54° Good Afternoon
54° Good Afternoon

My Turn: Outsmarted once again by my Labradoodle

Laura Houston Neville with Maggie, the family Labradoodle.

Laura Houston Neville with Maggie, the family Labradoodle. Credit: Michael Neville

I am a firm believer in not making New Year’s resolutions. I know myself very well. My “pushing” days are over. And so, for the year 2017, here is a notion I’m playing around with: to be smarter than the family dog, a “Doodle.”

Maggie is our 9-year-old Labradoodle. Her bronzy-chocolate fur winds and curls and has as much energy as she does.

And she’s too smart for my britches.

You would think that after being hip to Maggie’s keen intelligence and damning sheer stubbornness (she was the alpha female of her litter), I’d be able to outwit her: like playing a commando game, surveying the situations — the landscape of living room and dining room, to figure out just what she could get into — and detonate the minefields before they blow up.


I, the General, am too busy multitasking to take the gloves out of the pockets of her coat that is flung over the dining room chair. I fly off the couch after writing cards, forgetting to check if I have left behind anything for “the enemy” to destroy.

Pens are Maggie’s chew of choice. I must have looked so professional when conferencing with parents, using a pen that’s gnawed and mangled. This teacher’s seen combat!

We have created barriers to keep the Doodle out of areas where we don’t want her to go. A huge pine bench straddles the doorway to our kitchen. Like the wall the Dutch constructed to keep the English out, we have tried to keep Maggie out of the kitchen. But she has learned to outsmart us. She knew she couldn’t push the bench lodged against the cabinets, so she figured out how to move it toward her, slipping around the side, over the wall to launch her attack on the cat’s food.

Maggie has no shame. Even with the General standing right next to her, waiting to escort her out the kitchen door to pee, she will suddenly veer sharp right and bolt through our galley kitchen, into the pantry, then on to the laundry room where the cat’s food is right out in the open — unprotected, vulnerable.

I tear after her shrieking, “NOOOOOO!”

Even with me right upon her, she still ignores me to chow down what’s left of the stinky, fishy goop.

I’m sure that this year, as was the case last year, Maggie will give me more supporting details to delight you with. But alas, how could I, the General, foresee this ghost of Christmas Past?

As I was writing, I think she is chewing on firewood. But I notice shades of red and green. Poor, unsuspecting Christmas wreath! You’ve been stripped of your grenades! Maggie chews on a Christmas pinecone, looking dead and woody, drooling and drippy: another victim to wrestle from the jaws of death.

“Leave it!” I order. Then more slowly, caressingly, “Good, leave ...”

She relinquishes the vanquished pinecone.

When will I learn? I must aspire to anticipate her every move. I must plot and plan, and — this starts to feel like pushing — and I no longer push.

So, Maggie’s won the war. Long live the Doodle.

Laura Houston Neville,



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