“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day Nine: The Curious Case of the Hidden Beef Marrow Bone

A funny thing just happened.

I was looking for a photo of Zoe and I found this one Tara took of Zoe chewing a marrow bone on the living room rug.

A couple days after this picture was taken my husband and I were going out, and I gave Zoe a bone to while away the time.  We keep them frozen, and normally the beefy bone in Popsicle form is pleasing to her.

But lately she has taken to thawing them first.  I'll give her one as a treat, and she'll run from room to room looking for a good place to store it, and there it will stay, leaking its bloody, fatty, icy goodness on wherever she has hidden it until, just after we come home, she'll retrieve it with a flourish, like a magician who brings back the missing lady from the box.  Usually she does this a few hours after I give her the bone, but not this time.  Night fell, and the thing stayed out of sight.  A day passed.  Then another.  We went to all her usual hiding places: the couch in the den, where our sons like to sit and watch movies when they come home for the holidays, the nice paisley couch where company sits, and finally, her crate at the foot of our bed, where it never stays long, but is sometimes stashed in transit.  Nothing.

Three days turned into four.  I was starting to think I’d never see it again, but that one day we’d smell it like a squirrel or rat that came in from the cold and died behind the walls.

My sister, Mira, remembers when Zoe learned to hide her bones.  She refers to it as The Time Zoe Learned Evil.  When we’d only had Zoe for a few weeks, Kerry and I went on the cross-country trip to see our son in Seattle that we’d planned long before we decided to get a dog.  Mira and Doug took care of our new pup in their apartment in Massachusetts for three whole weeks, one of the nicest of countless things they have done for me over the years.  So one day a neighboring dog came by just when Zoe was chewing on a beef marrow bone my sister had given her.  Zoe, sweet and deferential as a pup, presented the bone to her new “friend” as a love offering. Not for keeps, Mira thought, but to share it, like a piece of birthday cake big enough for two.  The dog promptly ran away with the bone and didn’t come back.  Mira said Zoe looked at her, Mira, for some kind of explanation, shocked and disappointed in caninekind.

This week I wondered if Zoe was losing her lust for beef marrow bones.  Because she's fighting cancer, we're always on the lookout for a loss in appetite, and a lack of interest in life.  Then it occurred to me that maybe Zoe had simply hidden it too well.  I would ask her, "Where is your beefy bone?" and she would run from room to room, place to place, and come back empty-mouthed.  This worried me too, of course.  Was she losing her memory?

Plus, let's be frank: our family is coming soon, and if the meaty, blood stains of these bones on their favorite lounging areas aren’t enough to convince the lads that this house is not theirs any more, the rancid smell will do it.  As kids they were told to keep smelly socks on their feet, and not to leave the snacks they didn't finish lying around on the floor and in the sofa.  So how did their childhood home become so dog-centric, and is it fair?

Tonight, I thought, I’ll write a blog about this, and I’ll ask readers: “Why do dogs hide their bones?” Some smart dog-person (or someone who has been to our house) will think of somewhere else to look.  Hiding one's prize snack is an odd behavior, really, if you consider that dogs don’t hide their other food or their toys.  It must go back to the days when wolf mothers stored fresh kills for their pups in the snow.

But then, just when I found this picture of Zoe with her bone and copied it from my I-Photo album, but before I started writing, I heard rustling.  Zoe had run back downstairs from her crate, where she’d already bedded down for the night, with the bone in her jaw.  She looked quite happy to be reunited with it, and she stared at me the whole time she gnawed on it, chewing it with something like pride as I composed these words.

But how did she know that I would be telling this story right now?  Is it canine/human telepathy, or a coincidence?   Or, if it’s true that a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more powerful than ours, did the odor just get to her first?

We had a few moments of communion like this: a middle aged writer, a middle aged dog, two females of their species, watching one another intently as we did what we each like to do.


  1. Great blog, Natalia!!

  2. Oh, how I remember the day Zoe learned evil! Well...actually, she learned the pack art of submission. She hadn't yet understood her place in society but she did that day when a more alpha pup stole the bone. After that, she had to hide her prize. Foxes sometimes hide several dead chickens at a time so they can dig them up and gorge on them in lean times. Yes, it is Zoe's ancient primal impulses to hide her beefies. But fortunately, they smell so disgusting when they sit around for a while that you will be sure to uncover her secret spots!
    Great post Nattie! Love, Mirabee