By Nancy Carlson • Columnist • 

Dogs do the darndest things

Does your dog have quirks? Because mine do, and I’m wondering if there’s just something quirky about my house or if canine quirkiness is more widespread.

I will define “quirky” as having behaviors that are, well, silly. My dogs may always have had silly behaviors, but when I was still working, I was too frazzled and tired to appreciate them. Now that I am retired (or un-tired, as my husband likes to call it), I find I am able to observe my pooches at my leisure, and this has brought me many smiles.

Take Higgly Piggly, my admittedly neurotic — and overgrown — Havanese. (He weighs 24 pounds when he should weigh 8, and he’s not fat. He’s just huge.) Higgly has a sock fetish. Most of his waking hours, you will find him with a sock in his mouth.

He has pretty specific tastes. He prefers my socks to John’s, and dirty socks to clean, although he’s flexible. If I fail to leave dirty socks laying about, he will go into the clean sock basket and help himself. Having a sock in his mouth seems to make him happy.

You will often see him prancing around the house with a white crew hanging out of either side of his head, tail a-wagging. He especially likes socks in the evening, just as we are getting ready to go to bed. We turn off the TV, then the living room lights and he will run around in desperate search of a sock, invariably find one and begin what we have come to call the “Sock Suck Strut,” prancing around the room as if he has just discovered some new and fabulous dance, trying to tease the other dogs — who are understandably baffled by the whole thing — into joining him.

They, however, just do not get into the moment. It is, after all, just a sock.

All of this is mostly harmless, although Higgly does have a maddening knack for sneaking my socks out to the yard. This is not so bad now that the weather is dry, but during the long, dark, wet winter months, I was forced to check Higgly’s mouth for socks before I could let him outside. And despite this precaution, I would still find them out in the mud. How he managed this will always be one of life’s small mysteries.

And then there’s Snuffleupagus, my basset. I adore him and I know he adores me, but, my goodness, he drives me crazy with his quirkiness. He, like Higgly Piggly, loves to have something in his mouth, but he is not nearly as predictable.

Of course, food is a given. Snuffles is a basset. Bassets live for four things: love, comfort, mischief and food, and if food is available, the other three automatically assume a lower priority. If it’s edible in my house, Snuffleupagus will eat it if given the chance; no inner voice, rules or pangs of guilt will stop him.

Therefore, all food must be appropriately basset-barricaded. Cabinet doors must be kept shut, some of them reinforced with bungee cords. No food is ever left on the table or within 12 inches of the edge of a counter. And the kitchen must at all times be kept off limits by a baby gate.

But again, this incessant, indefatigable hunt for food may be extreme, but it’s not quirky — at least, not for a basset. Here’s the quirky part: I have, in the past two years since we brought Snuffles home, discovered the following objects between his drooling, pendulous lips: any number of rolls of toilet paper and boxes of tissues; a new but empty box of sandwich bags (the 150 bags — it was a bonus size box — were spread all over my backyard); three pairs of sunglasses, happily the cheap kind; an assortment of magazines; my husband’s cell phone (that was a sad day); a lacrosse ball; several combs and baseball caps; and the telephone book.

I have read that some scientists believe all those endearing behaviors exhibited by domesticated dogs are, in fact, just survival skills that have enabled them to adapt to life with humans. The sweet, affectionate behaviors we love are, indeed, all manipulations so that we’ll continue to feed, shelter and protect them.

Well, all right. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but let’s, for the sake of argument, say it’s true. Then I ask you, how on earth does the happy stealing and shredding of things like toilet paper contribute to the survival of the species? It doesn’t. In fact, in the case of my husband’s iPhone, a behavior seriously endangered the survival of at least one basset member of the species. So what’s up with all the mischief?

Dogs are our eternal children. They grow old, but they never grow up. Each new day carries no burden of memories from the past, no fear of the future. And the way their practice of living in the moment plays out is to me often a source of laughter, occasionally a cause for frustration, but never, ever dull.

The question I asked at the start of this column, “Is your dog quirky?” is a facetious one. Of course he is. We all love to share stories of the crazy antics of these creatures who share in our lives. So write to me about your pup’s quirks. I’d love to know I’m not alone.

Nancy Carlson can be reached at

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