Friday, January 6, 2012


I have the misfortune of living in the same household as a diminutive, diabolical thief. She joined our family about four years ago, an innocent young thing, fresh off the plane from Hungary. She moved in and made herself at home right away. Of course, we cared for her, gave her food, a place to sleep, kept her sheltered from the wicked Houston heat and she flourished. It wasn’t until later that her true colors emerged.

The bandit I’m talking about is not a cat burglar or armed robber; she’s a cute, moderately (well more than moderately) overweight Norwich Terrier named Zoe. And, she doesn’t strive to steal just anything. She is only on the prowl for food, particularly dog treats. Her victims are, primarily) our three other dogs, Bonnie, Coconut and Leo (AKA Dumbo).

From the moment our little Zoe arrived she had a strong hankering for food. Despite our best efforts she grew; primarily sideways, to the robust weight of 19 pounds. The supposed ideal weight for a Norwich Terrier, the smallest of the true terriers, is 12 pounds. We have done our best to limit her eating, but, apart from her robust appetite, she also has a particular attitude towards exercise. Her motto is “No Pain, No Pain”. Her favorite activity, after eating, is curling up on the couch and snoozing. But, back to her light fingers, well jaws in this case.

Our dogs are all fed at the same time each morning, Zoe receiving about half a cup of food. In the evening, the dogs all expect a few treats. However, unlike little Zoe, who devours her few biscuits in a matter of seconds, the other dogs will often carry their stash of goodies around, sometimes “burying” them in one of the dog beds which are strategically positioned around the house. This is when Zoe goes into action. First she makes the rounds of each bed, searching for stray treats. None being found she will next try to sneak up on one of the other dogs, most often Bonnie, our Basset Hound, who is the largest dog, and gets the largest pile. Of course, Bonnie is well aware of Zoe’s tricks, but sometimes Zoe manages to sneak up and snatch a biscuit.

To accomplish her task Zoe will crouch down low and creep towards our unsuspecting Basset. Sometimes one of Bonnie’s treats is a few inches away from the rest. Often, while Bonnie is gathering her stash into her mouth, Zoe manages to slip in, grab a wayward morsel and spirit it away. The worst she has to suffer is a short sharp “Rowf” from Bonnie. And, that short bark will often cause Bonnie to drop her carefully gathered hoard and allow Zoe to grab even another treat.

Sometimes this surreptitious behavior is adequate. But sometimes Zoe is forced to be a bit more imaginative and resort to a diversion. This is where Zoe’s genius shines. A bit of background: at our house, whenever a stranger, particularly a strange dog, walks by, our dogs race out to the driveway and bark at them through the gate. Rather, three of our dogs. Zoe rarely joins the fray. However, she has learned to use such acts to her advantage. Should one of the other dogs have a particular treat that Zoe fancies, and attempts to sneak up and steal it have been unsuccessful, Zoe will head towards the back door and start to bark, thus signaling to the other three that a stranger is afoot. Defending the house trumps treats in canine minds, I guess, because those three dogs will race out to the driveway to investigate, barking and howling, leaving Zoe free to choose, at her leisure, from the treats that have been left behind. Brilliant, truly brilliant.

I’m not sure if sneakiness and dishonesty is an inbred characteristic of all Norwich Terriers, or if it is peculiar to Zoe. I do know that if we find any food missing in our house our first suspect is our short, stocky thief.