The old saying is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but get ‘em when they are a puppy and all bets are off. You can teach ‘em plenty.
Cards for instance.
It’s not easy, let me tell you. To understand why you only have to take a quick peek at their paws. Teaching them to shuffle is a real challenge and even after that’s done it takes even longer to get them to stop wagging their tail every time they get a good hand.
Depending on the breed you might not ever be able to teach them the difference between pot odds and implied odds, but on the positive side even after a bad beat most dogs will forget all about it if you rub their belly.
Rottweilers tend to play tight and Malamutes loose, Pomeranians love to bluff and Shih Tzus are most dangerous when short-stacked. You get to know these things after awhile.
My dog is a mutt… which might explain why things ended the way they did. He was a rescue but in a way we rescued each other.
Let me start by saying I love my dog. I’ve often wondered if faced with a life-and-death situation if I would trade mine for hers. I’m pretty sure I would. If she fell into the ocean I would dive right in after her. As I might have mentioned before, I am not strong in the water. I swim with the same casual grace and ease that most people drown. Still, if she fell in, I would be right behind.
This too will become relevant by the end of this story.
You see, casinos in their infinite wisdom don’t allow animals at the tables. I understand why they would exclude my dog at Five Card Draw, holding cards can be tricky, but for games like Blackjack or Texas Hold’em it makes zero sense. Tapping the felt or pushing chips in to the middle of the table is no big deal.
So we have to play in underground games.
With a variety of other animals. There are times when it gets a bit tedious. “Yes, I know you want a cracker, but what I don’t know is if you plan on folding or raising” I remember bellowing at a parrot.
And turtles, holy shit the game drags.
In retrospect, it was probably all of these distractions that kept me from seeing what was really going on right under my nose.
My dog was a cheater.
At first I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I just thought she was on a hot streak, until the owner of one of these establishments asked me to follow him upstairs. I thought he was just being friendly, but instead he showed me video footage of my dog at the table. In slow motion no less.
There she was, my beautiful dog, false shuffling, bottom dealing and skinning hands. “The only reason she’s not palming cards it that she doesn’t have palms” the owner snarled at me.
I descended the stairs a changed man. With a quick “bad dog” I scooped her up, returned all of her ill-gotten winnings and made for the door.
The drive home was awkward. Usually I open the window and let her stick her head out, she loves feeling the wind on her face and looks adorable doing it, but instead I just stared grimly at the road ahead. “Man’s best friend huh?” was all I could get out.
Once back at home my dog sprinted to the little card table we had set up, eager to play a few hands. But no, instead of whiling away a few hours reviewing the differences between the gap concept and the sandwich effect, I simply plopped down and turned on the television.
My dog just looked at me. She knew something was wrong. She tilted her head at me and tried to get my attention. A small whine. Finally she put her paw on my leg.
It was at that moment I knew that you can’t unteach a young dog old tricks.
“Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”
― Sigmund Freud