Animal Hoarder

You’ve never seen a stash like my beagle’s stash.

I have a great idea for a TV show. Well, I had a great idea for a TV show until Animal Planet went and stole the name for it.

My idea was much better. Really, which would you rather watch: Tales of old people living in double-wide trailers full of cat and dog feces and rotting Moist-n-Meaty, tales that make you question your own mortality, and if you, too, will end up alone at 75 with cats in the double-digits, spending your Social Security on kitten food when you need blood pressure medication? Or a show about my adorable beagle Tillie stealing household objects and stashing them in way-too-obvious places?

When we met Tillie at her foster parents’, her hoarding was already in full swing. They were amazed by it, thought it cute, not problematic. Leave her alone for a moment, and she’d take all the dog toys in the house (her beagle foster-brother’s toys included) and pull them onto her bed. This was an awful lot of toys — an old, clean sock made into a tug toy; a stuffed raccoon; a stuffed squirrel; a stuffed squeaker dog; a stuffed three-legged squeaker dog; and some random Furby-like thing with a mustard-colored rope coming out its rear end.

Tillie is shy dog, partly by nature, mostly by human doing. She was socialized to nothing — not dogs, not people, not cars, bikes, not the sound of shoes on pavement — and her foster moms thought she’d probably been kept to breed in a crate her entire life. On the day she met my husband and me, she cowered on her bed, surrounded by her stuff, so terrified she wouldn’t take a treat from either of us.

It took a few weeks at our house before it began again, the piling of her things in various “secret” stashes around the house. Her crate in my office, or her favorite chair, or, as a last resort, the old rug in our bedroom. It started with her own toys — the ones she’d brought from her foster parents’, plus the squeaker elephant we’d bought her, and the new rawhide bone.

Then it was my slippers. The white ones James had bought me for the second Christmas we were dating, when all I wanted was something to keep me warm in the Illinois winter.

Tillie chewed off the slipper’s pom-poms and stuck the whole thing in her crate.

Next was our couch throw pillow — embroidered with beagles, appropriately enough. She’d disappear with it into my office; when we went to put her in her crate, she happily scrunched herself in beside it.

What followed was a litany of household objects: my razor (she likes to crunch the handle and the blades); winter hats; my expensive, Midwest-essential black snow boots; my Rocket Dog ankle-height tan boots; James’s dress socks; her doggie brush; the living room afghan; my yoga eye-pillow; the outline for dissertation chapter 3; and (my all-time favorite) James’s underpants.

He’s even gone so far as to give up an old pair — the Led Zeppelin ones, with the green lightning bolts and the band’s logo all over — in a futile effort to her to keep her from taking his other clothes: Undershirts, all of his black dress socks, and yes, even more underpants.

She even hoarded a key our dog walker accidentally dropped one day, sneaking it to a secondary stash where she could happily chew the plastic keychain in peace.

We’ve thought about letting it all pile up, seeing how full she’d stuff her crate before she decided it was enough. But then we’d never know what stuff of ours was hiding beneath it all.

The bottom line: At our house, if you’re missing something, check Tillie’s stash. Your boot/important document/pen/article of clothing/Wii remote will inevitably end up among her other treasures. And while you’re down on all fours, wiggling your shoulders around so you can fit through her crate door, to where, at the very back, she’s tucked whatever it is at that moment you desperately need, she will stand there and wag her tail, knowing as soon as your back is turned, she can take whatever it is she wants right back to her crate.

Crafty pup.

Article © 2012 by Heather Blain