May 21, 2023

I had blogged several months ago about my dog Zena tossing her bed around in the living room while I was working on my crossword in the kitchen nook.  This was a favorite game she played by herself, and I did not think too much about it until I noticed the noise had gone quiet.  I got up to check on her and found she had managed to rip the seam of her dog bed and had shredded the stuffing which now lay scattered about the floor.  It looked like a bomb had gone off in the living room.  I restuffed the bed and put duct tape along the length of the seam (fixes everything, right?).  The bed survived and now Zena’s little brother Loki has claimed the bed for daytime sleeping.  Last week Loki was playing behind me while I was working in my office when I again noticed the silence.  When I turned around, I saw Loki had emulated Zena, except it was my newspaper that had been shredded.  As I cleaned up the mess, I was relieved to see he had chosen a paper where I had already filled in the crossword.

When I looked online, the website Dog Discoveries said many dogs enjoy creating shredded paper as much as playing with a chew toy.  Watching a dog shred paper into pieces can be fun, but not if it involves your homework, your daily newspaper, or important documents that you then need to try and piece back together.  All dogs tend to shred paper, but puppies and young dogs are always looking for anything that can be shredded to provide sensory enjoyment.  Mail can be interesting because it is covered in scents, and bubble mailers can be popped and then shredded into pieces.  The site suggested tearing paper into pieces fulfills a dog’s ancestral need to eviscerate and tear apart prey animals in the wild.  While dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are domesticated, they have an instinct that draws them to the old days of the hunt, and paper may fulfill a dog’s needs to grab, bite, shake, and dissect.  Paper-related products are extremely inviting and may unveil the “tissue paper predator” in a dog.

According to Forrest Wickman the popular excuse “my dog ate my homework” possibly originates from as early as 1905, when a clergyman pulled his clerk aside after a service to ask him whether his sermon seemed long enough.  The clerk reassured him that it was fine and of the right length.  The relived priest said, “I am very glad to hear you say that because my dog got a hold of my sermon and ate some of the last pages.”  Word of the episode got around, and the saying got quite popular and went on to become the infamous excuse used by countless students when they failed to turn in their homework.  While I have never tried the dog ate my homework excuse, I have sat through several sermons that could have used a dog to have shredded several pages of the manuscript.

Thoughts:  Another reason both Zena and Loki shredded their respective materials is they were bored.  They were left to play by themselves, and they found an activity to keep occupied.  When I caught both, they seemed to look at me sheepishly as if knowing their activity was not acceptable.  As parents raising young children there are times when we need to find time away for ourselves.  Whether this is filling the crossword over a morning cup of coffee or relaxing with a book while the kids play in the next room, if you can hear them (and periodically check on them), they are probably all right.  As any parent knows, when you really need to check on your kids is when they go quiet.  That is when the lipstick finds it way to the wall or big sister cuts little brother’s hair with toy scissors.  Pets and children both get bored when they are left unsupervised, and the level of what gets shredded goes up the longer they are left on their own.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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