Jasper, How Could You?

Working with Golden Retriever Rescue, PetsMart and I are best of buddies. Not only do we buy most our dogs’ dog food at PetsMart, but we spend a fair amount of time socializing our foster goldens in the store. After a foster golden has been cleaned up and has started to learn some manners, they are ready to visit PetsMart. First visits are often very overwhelming, with the new smells, the bustle of people moving to and fro, other friendly and occasionally not-so-friendly dogs running around, and the little people who all want to get in their faces. In any case, every one of my goldens, whether they were my own Cody, Jasper, or Amos or any of the 21 golden retrievers I’ve fostered, has learned to love PetsMart.

My goldens, Jasper & Amos, have very good manners while they’re in the store. They sit to be petted. They never create unwanted puddles. And Jasper will even sit quietly beside the shopping cart while I load his 37.5lb bags of dog food into the cart — without me having to hold onto his leash.

Amos started life in a puppy mill. We fostered Amos and his littermate Casey together. They spent every weekend for 2 months — Amos for 4 months — visiting the Banfield veterinarian at PetsMart as we worked to get them healthy enough for adoption and socialize them. Casey found a great forever home and is living the dream. Amos chose to stay with us. That was a bit over 4 years ago.

Today, Amos has somewhat regressed back into his former fearful self when he’s out in public. He’s afraid of the automatic doors. He’s afraid of the shopping cart. He’s very uneasy the whole time he’s in PetsMart. It could be a result of the recent onset of his epileptic seizures, or it could be something else altogether. In any case, we find ourselves taking Amos out more than his brother Jasper.

But recently, during my last trip to PetsMart, it was Jasper that got to go. He was ecstatic. He likes to ride with his front paws on the console between the front seats of my little SUV and his back paws stretched out into to the back (with the rear seats folded down). Jasper was very patient during the car ride; but when we drove past PetsMart in our quest to find a parking place, he went nuts — whimpering, crying, jumping up and down — until he was leashed up, out of the truck, and pulling like mad toward the front door. But no, not yet. I walked him up and down the grassy strip and waited until he found just the right smell to relieve himself. Did you know, excitement creates urine? He watered an unsuspecting bush for what seemed like an eternity. Even Jasper had to put his leg down before he was done. When he was done, we headed for the front door.

Inside, his nose glued itself to the floor and he started tracking. First, it was the gerbils and bunny cages and birds! I had to pull him away from the display when he tried to use his paws to free them. In the dog food aisle we grabbed two of the 37.5lb bags — do pet food manufacturers really think we don’t notice the missing 2.5lbs? — and Jasper sat patiently beside the cart waiting for me to pick up his leash again. We wandered up the toy aisle as Jasper checked out each of the toys and tried to grab the everything that remotely smelled like food. Jasper is no stranger to food. When he was 1 year old, he tipped the scales at 107lbs. Golden retriever? Yes. Standard? No. Rescued because somebody didn’t want him 9 weeks old? Yes. Over the years, we struggled to keep Jasper’s weight from going any higher — low-fat foods, green bean diets, etc. It wasn’t until Cody passed away this past January that Jasper’s weight plummeted 18 lbs. Anyway, now we’re wandering up the toy aisle and Jasper would love to have a few food toys that would contribute to his waistline. And then there was the little boy, who came out of nowhere with no Mommy or Daddy in sight and sat down to pet Jasper. Jasper was the perfect gentleman — he sat for him and except for the occasional ear lick that would elicit a just the right amount of squeal from the little boy, he remained motionless. Jasper was in heaven — and I think the little boy was too. It wasn’t very long before an exasperated mother appeared at the end of the aisle looking for her lost son. She found him doing exactly what she said he does every time they come to PetsMart. Jasper was a bit put out when she walked her son away from his doggy prize. But I quickly redirected his attention in the treat aisle.

We like the little 10 calorie bone shaped puppy treats. You get a modest bag for $2.19 and it lasts a long time. But Jasper’s nose discovered a little 1-pint milk carton shaped cookie box with some kind of liver treats inside. He knocked the box off the shelf. I thought it was an accident, but every time I put it back on the shelf, he knocked it off again. Finally, I put it back on the shelf and pushed it back in a bit, and we went to another part of the aisle. But as we walked past the same spot a few minutes later, he knocked it off the shelf again. Okay, I understand. I put it in the cart. It was more expensive than what I like to pay for treats.

Finally, we’re done. It’s time to go up front and calculate the damage to my debit card. But wait, something caught my attention. Cheap toys. Cheap enough that it doesn’t matter that its life expectancy in my house is less than the time it will take me to put it in the cart. As I’m verifying that the price on the bin actually goes with the price of the item in my hand; Jasper followed his nose. He found a display of clothes for the very much smaller dog. Something has his undivided attention. And then horror of horrors!! Jasper, How could you? Jasper raised his leg and peed on the display of clothing. OMG. JASPER! I pulled him away from the display while telling him NO!; Put him in a SIT and DOWN and STAY and went back to survey the damage. Jasper knew he’d done something wrong. His ears were down; he hung his head; he was immediately submissive. And he stayed. Back at the display, I discovered that he managed to get urine on two garments and the floor. Thank God he didn’t have time to empty his bladder. I was embarrassed. My dogs NEVER do that. They know better.

I took the $12 worth of wet items and put them in my cart. On the way to check out, the cheap toys and the $4 milk carton box of treats found their way back onto their appropriate shelves. Hindsight has shown me that perhaps Jasper was just doing what came naturally. He wasn’t really going potty, but rather covering up another dog’s scent with his own. Ah-Ha! On the way out of the store, I petted Jasper and told him he was a good boy. He sat at the curb without pulling and without having to be told and patiently waited with me for the traffic to clear. All was right again in Jasper’s world.

The moral of this story? When buying items at a pet store, wash them before allowing your dog to play with them or chew on them. Not everybody is as good about buying the merchandise that their dogs damage. Judging by the reaction of the clerks when I told them, I don’t think anybody else would have removed the items, either, if I hadn’t bought them.