For all that he was generally a very sweet and gentle dog, Jamie had a wicked sense of humor. I am convinced he did things just to see what kind of reaction he would get. Anyone was fair game for his pranks, from the dog savvy to the canine uninitiated.
One of his favorite things to do was to poke people with his nose. Apparently this was a completely recreational activity, since he did it even when there was no chance of making the poke-ee produce treats. Usually he aimed his pokes at people’s hind ends, although other body parts were fair game if those were unavailable.
Those of you who have been nose-poked by a Belgian have probably experienced the sparkle of delight in their eyes when you whirled around to chastise them. They don’t care that they’re going to get a scolding. They’ve already had their jollies. Jamie would dance backward, tail wagging, with a huge grin on his face. No amount of unrewarding feedback would stop him from doing it again, given the chance.
And there were lots of chances. My friends were used to
receiving a “Christmas goose” at any time of the year. Jamie had a few
favorite targets. The Farmer was one of them. Jamie would lounge around
the house, exhibiting casual disinterest in anything the humans were
doing, until the Farmer got up from the table or out of his recliner.
Then he would slowly rise and with practiced nonchalance, amble along in
the same direction the Farmer was going.
For a 60 pound dog, he
was light on his feet. He could put on a burst of silent speed, goose
the Farmer in the hind end and jump backwards out of retaliation range
in seconds. The result was always the same - a surprised squawk from the
goose-ee, followed by a volley of empty threats and occasional swear
words while Jamie wagged his tail, visibly enjoying the aftermath of his
little game. He found it extremely self-rewarding and he played it for
My friend Rilda, who died last year, was another of his
favorite targets. Rilda was the person everybody’s dogs loved because
she always had treats in her pockets and she shared generously. Jamie,
who was raised by Shelties, never missed the opportunity to score a free
cookie. And he adored Rilda. He really did. Whether she had cookies or
not. But especially if she did.
He poked her to get the cookie
stream started. If he felt she was not producing cookies fast enough, he poked her to speed things up. Verbal scoldings only made
him do it harder. She scolded, he poked, she scolded, he poked faster
and so on. By then, she was usually laughing so hard she couldn’t talk
and his nose-pokes had achieved woodpecker rapidity on her leg. If he
felt nose-poking was not achieving the desired result, he would nibble
at her jeans or sweatshirt. I told her constantly to tell him to knock that off and
quit reinforcing it but she never did. I think she enjoyed it as much as
Jamie was not above poking people he didn’t know. Every
winter, we order fruit from the local FFA chapter. One evening two
neighborhood high school boys delivered our boxes of oranges and
grapefruit. They were in the kitchen, chatting with the Farmer and Jamie
came out to see who was in his house. I assured the boys he was
friendly. They clearly didn’t believe me. He sniffed their shoes. They
backed up against the wall. He sniffed their hands. They put their hands
in their jacket pockets.
“You can pet him,” I said, “he’s not going to bite you.”
stayed where they were, frozen against the wall. I’ve seen these kids
wrangle 1,200 pound steers at the county fair and operate heavy
machinery on their family farms. But they were clearly demoralized by
being sniffed by a dog.
Jamie took it as a personal affront that
they would not acknowledge him. He gently poked their coat pockets.
Nothing. He poked a little harder. Nothing. He tried poking at various
places on their personage. Nothing. He was gearing up for a full-scale
assault when I intervened.
Jamie found people poking so rewarding, he did it to other people at their houses as well.
asked friends to share their memories of Jamie and my friend Liz wrote,
“Jamie stayed at our house a few times and always seemed determined to
poke Fritz (her husband) in the butt. One morning I came downstairs to
the kitchen with Fritz standing facing Jamie telling him to stop poking
him in the ass.
“Jamie stayed with us when Melinda and Michele
went to get Phoenix. That was the great ice storm of 2007. We lost our
electricity so all of the dogs and Fritz and I slept in the living room
in front of the fireplace. Jamie was determined to poke Fritz in the
butt during the night. We would be asleep or nearly so and there Jamie
would go again — poking Fritz’s butt.”
Jamie put his nose to good
use in more productive ways, too. He was the first dog I ever tracked
with and he was a natural. He learned quickly, certified on his first try and passed his
first TD test. Truly, my biggest regret is that I did not go back and
pursue his TDX. He was a delight to track with and worked with
enthusiasm and power.
Next: miscellaneous memories.