Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

Apologies to Eugene O'Neill, but the title came to mind immediately.

My dogs have some odd favorite treats. One such delicacy is ice. It started with the younger one, Hoover. One day while using the icemaker component of my fridge to cool a drink, I pulled the glass away too quickly and several ice fragments fell to the floor. In no time, Hoover was at my feet, crunching the pieces until all were consumed.

As an experiment, I repeated this process the next time I filled my glass. Hoover came running and again devoured the fallen treasures. My Pavlovian dog quickly learned to dash to the kitchen every time I used the icemaker. As a matter of course, I always let a generous amount of ice spill and watched in amusement as Hoover methodically went about the cleanup, always selecting the largest pieces to munch on first.

For years, Lincoln remained disinterested in this routine. It was a strange bonding activity between Hoover and me. However, a couple of months ago, the older dog began to show curiosity in what the fuss was all about. As Hoover would spring into action, Lincoln would saunter over, watch the frantic consumption and sniff the icy shards. In time, I presume most likely as a means of asserting his dominance, Lincoln began licking cubes and then eating a few as well. The larger pieces would often stick to Lincoln's beard and he'd struggle to shake them free before trying again to eat them. Hoover would often cower in the background and I would have slide several cubes his way.

Hoover now takes the largest cube he can find and carries it to the living room carpet where he can eat it without feeling threatened by Lincoln's presence. Today I let some ice spill and Hoover did his regular run for the reward. Lincoln was resting on a chair and, as he cannot jump down on his own, began barking frantically as soon as the icemaker made its first crushing sounds. He continued to bark and jump about the seat until I let him down. Lincoln then raced to the treat site, sliding gooney bird-style into the treasure trove.

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