RSS Feed

Keeping Cricket Busy

 

A few years ago, I collected a bunch of Cricket’s toys and put them into a bucket on a shelf under the TV. The plan was to switch out the toys from the bucket every week or two, so that she could have the benefit of all of her toys, without spreading them on the floor where I would trip over them. Of course, I got distracted and forgot about the bucket of toys a long time ago. At around the same time, I stopped taking Cricket for her three mile walks each day, and she definitely noticed the difference and has perfected her disappointed-with-Mommy face.

IMG_0254

Recently, I watched a story about a man with a movement disorder who went to a special kind of occupational therapy, with not only a human therapist but also a doggy therapist. The exercises required the man to put treats into treat puzzles, in order to rebuild the strength and flexibility in his fingers. His reward was to watch the dog chasing after the toys and enjoying the treats. The smile on the man’s face when his knotted hands were successful at fitting the treats into the toys, and the dog ran across the room after the toys, was pure joy.

And it occurred to me that we might have some of those toys; not the flat puzzles with secret compartments, but the plastic toys in different shapes that would allow small amounts of treats out if Cricket could figure out how to make them bounce the right way. We’d bought a ton of toys for Cricket when she was an incorrigible puppy, in order to keep her from continuing to destroy the furniture with her sharp puppy teeth. And in the bottom of the bucket, under the everlasting chew toys, and the purple dinosaur that has dried into a husk of its former self, I found three treat puzzles of varying sizes and levels of difficulty.

014

Pink vase, red ball, and blue thingy

Cricket has been needing more attention and distraction since Butterfly died, and even more so since it’s been too cold for Grandma to take her for extended walks in the afternoon; those garbage cans up by the 7-11 were an endless source of fascination. So I was willing to try something new to keep her busy, and, hopefully, happy.

I had to do some significant cleaning on the old toys – boiling them with baking soda and rinsing thoroughly – before I could risk putting food in them again. For my first experiment I used the pink vase-shaped toy. I was worried that I’d made the pieces of Pupperoni too big, and Cricket would go straight past optimal frustration into the land of rage and disappointment, but, actually, she loved it, and was busy for hours. She was actually disappointed when I gave her next treat toy to play with, the red ball, and she was able to empty it within minutes. Cricket likes a challenge.

004

This is where Cricket uses her head.

007

This is where Cricket guards her toy from the humans.

Now, if I try to let a day go by without filling the pink vase toy with treats, she gets grumpy, and insistent. She stands next to me as I fill up her toy and then she tosses it around the room, and hoards it under her couch, and does everything she can think of to make it give up its riches. I’m pretty sure that my face looks very much like that man in the occupational therapy video, full of joy, as I watch Cricket running after her toy and bouncing it into submission to get every last treat.

012

“I need more treats. Now.”

Now, if only I could figure out how to set up a drone to take her for walks when it’s too cold for me. Does anyone know if a drone can be programmed to pick up poop?

 

 

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

88 responses »

  1. The ‘disappointed with Mommy’ photo of Cricket is so darn cute. So is the ‘guarding her food’ photo. Stay away, Mom! If only we could get inside the heads of these little guys to know what they are really thinking. The OT for that gentleman is genius–and the dog likes it, too! Win-win.

    Reply
  2. I can totally relate. I LOVE watching Emma (who has obsessive scratching/chewing issues) work hard to get her chew bones out of her Kong toy. Hooray for you and Cricket!

    Reply
  3. What a great story. It made me realize that I have in a round about way done the same thing. So I guess your story inspired me to try and get on the right track with me and my Benny.

    Reply
  4. Maybe you could invent that drone and then retire! I sure would buy one.🤣😂

    Reply
  5. Cricket is one smart girl! I have to try this with Tide. He’s really bored 😐!

    Reply
  6. Totally agree – I love it when Lu is absorbed with a new toy or a new antler.

    Reply
  7. Thanks for reminding me of these puzzle toys I have for the cats and their treats. I need to get one for Toby and Nino each. They get bored when I have to work, we are not walking, or sleeping, LoL! Must keep them busy! Will you get her another playmate?

    Reply
  8. Nice photo of Cricket with that disappointed look. Our lone dog now sleeps at night below our dining table. He knows how to go inside the house once we open the screen doors. He doesn’t play with toys though, he plays with us instead.

    Reply
  9. Cute story. I’ve considered using some kind of treat dispenser to keep our beagle from going on a food hunt when we leave her alone–but I also have to worry about giving her too many extra treats, or she’ll put on weight. And I just can’t tell from the descriptions which toys will dispense small treats, but not too easily. Sigh. So I’ve done nothing.

