I love watching my dogs problem solve. Just like people seem to have multiple intelligences or a range of cognitive abilities that allow them to interpret the world, I believe dogs do as well. When my first pug, Buffy, was alive she was the consummate holiday dog, able to open Christmas presents and plastic Easter eggs with equal ease. Buffy was a smart girl, but she was smart in a different way than Vader. Once I watched the two trying to figure out how to open a door, well kind of. The door to the cellar had been left open so that the two pugs were blocked behind it in the little entryway between the kitchen and the back door. Finding their way blocked, the two pugs seemed to go to work trying to figure out a solution. Within a few minutes, Vader’s paw appeared around the corner of the door as he gently moved it, shutting it so that he and Buffy could pass. I became so excited over his feat that I exclaimed loudly, calling everyone over to witness it again. I reopened the door, placing the pugs behind it and once again saw Vader’s paw creep around the corner and gently shut the door. “Well done, Little Man!” I cried.
Buffy was one of those dogs, who didn’t like to think of herself as such. And, she certainly didn’t like Vader getting all the praise. When I trapped them in again for a third time for an encore showing of Vader’s prowess, this time I got a surprise. Instead of the few minute delay with Vader’s paw slowly appearing, there was an immediate response. Buffy bonked the door with her head, opening just as surely as Vader although with a little less finesses. I had to laugh. Leave it to Buffy to figure out the easy way of getting a job done.
I thought about this moment today when I led Alfie and Waffles on our annual Easter egg hunt. This was Waffles’ first Easter with us here and Alfie has never really caught on to the sport the way Buffy did, so I decided to make it easy on them by spreading the eggs out in the open on the floor. Buffy used to be able to find the eggs wherever they were hidden and get to the puppy snacks inside by holding the slippery, plastic eggs still with one paw and crunching down hard on it with the other so they would pop open, revealing the tasty morsel inside. These two instead chased the eggs around like slick hockey pucks on ice. Waffles tried to “catch” the egg and pick it up in her mouth, but this proved impossible, so it would slide across the floor with her in tow, her nails making scampering sounds across the wood. Alfie watched Waffles for a while until Waffles scored cracking one of the eggs open with a move similar to the one Buffy had always employed. Alfie, witnessing this, then went for the nearest egg. No chasing for her, instead she pounced on the egg, cracking it open from sheer body weight. It was not as graceful a feat as Waffles’ but like Buffy with the cellar door, it got the job done.
Which pug was more intelligent, Buffy or Vader, Waffles or Alfie? I think anyone would be hard-pressed to say. In the end, they each accomplished what they needed and won my admiration and praise.