Riggy had a rough weekend. A longstanding problem with his eyes — for which he was undergoing veterinary treatment — declined suddenly. He was fine Friday night; by Monday morning, he couldn’t see anything at all.
Don’t feel sorry for Riggy. He felt sorry for himself for about an hour Monday. Then he got tired of pouting and claimed his birthright as a rat terrier.
Ratties may be the smartest little dogs on this earth. The average rat terrier can and will perform a cost-benefit analysis on every request you make of him. He will comply if and only if he is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. Ratties are also creative thinkers. Scout once improved her running technique by watching our late greyhound run, and she routinely used her paw to extract sticky treats from jars if she couldn’t reach them with her tongue.
Riggy hadn’t demonstrated quite that level of proficiency up to this point, but then, he hadn’t needed it, either.
He needed it Monday.
He looked pretty depressed when we got home from the vet’s office, so I bought him a McDonald’s sausage biscuit, which perked him up considerably. (I didn’t hand him the whole thing; instead, I tore off pieces and made him earn them by finding them with his nose.) By Monday evening, he’d learned to follow our voices all over the house; figured out how to get on and off the deck by himself; used the tips of his ears as feelers to avoid bumping into things; and begun plotting a new cat harassment strategy that did not depend on actually seeing Walter.
Ratties are irrepressible little problem-solvers. It’s their most endearing trait. They may encounter setbacks, but those setbacks are always temporary; if they can’t remove an obstacle, they will simply run around it, climb over it, or knock it down on their way to whatever they want.
Having a rat terrier in the house keeps me honest. Whenever I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I look at the little dog bouncing around my living room like a pinball, and I remember that problems are best handled with intelligence and creativity. After all, you can’t hassle the cat while you’re pouting in your crate — and everybody knows hassling the cat is way more fun than pouting.