired and impatient for the plotting and mad dashes required for a good game of Extortion.  But the wheels in his head are always turning.  We now play  grandson of Extortion:  When anyone is seated at the dining room table for  a meal, Jet starts fetching paper items from the recyclables.  He bring them to the table as an offering, sitting none-too-patiently with the item at his feet.  When the hostage item is not acknowledged, he will pick it up and attempt to push it into the reluctant recipient's hand.  When that fails, Jet will start flinging pieces of junk mail at the diner.  Before long, glossy ads, post cards and newspapers are flying through the air, landing on the table and occasionally on the diner's plate.

     Jet is not rewarded for throwing paper at us.  Nevertheless, the onslaught continues at nearly every meal.  It is in this stubborn and impatient persistence that Jet betrays his advanced years.  He seems to forget that the trick didn't work the last time he tried it.  He continues it because there is some memory that he was once a master thief and manipulator.  His memories are not unlike mine:  The good times of the past seem so much better than they probably were.

     Or, this is simply a projection of my own perspective as we age together.  The dog's persistence might be motivated by our laughter, which we cannot silence when Jet is being Jet.  We are still his appreciative audience and, in his mind, Jet is still the master thief.