Ruby the Corgi did not seem especially perturbed after the disappearance of Cassie the Queen of the Universe, who went to meet her maker on the 15th. Admittedly, I did not sit on the floor and weep for half an hour, the way I did when we had to dispatch Walt the Greyhound -- but that was quite a shock, since Walt did not appear to be sick despite being filled with cancer. With Cassie, the poor little critter, the time had obviously come.
A day or two passed. Ruby continued to be...well...Ruby: a stuffed animal into which you poured food, who lived underneath the toilet in the back bathroom and most of the time preferred to stay there.
Another couple days passed. And one afternoon I drove into the garage, parked the tank, opened the kitchen door, and...LO! There was Ruby standing there, wagging her butt as though she had a tail!
???? This little ghost never comes to the door. But here she was, just as though she were...a dog.
Now, with every new day her personality has developed.
She never had any interest in balls. One of the neighbor kids apparently threw a small hard rubber ball over the back wall and forgot about it. Now she finds it and examines it. I toss it. She sort of chases it. But it's too hard and heavy for her to get much purchase on it.
So I got her a tennis ball. (Yes, I do know: never leave a tennis ball where a dog can find it and chew on it.)
That bouncy thing opened some kind of a door in her doggy mind. In short order she learned a whole series of "tricks": Git it! and Bring it here! and Can i have it? What doggy joy!
And then, incredibly, within another day she learned Where is it? and Find!
Yes. No joke. I couldn't believe it.
These are commands I taught Anna the German Shepherd in puppyhood. Anna sprang from a line of search & rescue dogs. Her dam had an impressive record of finds, though most of the victims were dead by the time the humans reached them. Originally my idea was that I would take search & rescue training myself, get Anna trained for the job, and voilà! Gainful employment.
Unfortunately, before long I got a full-time teaching job at the local university, which put the eefus on the rescue dog scheme. Probably a good thing: Anna was at the height of her prowess at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, and was still holding forth on September 11, 2001. I doubt I would have had the psychological strength to hold up in those conditions.
At any rate, here suddenly we have a corgi who lives under a toilet...finding a lost object on command. She will respond to where is it by going to the ball and pointing out where it lays. And to find, sometimes she'll do that and sometimes she'll pick it up and bring it to me. Git it! always evokes a retrieval.
I don't know if she can generalize the "find" command to anything other than the ball -- Anna would try to find anything, as long as she knew approximately what we were looking for.
But isn't that interesting? A corgi that could, in theory, be trained for search-&-rescue work.
Oh well. Back on earth, Ruby comes more and more into her own with each passing day. She no longer spends every living breathing moment in the back bathroom. Often she comes out and hangs around with the human. At night, instead of crawling down to the far end of the bed and clinging to the edge of the mattress as though she felt she needed to be ready to jump off at instant notice, she's taken up a position in the middle of the bed. Not chummy enough (yet) to serve as a bed-warmer, but she's getting there.