    Reply
  10. much busier
    than me 🙂

    Reply
  11. There’d be plenty of takers for such a drone 🙂 Lovely post, as usual 🙂

    Reply
  12. lovely story. I know nothing about a drone being programmed to be uber-awesome, like you desire…but it is the future, so it’s possible, I’d bet. Here, we have kong treats for our big, tough chewers. We fill them with half of a large MilkBone when they get one parent both kongs, (This game is going on as I type, be right back–ok, they’re settled with treats). Then they take them off and work out how to get them out of the kong…It sometimes takes them a bit, and other times they drop it just right and it takes thirty seconds…However, they’re figuring out how to get more treats everyday, so we’re likely moving into peanut butter to fill around the MilkBones. It’s an entertaining game for all…I’ll have to get a photo of Briannag, in the “let’s get the Kong toys” mode. She prances;-).

    Reply
  13. I really like cricket. The way you described her reminds me so much of my dog!😊

    Reply
  14. Ollie has a plastic box full of soft toys and chew toys, and will rummage through it, to find his favourite at the time. He never had the patience for concealed treat toys though, so it’s good to see Cricket enjoying them so much.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Reply
  15. I must be an under-the-rock dog-owner; I’d never heard of treat puzzles before reading this! I am going to see what I can find at the pet store; this might be just the thing for my ancient, aging. needs-constant-attention, little dog!

    Reply
  16. I hope nobody saw you boiling dog toys.

    Reply
  17. I confess that I get too frustrated with the difficult ones, and the easy ones are too easy! #impatientterrier

    Reply
  18. Awwww x what is Cricket like when she meets someone new for the first time? Is she shy, excited etc? I find it interesting all the different doggie personalities.

    Reply
  19. You’ve popped a piece into my own puzzle. Hunydog LOVES her daily biscuit(s) and will snarl and ‘kill’ them, but only wants to eat them if I’m sitting still somewhere she can take them and eat them (slowly) while snuggled up against me. They’re so odd, these little bits of sunshine in our lives. They teach us so much about joy and simple living. So who is the bigger beneficiary? Us or them?

    Reply
  20. I taught Benji to clean up his toys by putting it in a box so we make it into a game each day with treats of course.

    Reply
  21. Wonderful Rachel! Sadly Maggie showed no interest in dog toys apart from squeaky babies she could snuggle and cuddle.

    Reply
  22. I loved this one and the pictures of Cricket make me happy for her new toy…time for another Teddy visit??

    Reply
  23. So glad that Cricket enjoys the treat toys. I haven’t found one that Tippy enjoys yet. She just gives up. Maybe I feed her too much or the treats I use aren’t her favorites.

    Reply
  24. I saw concerns about weight gain in the comments, and just wanted to say that cuttin back at meal time is the answer. If more bulk is needed to fill the tummy, fresh or frozen green beans are a good solution.
    So glad you remembered the treat toys and both of you are enjoying them!

    Reply
  25. I love how often what’s good for our beloved furry ones is good for us too ❤

    Reply
  26. Hmmm. That drone idea has real possibilities. :))))))

    Reply
  27. That first photo of Cricket is just too adorable. Oh those eyes!

    Reply
  28. Our dogs have no interest in those games. We’ve tried. They look at the toy and look at us and go back to sleep. If they could talk I’m sure they would explain, “Newfs don’t do that”.

    Reply
  29. Loved the story, and you’re adorable dog. My dog Chase is almost nine, and is over 100 pounds, with jaws like a great white shark. He will get at any type of food in a toy – or anywhere else. P.S. I’ve always appreciated your visits to my site. I am giving away twenty-five free downloads of my new book. Please visit, and grab a copy before they’re all gone. Take care.

    Reply
  30. If you find a drone that picks up poop, please share! I need to get some toys like that for our little Sadie.

    Reply
  31. Cricket is so cute! I’m glad she is finding the treat hiding toys fun and challenging!

    Reply
  32. What a doll! My Chance is on only limited activity because of a leg problem. Toys have saved the day (when he doesn’t just chew through them!! He’s a lab with very sharp teeth!) I now price toys out by how many dollars per minute of use…

    Reply
  33. If Amazon can use drones to make deliveries, they can be programmed to pick up poop. You simply label it ‘returns’…

    Reply
  34. Cricket is adorable!

    Reply
  35. My dog loved those treat dispensing toys! She would get so annoyed at them and bark and growl at them. She would try and find ways to get the treats out and I’d often find her carrying the balls around by the bit you put the treats in 😀

    Reply
  36. Hey, I want one of those drone poop-picker-pers! have a great week!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: