Most mornings, Shawn gets up and makes our coffee and tea. While doing so, he usually feeds the dogs and takes them outside for their morning "constitutional."
Today he had to get the car in for an oil change, which left dog-duty to me. I made sure to ask Shawn what he had and had not done for the dogs before he left, because they lie, trying to get extra breakfasts, every chance they get.
Piper never lets you forget anything for long. Seriously. He won't drink water from his bowl unless it is literally filled to the rim. Since each drink he takes reduces the level of the water to below-rim-level, this means that every time he wants a drink, he scratches the floor by his bowl and barks tunelessly (because he is deaf in his old age) until someone comes and tops him off.
He also scratches at the cabinet door when he wants food and scratches at the real door when he wants to go out. He barks like a maniac as soon as he comes back inside, because he is desperately afraid that we will forget his puppy treat otherwise.
This morning, alone with the dogs, I immediately felt the pressure of Piper The Needy. I hurried to get the bucket of dog food out of the cupboard.
But it was not there.
No. The dog food was not in the cupboard. We have a very specific place where we keep the dog food, which was, at that moment, perfectly empty. It was too early in the morning for me to come up with other ideas about where else the dog food might be.
I called Shawn. He was at the garage with the car, after all, and not at work, so I figured it was excusable to call and ask him for ideas about where to look for a large bucket of dog food between my kitchen and mud-room.
As I waited for Shawn to answer the phone, I heard a thump and realized that I'd left the door to the cupboard ajar. It is a lower cabinet, beneath the little sink in the hallway to the dining-room. I remembered that the box of puppy treats was inside that cupboard, and that the lid is permanently open on that box. I swung around to check whether the dogs were raiding the puppy treat source, but it was there, untouched, next to large plastic bins of flour and rice.
"Did you look on top of the dryer?" Shawn was asking me on the phone, so I looked, and there was the dog food. I thanked him, said good-bye and fed them.
Immediately after eating, Piper began to scratch on the door to go out. Somehow, usually, it is Schubert who is around at outing times, and I have to chase Piper down and wrangle him onto his leash and out the door because (1) he is deaf and cannot hear me call him and (2) he hates going out in the cold. But this morning, Piper was desperate to go out. Schubert was nowhere to be seen.
"Shubert, " I called. "SCHUBERT!!" No response. This was very strange. Schubert is always by my side, raring to go. The only time he doesn't come is if he's gotten himself stuck somewhere and can't. I sighed and began the pilgrimage through the house to search for him. Through the dining room, across the front hall to the living room and there he was, crouched over something on the living room rug.
Oh no, I thought. Did he have an accident? Did he throw up? What is going on?
He hunched his shoulders over the pile that lay on the floor beneath him and looked up at me with woebegone eyes. As I drew closer, I saw that on the floor in front of him lay the plastic bag of charcoal biscuits that I keep to feed the dogs when their stomachs are upset.
He had chewed through the plastic and was starting on biscuits. He had stolen them from the cupboard while I was searching for his food, creeping off with them to the least used room in the house. He was guilty, and he knew it. He was Adam in the garden wearing a fig leaf. He had heard me call, but he had thought, "Never mind me. I'm otherwise occupied. No, really. Don't mind me!"
That bad dog.