Smart as a pile of what?

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 6:00pm

We’ve all heard the following epithets at one time or another, being hurled at man and beast: “Yeah, that one’s as dumb as a stump.” “That one is dumb as a box of rocks.” “This one is as dumb as a pound of minnows.” “This one is as dense as the Black Forest on a moonless night.” These simple similes can garner a guffaw, chortle and snicker in certain contexts and bring some levity to a moment when we might need a yuk or two.

A few weeks ago, while hanging at the dog park with Maddox the Mad Dog Cairn terrier, I tossed out an epithet to a dog owner as we were yakking about the inner psychology of our respective dogs. I told this guy who had a sharp German shepherd who was tussling with my hell hound, “Yeah, Maddox is a pain in the ass, but he’s friendly and is as smart as a pile of rocks.” The guy looked at me and was baffled by my mixed metaphor, which was stretched to the snapping point; but he finally got it—kind of. I could read the subtext of his puzzled brain; maybe this guy was as dumb as a box of rocks. Just joking, he was a smart guy.

“Uh, did you just say that Maddox is as ‘smart as a pile of rocks?’” he asked.

“Yeah, you know, a cairn is a pile of rocks to use as guiding points, and this little dude was named after a pile of rocks in the Highlands of Scotland. Ya gotta be smart and very tenacious to hunt around piles of rocks without getting jammed up by some critter and hurt while scrambling,” I said, “They’re true hunters.”

After noodling my poignant position, the guy acquiesced and got the point after we discussed the nature of this breed of canine. Scottish terriers are sharp little dogs. We’ve had three and they were a tough little prey driven cast of characters. They were smart dogs. Additionally, West Highland and Skye terriers are also very bright and friendly dogs. (Ask Renate Elwell and Ed McGovern about the nature of terriers if you doubt my veracity.)

However, Maddox, the thick-headed Cairn is sharper than all of our previous terriers put together, along with our cockapoo, Sailor, who albeit a wee bit long in the tooth is no slouch, either. Over the years Sailor has rolled hard with all of our dogs—and his wacky humans—and has earned his sagacity and tenacity. And, Sailor will still throw down with any dogs who try to jack him up; he’s a formidable veteran of his tough terrier siblings who taught him some street smarts. Sailor has earned his bones.

When my wife Cindy found Maddox at the Exeter Animal Center, I liked the little dude right from the rip; he was a lovable dog. A real charmer. Cindy and I were all in with the adoption; however, Sailor was indifferent. He was probably thinking, here we go—again—another dog I’ll need to watch and make sure he doesn’t get too cocky. After about a week with this guy Cindy called it, “Maddox is a smart dog and we really need to watch this guy.” Moreover, Maddox proved in short order to live up to his nickname Mad Dog, and that my wife’s assessment of Maddox was spot on. We found out on the quick, that he’s the kind of dog that if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile or more if he can. You can’t cut this guy any slack whatsoever; he always has an agenda and is a step ahead of you. I can see the wheels turning in his eyes. For an example of this dog’s ‘tude, one day he was clocking my wife’s moves around the kitchen. He knew that she had just gone shopping, and he also knew exactly what went into the refrigerator. And, unbeknownst to my wife and Sailor—who was also clocking Cindy—he had a serious plan which involved speed, dexterity, and precision. As Cindy opened the refrigerator door, and turned her head for about five seconds, Maddox made his move. He leaped into the fridge, and grabbed a complete rotisserie chicken and scooted off with his score. He grabbed a full sized plastic enclosed chicken! Not a small Cornish Game Hen, but a whole chicken. ‘Nuff said about that moment.

Along with Maddox’s quick moves, we found that his prey-driven, oldbrain instincts are front and center of this guy’s terrier nature. Cindy walks the dogs by the ferry docks and the D E M building in Galilee every day.

One summer day, Maddox picked up a full sized quahog—not a cherry stone—near the ferry, and locked on with his teeth which are as formidable as a German shepherd’s. It was a battle of wills and he was not letting the huge bi-valve go. It simply was not an option. Cindy walked back to our place and had to cajole the clam out of his tightly clenched grip with a piece of cheese. It is important to note, that Maddox drove the bargain, not my wife. Things are done on his terms and negotiations are not easy. Maddox is used to being put on house arrest while his humans eat their supper. He is placed in a room where he will wait patiently and devise his next move.

Recently, Maddox needed a trip to the veterinarian to get checked out for something. He was prescribed a med to be taken with his food, which of course he was wise to; he can smell the medicine and he simply went into negotiation mode. Cindy mashed up the fine powder into his food and enticed him with some bacon strips on top. However, he wasn’t buying this paltry enticement. “Well, I’ll just wrap up the medicine in a handful of roast beef, he loves that stuff and will never turn that down,” said my wife. It worked.

Indeed, Maddox the Cairn terrier is as smart as a pile of rocks.