Our old family dog, Shadow, had been listless and seemed not well. A Wyoming native, this dog had been with us for 14 years. In dog years, she was pushing 90.
She had earlier been diagnosed with cancer and after surgery, well, the vet said there wasn't much we could do about it. Her days were numbered. The dog seemed to know it, too, as she would mope and lay around a lot.
She hardly ate for months. Yet she was getting fatter. This worried me. Could she be retaining fluid because of illness and old age?
One day at mid-morning, I was working in my home office when I noticed her strolling away from our back yard in Lander. She looked both ways a little warily and truly had a suspicious look on her face.
This piqued my curiosity as I watched out the window.
She walked across the bridge over the creek and headed into some small nearby woods. Where was this dog going? She knew she wasn't to leave our property without me being with her.
Very stealthily and often looking around and looking back to the house, she sneaked through the little wooded area and disappeared into an area next door where a neighbor was running some cows and calves. I got up and quietly went outdoors.
What the heck was going on here?
There was a well-worn trail through the little wooded area to the area with the calves. This dog has obviously made this pilgrimage often. I stood behind a tree and watched. Pretty soon my dog reappeared. She was returning home.
She had something huge in her mouth.
My first suspicion was that she had a cow pie. One of the banes of old dogs is they love to roll around in manure. That is a habit you do not want your housedog to get into.
I moved out from behind the tree. I confronted Shadow there on the well-worn trail. Now some ignorant folks claim animals don't have feelings. Well, this dog suddenly had a combination of two feelings: fear and guilt. She wasn't supposed to leave the yard and what the heck was she carting around in her mouth?
She didn't wag her tail. She had the look of a cornered animal. That big brown thing in her mouth dropped to the ground. We both sort of looked at each other from about 40 feet apart.
I said her name, "Shadow," and she ambled over. She had her tail between her legs and a guilty look on her face. Lots of questions were going through my mind. Is she really sick? Has she started eating cow pies? Is there is a medicinal advantage there? No wonder she didn't have an appetite! No wonder she had been listless.
I patted my dog and scratched her behind the ears. She perked up considerably. I swear she indicated she just wanted to go to the house with me but I had different ideas. What had she been carrying in her mouth?
When I walked back to where she had dropped the mysterious item, she hung back. When we got there, she made no move whatsoever to this cow pie or whatever it was.
I kicked it with my boot and it became obvious what it was. It was an old cinnamon roll. It was a big old dry one, too, with lots of frosting still on it.
My neighbor had made a deal to daily collect some old donuts and baked goods and had fed them to his calves over the past few months. And by the looks of the worn path from our house to that barn, he had inadvertently been feeding them to my dog, too.
So the mystery was solved.
No wonder she wasn't eating her dog food.
Our dog unfortunately had always had a severe sweet tooth and now she was truly getting her fill. We had taken her to the vet and surprisingly found she had gained eight pounds with no apparent explanation - up to now, anyway.
Later, I saw her lying on the cushion of a yard chair soaking up the sun, appearing quite listless and lethargic. It could be assumed she was just an old dog worn down by the years.
But I knew better.
She was bedded down there trying to digest several loaves of bread-type material as she was dreaming of stalking more mighty Bismarcks, long johns, donuts, bagels and cinnamon rolls.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has four books that are available at fine bookstores. He has a Facebook page for Wyoming books, columns by Bill Sniffin and his Twitter address is Billwyoming.