One day in December I came home to find that the coffee table had been knocked over. Nothing else was out of place, but Angus was acting suspicious. (He ran upstairs and hid.)
“I wish I knew what the dogs do when we’re not around,” I said to my husband, and voilà! For Christmas, he gave me a webcam so that I can spy on Angus and Rosie through my phone.
Heh, heh, heh, I thought. This will be good.
The camera is set inside of a black cube and has a wide-angle lens. It takes in our entire (small) living room. Theoretically, I can watch the dogs all day, as long as they don’t leave the room. But since constant monitoring might affect my work productivity, there is a way to be selective: When motion is detected — that is, when one of the dogs moves around — my phone barks to alert me so I can watch.
The first few times it barked, I leaped up, clicked on the app, and saw — yawning. Both dogs were on the couch, butt to butt, heads on throw pillows. Once Rosie looked up, looked around, put her head back down and, presumably, went back to sleep. A couple of times, Angus hopped off the couch and trotted off somewhere mysterious, off-camera, and then, later, came trotting back.
The most exciting moment came midday when both dogs leaped off the couch and ran toward the back door — The dog walker is here!
But mostly, they slept.
For a month now, this is the way it has gone.
No tables knocked over, very little unauthorized chewing, no property destruction. No hijinks of any kind. When we are not there to see what they’re doing, apparently, they are doing exactly what they do when we are there: They are sleeping.
I feel a bit let down. I had expected more. Don’t they have a secret life? If I’m going to debase myself by spying, I’d at least like to be rewarded with something thrilling. Would it kill them to knock the table over again?
Other people have more madcap dogs. My nephew, for instance, sent me a photo of his beagle standing on the dining room table, caught on webcam within the first five minutes of his leaving the house.
“I admire how she just looks right into the camera, as if to say, ‘Yep I’m on the table and you’re not here to stop me,’ ” my nephew wrote.
Another friend sent a video of her dog rolling back and forth on the bed — not the dog bed, the human bed. “This is the first thing we picked up on our dog camera,” my friend wrote. “Note: Ellie is not allowed on our bed.”
Meanwhile, my colleague James Lileks wrote about this a year ago. His webcam captured his dog hauling contraband from the kitchen to the dog bed, all of which the dog then ate: a loaf of garlic bread, a bag of brown sugar, a bag of flour.
Now, in truth I do not want Angus to eat an entire loaf of bread, and I definitely don’t want “Glass Stomach” Rosie to get into the flour. But why are other people’s dogs cutting up while mine do nothing but snore? Could it be that my dogs are … boring? Do they lack imagination?
Still, I find the livestream mesmerizing. Though I have learned how to silence the bark alert, I do still peek in on them from time to time. Sometimes, I press the button to capture a video of them yawning or barking or trotting off. It will be nice to have 20 years from now when they’re gone.
But mostly I click on the app and there they are, snoozing on the couch, a couple of would-be Sleeping Beauties, waiting for us to come home and wake them up.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune and is chronicling life with her rescue dog, Angus. Catch up on past episodes at startribune.com/puppy