Isis caught on tape

The folks at Dropcam asked me to share a story of my dog misbehaving for a Pet Blog Challenge. Although I’ve never used the Dropcam brand, I do have a vivid memory of the first time I caught Isis doing something naughty on a petcam.

Isis, November 2008

Isis, November 2008

Here’s an excerpt from Bark and Lunge:

The first day the camera was up and running, I logged on as soon as I got to the office. There Isis was, lying on the couch, just like I thought she would be, her pointed head resting on the arm of the couch, facing the window.

I really am going to watch her lie still like this for hours, aren’t I? Wait! She just moved her head. I giggled to myself, delighted with the new setup, relieved of my guilt over leaving her home alone. No longer did I have to feel lonely all by myself in the office. Now I could watch her, be with her, anytime I wanted. Eyes glued to the computer screen, I didn’t want to miss it when she stood on the couch and barked at a jogger passing by on the street.

Very quickly, I checked both my work and my personal e-mail accounts and jotted a couple of notes to my mother and Rob, singing the praises of my cool new petcam, before clicking back on the image of my library with its sage green walls and mahogany bookcases. Isis had moved to the other end of my grandmother’s couch and looked more alert. She pressed her nose into the stuffed armrest and pulled out a puff of white fluff. Then another.

Small white feathers hung in the air around her as she moved faster and more enthusiastically, eviscerating the armrest.

Ack, oh my god. I had to make her stop. We still had an actual answering machine, not voicemail, so I dialed the home number. “No! Isis! Hey! Stop!” I croaked through the phone, still staring at her image on my computer, not seeing any sign that she heard my voice over the answering machine speaker in the kitchen.

I grabbed my car keys and got in the car, driving the half-hour home. Of course when I got there, Isis was no longer in the process of devouring the couch. She greeted me at the door.

Hello. You’re back early.

I dragged her by the scruff and pointed at the carnage, screaming myself hoarse with “Bad Dogs.” I put her outside while I cleaned up the feathers and fluff. She had torn a huge swath of upholstery off the armrest. Released from its confines, the stuffing expanded to fill an entire garbage bag. The couch was irreparably damaged.

What was I supposed to do now, crate her again? The crate wasn’t even still in the house; we stashed it in the garage since she wasn’t using it anymore. The library was in an open room with no door, so I had no way to shut her out. What could I do to deter her from resuming her couch meal as soon as I left? I grabbed a sheet from the linen closet, one she’d already torn, and covered the couch.

I opened the sliding glass door and let Isis tiptoe past me with her head low, looking up at me with remorseful eyes. Scolding accomplished: She knew she’d been a bad girl and I felt like shit. I’d never screamed at her like that before, and I had no way to know whether she understood what she’d done wrong or if she’d do it again. I very briefly considered staying home, but wound up getting back in my car and returning to work. Isis didn’t watch me leave from her usual spot by the window and I didn’t see her on the petcam the rest of the day. I must have scared her away from the couch with all the yelling.

She’d been doing so well in the house and I’d walked her that very morning. Why had she just out of nowhere, after all those months, turned on her favorite couch? I obsessed over her motivation until I remembered all the times she pulled the stuffing out of the dog bed in her crate. She chewed up and destroyed every stuffed bed, pillow, and blanket we put in there with her. This was no different. So she wasn’t in a crate anymore; she still was spending her entire day lying in one place waiting for us to return.

We’d never trained her not to chew the bedding in her crate, so we shouldn’t have been surprised she chewed “her bed” outside the crate. Chewing up the couch was a completely predictable thing for a dog to do. I had always pictured her absentmindedly picking at the blankets in her crate out of boredom, but that’s not how she looked on the petcam. She worked at that couch with such intent, like it was her job.

9 a.m. Stare out the window.
9:30 Liberate the contents of my armrest.
… 5 p.m. Joyfully greet Daddy at the door.

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9 thoughts on “Isis caught on tape

  1. I still love all the Issis stories, sincerely, Jeri

  2. Omigoodness. She’s brilliant. You’re exactly right about her doing the same as in the crate. Huh. I think my own dogs are much smarter than I am.

  3. Yes! My dog did exactly this, except I didn’t have a petcam. You’re right, too–I’ll bet she saw it as her job. Cheers and woof, woof.

  4. Yikes! Can’t be fun watching helplessly on video!

    Also, you may get a slew of comments about catching pups in-the-act and not trying to reprimand once behaviour has passed. I do agree with that sentiment, but we’re all learning as dog owners and everyone is capable of making mistakes.

    • Oh yes, I agree as well. This is an excerpt from a memoir that chroncles many mistakes I made in training Isis. That was the first time I can remember even saying the words “Bad dog” to her. And I regretted it.

      Our current dog, Mia, has a nervous habit of chewing on our doors when we’re away (we haven’t really pinpointed the cause, but I blame various electronic devices that beep at unpredictable times in our house). I’ve received some bewildered looks when I say that I haven’t reprimanded or punished her. Honestly, I don’t reprimand or punish my dogs at all. Especially when the cause is anxiety, “punishment” only makes things worse.

  5. Oh no! Nothing worse than helplessly watching your couch being destroyed 😦

    Seems as if you handled it pretty well though-that’s so frustrating!

  6. I suffer badly from separation anxiety but I have never destroyed anything when left alone. Destroying things is a sign of this. Also the dog doesn’t know the difference between destuffing a couch or the dog bed, I did lots of this too. I chewed a whole in mom’s new lap blankie one time, one minute I am chewing my toy the next the blanket. My trainer said something about this because now the blankie smells like the toy, etc. so I want to chew that too. I hope poor Isis isn’t in his crate still! Love Dolly PeeS: Check out my #ThrowbackThursday blog hop and share some more great old stories!

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