The other day, my friend Kat sent my dog, Mr Chewie, a pig’s ear in the post. Now, she’s never taken up this kind of mob-behaviour of sending me body parts in the post. Which is surprising. Partly because when we worked together in a hot and sticky pub kitchen back in 1993, I once left a face-level microwave deliberately open to smack her in the face. She did deserve it though. Probably.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Mr Chewie and me have been together since last October, when I answered the call to foster an old, rusty coloured sad-faced staffy rescue dog for a couple of days. Chewie has been surprisingly linguistic. I’ll often say things to him and then be astonished when he does exactly what I say. Like the time we were walking around the park in the pouring rain and I said, almost under my breath, if he just had a poo we could go home and get out of the rain. He stopped dead, did his business, and then turned around in the park and trotted towards home.
The lady who runs the Arundawn Rescue, the lovely Elaine, is what I would call an expert in human behaviour, as much as she is in animals.
Because I fell for the oldest trick in sales. It’s called Endowment. You’ve come across it if you’ve ever seen one of these:
- Try it free for 30 days!
- Test drive our car today
Both of these tactics let you have something, even for a brief time, to get attached to it. It’s so common in rescuing dogs it’s got its own phrase: “failed foster”. My sister has a lovely “failed foster” greyhound called Molly, who has very soft and fluffy ears. Probably would have failed there myself.
How to be a sucker
It works like this:
1) It’s not my dog
2) Oh this dog is sweet
3) Telling people in the park “he’s foster dog” and then they tell you what a brilliant human you are for fostering a dog and the other dog owners stop and talk to you. You have an instant fur-based social circle (this is another behavioural effect – social proof!).
4) After 3 weeks Elaine calls you to say someone wants to adopt your dog.
5) NOT MY DOG> No. MINE!
Congratulations. You’ve adopted a dog / bought a new car / failed to cancel your free trial.
Don’t feel bad. You’re just a flawed human like the rest of us.
“It had my name on it”
Back to Mr Chewie. When I popped back at lunchtime, after 11 glorious months of living together, I found he’d chewed the post. This was the first time he’d ever been naughty, so I was very surprised. He’s a dog who had no microchip, no name, no history. Where had he come from? Was this a turn in his behaviour?
No, it turns out the single piece of post he’d chewed…was addressed to him. Literally. Kat had written “Chewie Lewis” on the envelope.
And the thing is, he’d ripped the envelope open. But not eaten the pigs ear. I guess he just wanted to, you know, check what it was.
Now, this could be me falling for a random event. You know, being human. Me, I think that Mr Chewie can read.