When my brother Jason and I were in high school we lived with quite the menagerie: three dogs and a rabbit – oh, and a mom and dad, too. The dogs and rabbit were as different from each other as they could be, yet they all somehow managed to get along. The loudest, biggest and last to join the pack (yes, the rabbit was part of the pack) was April. My brother and I were given permission by our mother to find a dog from the local shelter. She gave us instructions to adopt a “small to medium dog.” Well, we fell in love with this lanky black and white “lab mix.” Less than six months later, April weighed nearly 60 pounds and had another 60 pounds to go. It turned out that she was a Great Dane, Labrador, pit bull mix. So much for a small dog. April was born on April Fool’s day, and she certainly lived up to it.
Our menagerie was mischievous to say the least. Starch, the one-lop-eared rabbit, was always looking for Penny, the beagle-Springer mix. Starch enjoyed searching around the house, going from room to room looking for Penny. While Penny was peacefully sleeping, Starch would risk life and limb by creeping up and nipping Penny on the leg. Then she would hop away as quickly as she could – probably silently laughing as she bounded onto the porch, with Penny chasing her all the way. April enjoyed stalking Starch and taunting her as well. Maggie, the meekest of the bunch, was happy just being my shadow.
As the years went by, everyone settled into their daily routines. Weekends were fairly uneventful, unless April got bored. I remember the day “it” first happened. My brother Jason and I were watching T.V. and we heard a panicked bark coming from my bedroom. We knew it was April, because we could tell by the deep, loud barking, except she sounded more like a puppy. She was whining and she sounded scared.
We rushed back to my room to discover that April had somehow managed to squeeze her 120 pound body between the wall and the backside of my waterbed. She had crawled into the narrow space behind the bed and was now facing the wall, unable to back up or go forward. Because the bed was a water bed, there was no way to physically move it. So we knew that we had to convince April, who was now starting to panic, to “back up!”, but it was not working. She would try to shimmy backward then she would panic and go forward even more. Eventually she made her way to the wall, and then somehow squeezed around the sharp left turn at the “dead end” of the bed frame and was now heading down the side of the bed along the wall. She was utterly and completely stuck, and now she was really freaking out. We had to think of a solution quickly and act fast. She could really injure herself.
We tried her favorite treats, but she was not taking the bait. We tried calling her name excitedly, but it was no use. It just made her more frantic. We tried cheering, ringing the doorbell, getting her best pal Penny to come in, but none of it worked. She was still panicked and still not moving!
Then it hit me! April HATES nail polish remover! We figured what the heck, it’s gonna be awful and she might completely freak out, but we are desperate at this point. So I soaked a cotton ball with the powerful solution and stuck it right in front of that giant, sensitive black nose. That dog moved backward so fast, you would have thought she was on fire! She made it to the sharp left turn then stopped. I shoved it into her face again and she cleared the corner and shimmied backward out of that crawl space as if her life depended on it! April was finally safe! We did it and she freed herself! We were nearly in tears and so relieved that she was unharmed, except for a few traumatized nasal receptors. My family and I were all so glad that was over, but we couldn’t help but wonder how and why that happened; it must have been one of those freak accidents.
Less than a month later we learned how wrong we all were; there were other forces at play.
Yesterday I was reminded of how mischievous animals can be, and how easily we humans can be misled by the animals we share our homes with.
The video below reminded me of our sweet (yet clever), mischievous April. The video describes the scene as this:
“With the summer heat, Darwin sometimes likes to sleep on the cool tiles in the bathroom. Every once in awhile, he gets trapped in there and scratches at the door to ask for help to get out. Feeling bad for the little guy, I usually gave him a cuddle and a treat, until one day, when he got trapped a few times right after getting freed. So I grabbed my camera and this happened…”
Amazing isn’t it? Animals are so clever! I laughed so hard when I saw this video, because it was all too familiar, and I thought about how long Darwin had their humans fooled until she caught him on film!
Ok, back to April’s “Help me I’m stuck!” story. About a month later after freeing her from the doggie crawl space from hell, all was quiet and relaxed at the house, until we hear that same panicked barking coming from my bedroom again. Lo and behold, April was somehow stuck behind the water bed again, but HOW? And WHY? So we tried everything again, and 10 minutes into it, we decide to break out the Eau de poison perfume again. It worked like a charm. April freaked with one whiff of the nail polish and she was out of there. Free at last! Free at last! April Davis was free at last!
Again, my family and I discussed what could be the reason behind this behavior. What was luring her back there? Was there food back there? Was it a mouse? Was it a cool toy or ball that she dropped? What was it that made her get stuck again? She was clearly terrified while being stuck, so whatever it was, it had to really be worth getting herself into that situation.
A few weeks later, it happened again. We could not believe it. So of course we went through the whole fiasco again, with the same “tools” and the same results. Then, less than five minutes after April was rescued, we caught her crawling back in there! We couldn’t believe what we were seeing! She was doing this on purpose!! Why? I will tell you. She loved the attention. It was the best cure for her boredom. We were astonished to learn that she would endanger her safety and security for attention.
We started to put the pieces together. April would start by bringing out any of our stuffed toys from our bedrooms. Then we would stop her. Then she would gallop by with one of mom’s house shoes. We would end that game. Then she would take it up and notch and run by with one of Jason’s prized baseball hats, then one of my favorite shoes. We would redirect her to her “chewy”, and then … she would raise the stakes of mischief and head to crawl space behind the waterbed. We would certainly have to pay attention to her then! She knew how to play us all like a tune. She had us all fooled with her shenanigans. The joke was on us and we fell for it every time.
I eventually built a huge April blockade so she couldn’t do it anymore, but she tried. Oh, she tried. We found other ways to give her appropriate attention that didn’t involve rescues.
April was one of the greatest and most amazing dogs that I have ever known. When she passed on a few years ago, my mother, brother and I were heartbroken. She was an incredibly dynamic member of our family, and a gentle sibling to a cat, two dogs, and a rabbit that all loved her as much as we did. April kept us laughing, smiling and on our toes, even up until she moved on into Spirit.
When I think of animal intelligence, clever animals, devoted dogs, and beloved family members, I think of our sweet April. Thank you for coming into our lives, April. You made life richer and fuller for all of us. We love you and miss you every day. High Paw to you, Big Girl.
Do you live with mischievous animals? Have you ever been fooled by a clever critter?
Please share your stories with us!