Ask a Terrier: Paper Training
Are you kidding me? What is it with you dogs and paper? I leave my Labrador Retrievers Vex (nose above) and River (nose below) for an hour and come home to a Superbowl celebration. Yet I know that their favorite team isn’t even in contention.
I think that we’d all agree that Labrador Retrievers are the most intelligent Canines, are incapable of doing wrong, and deeply respect the personal space of others provided those spaces are tennis ball free. But to Vex and River, paper products like napkins, tissues, toilet paper – especially toilet paper! – are catnip. Or the doggie equivalent of a controlled substance.
How can I regulate my pups’ cravings for paper short of going 100-percent digital, which ain’t gonna help in the bathroom.
Please call. Don’t write a letter! Alex and Jess, Chicago
Dear Alex and Jess,
Let’s first address that elephant in the room, which in this case is a Labrador Retriever. I’ve known many Labradors, frolicked with them, even sat with some on the boards of large nonprofit corporations. Some are good dogs, some Very Good Dogs. But intelligent? On a scale of one to ten, with me at the top, I’d give them a “Meh!” plus.
I say this, Alex and Jess, to put paper shredding into perspective. All Canines do it, from the clever Border Collie down to that small tan-and-white hairless breed. You know, the drooly ones with the big paws? Oh, what are they called? Very yappy?
My point is that Giants needn’t understand Canines. They need to understand paper.
Research by my talented and unpaid intern Per Se revealed valuable intelligence, although still not as intelligent as me and Border Collies. Canines and paper have long held an adversarial relationship, dwarfing such famous feuds as Hamilton vs Burr, Ali vs Frazier, and Senate Republicans vs everyone else.
Long before the creation of paper, the ancient Egyptians wrote on parchment made from untanned animal hides. This led to the hasty exodus of dogs out of Egypt miles ahead of the ancient Israelites.
Paper was invented 2,000 years ago – or 14,000 in dog years – in China, which coincidentally is the origin country of those small tan-and-white hairless, drooly, big-pawed, yappy dogs whose breed is… Oh, it’s right on the tip of my tongue! So frustrating!
Made from a pulpy mix of mulberry tree bark, hemp, and rags, paper was used widely as wrapping, padding, ornaments, even paper money. But it took Canine ingenuity to demonstrate how great paper was to pee on.
The Chinese held papermaking a closely guarded secret, But the techniques spread to other lands as merchants traveled along the network of trade routes known as the Silk Road. Shrewd Canines trotted beside them, although the Silk Road’s slippery surface was a challenge for their paws. Especially those big-pawed, drooly yappers.
The Japanese are credited with transforming paper into high art through a technique of creasing, folding, and tearing called Origami, (literal translation, “That looks nothing like a crane!”) Attempts to withhold the secret of paper from westerners failed, probably because it was held in a woefully insecure creased, folded, and torn origami vault. Soon all of Europe was failing to fold a proper crane.
For many centuries shredding paper was a pleasure reserved for wealthy and elite Canines. And even then, that paper had to be wrapped around bacon. This changed dramatically with the coming of the Industrial Age. Paper became plentiful thanks to the advent of powered machines like the steam-driven toilet paper dispenser. Now shredding paper was within the grasp of the jaws of the Common Dog.
History is replete with profound Canine/Paper encounters, as documented in Ken Burns’ upcoming PBS documentary, “Spit that out! Bad Dog! Drop it! Drop!” Among revelations:
• An early draft of the U.S. Constitution shredded by Thomas Jefferson’s dog, Monroe Doctrine, included two amendments specifically about surrendering to extraterrestrials.
• Michelangelo’s elaborate design blueprints for the floor of the Sistine Chappel, lost to piddle by his dog, Blue.
• Missing sheet music of the Beatles’ “Revolution 1 through 8,” mangled by George Harrison’s spaniel, I Buried Paul.
• Recovered from the dog bed of Fala, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s terrier, the original wording from Roosevelt’s inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Oh, and the Great Depression, Prohibition, unemployment, the New Deal, the Old Deal, and surrendering to extraterrestrials.”
So Alex and Jess, to avoid future confetti storms, synthesize the above, discuss with Vex and River, then write down a plan. But not on paper.
Or maybe just secure the lid on your recycle bin.