Jackson, Tinkerbell & Their Obsession with Rice
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Jackson and Tinkerbell love to see who is the door. Is it a human friend who will come in and love up on them? Is it the nice UPS or FedEx people coming to bring them their Canine Caviar or treats? Is it a service person here to fix something who will say, “Oh, that’s ok, I love dogs, you can leave them out of their crates” so that they can sniff them all over and get ear rubs and then watch their every move while they work on the furnace or security system or whatever they’re here to fix? Or is it their ultimate favorite person…the person who delivers the food from our local Chinese restaurant?
We used to tell the person taking our order to not even worry about the white rice, that we didn’t eat it so why waste it. Then one time we forgot to tell them, and so we had a small container of plain white rice untouched after dinner. Of course white rice is the go-to food item for dogs with an upset stomach, so it is on the carefully crafted list of human foods that my dogs are allowed to have. Although neither of them were sick, I decided to give it to them just as a special treat, and they gobbled it up happily.
The next time we ordered we let them bring the white rice so that we could give it to the dogs. As we ate, Jackson and Tinkerbell snoozed close by, completely unaware that the delivery contained something just for them. When I got up, took care of our dishes and leftovers and picked up their bowls to divvy up the rice, they raced into the kitchen like children checking out the tree on Christmas morning.
As we went about our life we started to realize that the dogs were becoming very animated whenever we ordered Chinese food. They got so few things from our human dinners that they are not particularly bad beggars, so we laughed and pondered, “how on earth do they know that there is rice for them??” Pizza delivery did nothing for them, Jimmy Johns delivery did nothing for them, the Mexican restaurant delivery did nothing for them, just when we ordered Chinese food. And by the way, yes, sometimes we get busy or the kids go on vacation with their mother and we eat like college students for a bit, don’t judge.
I started to realize that it was their magnificent sense of smell that let them know that their rice was here. Over the years they have started to get pushy and have upped their begging game when we open the little boxes and cartons. Of course we have to let the incredibly hot white rice to cool, so I usually open it and set it aside all the way at the back of the counter to cool until we are done so that they don’t burn their mouths or throats as they wolf it down.
One day we pulled the items out of the bag and found that the restaurant had forgotten the white rice. “Uh oh,” my husband said, “No white rice!”
The dogs stood and stared up at us expectantly. “Should we call and tell them they forgot out dogs’ rice?” I laughed, although I was only half-joking. In the end, we did not call and I figured the dogs would forget about it since the white rice was not there so there was no rice to smell.
We were wrong.
Both dogs laid on the sofa across the room with their heads on their paws and their eyes closed. If either of we humans moved an inch, their eyes opened. If we got up to fill our glasses or grab another crab rangoon, they raised their heads, ears perked up in the classic “I’m interested” way of the Labrador Retriever.
As we cleaned up our dishes and put things away, both of them followed us into the kitchen. “Nothing for puppies this time,” I said, clapping my hands together and showing them my empty palms like a blackjack dealer. They continued to stare at me as though they didn’t believe me. “Nothing for puppies, let’s go,” I said and left the kitchen, thinking they would follow me out. They continued to stand and stare up at the counter longingly.
Eventually both dogs gave a huge sigh and lowered their heads and walked out of the kitchen. They stopped in front of the sofa where we were watching TV and sat and stared at us for a while, two sets of deep brown Labrador Retriever eyes going back and forth between us as if they were watching a tennis match, hoping that one of us would produce their rice, only we were just sitting there doing nothing. Finally Jackson gave another huge sigh, walked into the other room, walked into his empty kennel and flopped down on his kennel mat. Tinkerbell looked at us and did the same.
My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief but also somewhat amused. “They’re pissed at us!” I said, marveling at their intelligence and overly dramatic reaction to not getting rice. “How on earth did they know that there should have been rice but wasn’t, I assumed they could smell the rice and that’s how they knew?”
After doing much research on how a dog’s nose works for other blogs, like Why Your Dog is So Crazy and How to Put It to Use, I have come to the conclusion that they must know the scents of our other frequently ordered items and associate them with the rice being given to them, so when sesame chicken and crab rangoon show up in our home, their memories of those scents remind them that this means they are going to get something too.
Watching my dogs use their noses is one of my favorite things about having dogs, and I often watch in amazement and tell them, “We need to put those noses to work,” and so I am actively looking for a beginner nosework class in our area. Neither of them showed any interest in bird hunting or hunt tests, a sport in which both of their mothers excel, so I hope that one or both of them enjoy learning to find specific items so we can put those beautiful black noses and brilliant minds to work sniffing out more than just our sticky white rice from Chinese food delivery.
On the night the restaurant forgot the white rice, I did get out the box of Minute Rice that we keep on hand for emergency dog diarrhea situations and made them each a small serving of rice, which made them both extremely happy. I am not ashamed to admit that although I have strict rules on their nutrition and care, I’m a bit of a pushover. After all, isn’t the whole point of having dogs to make them as happy as they make us? I most definitely think that it is.