I am embarrassed to admit that I have had a committed a major oversight in regards to Alvin's talent. I have been so concentrated on Alvin's burping talents that until now I didn't realize that Alvin needs to be entered into a staring contest because he could bank a serious sum of money. Do you have any idea how many treats he could buy with his award money? He could potentially make enough money to pay his own adoption donation and emancipate himself from foster care. Whatever the case, his staring talents have reached a point where he could legitimately compete against any member of the animal kingdom, as well as be a very worthy competitor with humans, with the caveat that he would be allowed to bring in his own object for staring, which of course would be my mom. We recently had a marathon TV session and Alvin stared at her for hours. He continues to stand at her feet but she has become so used to it that she doesn't even notice him anymore. However, he is engaging in a behavior that is driving her nuts! When not staring, he taps with his nose progressively up her leg. He starts at her feet and begins to lightly tap her, while going up her foot and then her shin. When his nose it cold and/or wet it just drives her crazy but there's just no talking him out of it and once he has tapped as far as he can reach he then goes back to her foot and starts all over again. If she doesn't pull her leg away he will continue it until something distracts him but after looking around, he goes right back to staring at her. His fur around his muzzle has a very deep, plush feel to it and it is softer than rabbits fur. He so gently taps her and it looks so tender and sweet - mindbogglingly odd but really sweet.
My mom has developed a new approach with Alvin, which that everything she picks up or has in her hand, she holds it where Alvin can see and sniff it. He deeply inhales several times but once he has had the opportunity to investigate, he can move on. They are sweet together because she rarely forgets to show him an item and is so patient with him while he takes his time tapping and sniffing. Until today I thought that he was doing his usual autistic nose tapping but it all of a sudden dawned on me that he sniffs new objects to assess whether it is food or not. His obsession with food has not diminished at all and it falls way outside of the normal cocker spaniel love of food. It is clear that Alvin thinks about food every waking moment and I can only imagine that his dreams are filled with raw hides, beef sticks, and chicken breasts. I suspected that before coming into rescue that he was a dog that was forced to stay outside and I am also starting to wonder if his owner forgot and/or just didn't feed him regularly. Some of this food obsession reminds me of when I worked with children in foster care that had previously lived in neglectful environments and because they had often experienced times when they were not fed, food became one of the central issues for them when entering a foster home. I think Alvin's former foster home was better for him in regards to food. There were many other dogs in the home and as a consequence, his foster mother could not hand out treats because it could have started many a dog fight. She had a baby gate up in her kitchen so that the dogs couldn't congregate in the kitchen and possibly start fighting. She was very structured about when the meal times were and she told me that on the few occasions that she was late in feeding him that he started circling, while licking his lips and clearly knew that she was late. Here at Camp Chaos, our schedule is far more flexible and often up for interpretation. Plus, I tend to give a fair amount of tricks throughout the day. I figure that if your happiness depends on walks, hanging out with humans, and eating that why not spread a little happiness throughout the day? I am very careful about not feeding them to the point that they gain weight because that would not spread happiness but rather spread blimpiness. Since Alvin is on the move so much, he quickly burns any extra calories. I was hoping that over time when he realized that food was readily available that the obession would decrease because that works with kids but in Alvin's case, the only impact is that he very well may be more obsessed. With that said, unless I come to find out that giving him extra treats is harmful to him, I don't have the heart to deprive him.
Speaking of Alvin's love for food, I have finally found something Alvin won't eat and to preface this story, let me remind everyone that I am the one that once cheated on an IQ test and clearly I am not always the brightest light in the room. So now that we have established that common sense sometimes escapes me, I recently found out that Alvin won't eat mint flavored Tums. Yes, as in Tums the stomach medication. I knew that Tums weren't harmful to dogs and sometimes even prescribed, after I tried to chew a mint-flavored Tums and I found the taste to be repugnant, I then offered it up to Alvin and for the very first time Alvin rejected something edible. I then offered it to Stevie and she had it down the hatch in record time. Similar to Alvin, I haven't been able to find anything Stevie won't eat, with the exception of the chewable pill she takes every night and one that tends to be popular with dogs. Nope, she just won't eat it and so every night I have to hide it in a piece of hot dog and I never forget to do it because Alvin is quick to remind me when it's hot dog time because he then gets a piece too. Alvin often reminds me of the importance of simple pleasures because every time I take the hot dog package out, he becomes nearly a blur because he is excitedly twirling like a whirling dervish. Although those moments help remind me of the importance of simple pleasures, I never take too much time to reflect because I am always afraid that he is going to spin himself right into the wall and come out with a concussion.