Inside a fuzzy head

Most of the time, I’m relatively grateful my dog Jeffrey can’t talk. If he could, I know I’d be treated to an endless stream of conversation involving snacks, requests to go in or out, questions along the lines of “what was that?” and descriptions of what he thinks he just saw.

But every now and then I would like to know what he is thinking about, especially around holidays or when something different from our normal routine comes up. I often notice him sitting off to one side staring at something, usually after being banished because he was underfoot, and the curiosity in his eyes is plain to see.

I know Halloween must be baffling. Kids show up dressed funny, smelling of excitement and candy, giggling with glee. Jeffrey is pretty self-involved, so he generally assumes everyone who sets foot on our property has come to see him. He gets very confused when we tell him to back away from the door, then hand out some candy and let the kids leave without having them scratch his head and rub his belly. What was then point of them visiting, after all?

The other day I caught him sitting in front of the Christmas tree staring at it with serious concentration. He wasn’t particularly interested when Matt constructed and decorated it this year, other than to give the contents of the box and bags a couple of good sniffs. But days later, something caught Jeffrey’s attention. I’m not sure what it was.

One year, he was fascinated by the tree topper, which was a Santa swinging a little red lamp. The noise it made, though relatively quiet to our ears, intrigued him. He would stare at it when he was bored.

But this year I didn’t put Santa up there. Or the angel I sometimes use. I’m not sure why, but I tossed a plastic toy fireman’s hat on top of tree. It’s actually pretty cute.

So when I caught Jeff staring, I softly called his name. He glanced my way, then turned his attention back to the tree. He took a step forward, then sat down again. He did the same thing several times, looking at me to see if I would object. Since I was wondering what he was up to, I just sat down to watch.

He touched his nose to a shiny red ball, causing it to swing a bit, then sat back again. That in itself is funny, because he is a very big dog and sometimes loses track of where the end of his nose is. He sniffed the gold and red garland, causing a few tinkly noises as some decorations clanked together. Then he touched his big nose to a few branches.

Jeffrey then moved on to sniffing some of the presents under the tree, paying special attention to a group of presents set away from the others that are for him and my daughter’s cats. They must have an animal-treat smell to them, which is why I left them sitting a ways away from the others. If he did get into them, I didn’t want collateral damage to other presents. (I learned this from a previous experience when we had a black lab – Dale opened several presents that day.) But Jeffrey was content to give everything a good sniffing and leave it at that.

He even took the time to wander a few steps away and sniff a couple of presents sitting on a nearby chest. He sat and looked at the tree for a few more minutes, then, curiosity apparently satisfied, wandered over to his favorite daytime nap spot by the sliding glass doors and settled down for a snooze. The careful scrutiny of tree had taken about 20 minutes.

I really want to know what his thoughts on the whole thing are. Does he remember last year’s tree? Is he wondering why I didn’t put Santa on top this year? Is he hoping for a new squeaky toy?

Like I said, I’m usually glad he can’t follow me around all day asking for bacon, commenting on squirrel action and requesting that I play tug-of-war with a rope bone, but every now and then I would love to know what’s going on inside that big, fuzzy head.

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