Monday, February 6, 2012

Furnace Troubles

Troubles was a dog of completely nondescript appearance. Nothing about his floppy ears, bobbed tail or pudgy body alerted an observer that here was an animal with a remarkable ability to act dumb.
     Yet it was an act. And he was so good at it that even we, his family, fell for it. Well, the adults did. My sister and I knew better all along. For example, the three of us—me, my sister and Troubles—liked to play a game in which my sister and I ran and he tried to catch us by the heels, causing us to trip and skid across the polished wooden floor of our living room. (My mom wasn't as fond of this game as we were.)
     Troubles knew that he had to grab our shoes, not our heels above our shoes, or he'd hurt us.  We learned that he knew this and would yell ouch to get him to let go. And he always did! He was smart, but he wasn't willing to take the chance that he might have a little Achilles tendon in his teeth. When we laughed because we'd fooled him, he'd sulk until we scratched his ears and shared our penny candy with him.
     It was a simple case of revenge that finally tipped off Mom and Dad. He was a housedog—a people house dog, that is. Outside he had a doghouse that he refused to use. If we left him out and it happened to rain, he'd sulk for days. 
     But in our house we had a utility room with a concrete floor. Even if we were gone longer than we intended to be, and he had an accident, he couldn't do any damage.
     He didn't have accidents. He'd wait all day—even 10 or12 hours—to avoid using the papers we so conscientiously put down for him.
     Then one day, when he was a middle-aged dog, he must have had enough. Maybe we'd been gone too often or stayed too long. Whatever it was he was definitely pissed off. (No pun intended.) And in that indestructible room, he found the one thing he could do that would really, REALLY get back at us.
     He peed on the furnace filter.
     We came home to an entire house that reeked of dog urine.
     Of course, my parents thought it was just an unfortunate accident—the first time. After about the third time he did it, even they caught on. And yes, they were upset. Very upset.
     But my father, though not so nondescript as the dog, was no dummy either. And he was determined that no dog was going to outsmart him. Chuckling as he worked, he connected one end of a wire to the metal honeycomb that held the filter and the other end to a battery. "This'll teach even a dumb dog like you a lesson,” he informed the dog.
     Troubles watched intently. And the next time we left home for the day, leaving Troubles in the utility room... Did you guess? Troubles did NOT pee on the furnace filter.
     In fact, he NEVER DID pee on the furnace filter for all the months my dad left it wired to the battery. The day after my frustrated father took his invention apart and we left home—yup, you guessed it. Troubles peed on the furnace filter.
     My dad stood in our highly perfumed house with his hands on his hips and said, very seriously, to the dog, "OK, you win this round. But if you don't cut it out NOW, you're going to find yourself out in the ice and snow next time we have to leave town."
     And Troubles never peed on the furnace filter again.