Penny the Destroyer.

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YOU GUYS. I have to tell you about something absolutely crazy that happened this morning. So I’ve mentioned Penny, Nate and his housemates’ dog, and how awesome she is and how much I adore her, right? Well, this morning Nate and Sean, one of his old housemates that is back in Seattle for the weekend, and I all took Penny to the park and were having a grand old time playing fetch with her. They have this little contraption called a Chuck-It, which has a cupping mechanism on the end so that you can use it to pick up and throw a rubber ball instead of getting dog slobber all over your hands, and we were throwing lots of long tosses to try to tire Penny out, to no avail. We were getting ready to pack up and head home when a man and his five-year-old daughter and their dog started walking toward us, and the man asked if his dog could play fetch with Penny too. We try to encourage Penny to make friends, even though her interest lies solely in the Chuck-It the majority of the time she’s around other dogs, so we said sure. The other dog’s name was Clover, and he appeared to be about three years old and just as fast as Penny. Once the game of fetch got under way, the man and his daughter started walking toward the playground within the park and eventually disappeared from sight. We kept throwing long balls and because Penny was already tuckered out, Clover kept beating her on the retrieval. In an attempt to throw Penny a bone (no pun intended), Nate chucked the ball down hard so that it would bounce only a short distance, but high so that Penny could jump for it. But Clover was determined to get it, and when they both went for it, they ended up colliding face-first into each other. The sound of their heads knocking together made a sickeningly audible sound, and we all gasped in horror.

Both dogs looked shaken and paused for a moment like they were trying to collect themselves, but then they both trotted back toward us like nothing had happened. We were ready to resume the game of fetch until we realized that Clover’s mouth was bleeding profusely, so we went and found his owner and explained what happened. We thought that he must have just bitten his tongue or something, but then Sean and I both noticed that Clover’s bottom right canine appeared to be missing. As Clover’s owner and his horrified daughter started walking away to take Clover home and clean him up, Sean walked out to the scene of the collision and started looking around. When he came back, he was holding Clover’s tooth in his palm. The tooth had been ripped clean out, roots and all, and was like three or four inches long. After showing it to us, Sean ran to catch up with the owner to show him the tooth so that he knew what he was dealing with and could take the dog to the vet immediately, all while trying to keep it out of sight of the already-traumatized five-year-old. The owner took the tooth and continued back to his home, and we three and Penny left the park shortly thereafter, but we haven’t been able to stop talking about how crazy the whole thing was all afternoon.

A few things I found interesting about this chance encounter: one, poor Clover. That dog had to have been in so much pain to have his canine knocked clean out of his head, but he didn’t yelp or lie down or even so much as whimper. He came back ready for another round! Which brings me to two: the level of power that ball held over these two dogs is somewhat disturbing. Dogs are not known to be super-rational creatures, but most know better than to blindly and voluntarily crash full-force into another dog, or anything for that matter. That ball was an object of such desire for both Penny and Clover that they would stop at nothing, not even personal injury, to have it. Kind of scary. And three: Penny has no concept of what she did to Clover. Penny walked away without a scratch on her and Clover is going to be disabled by the loss of that tooth for the rest of his life, but to Penny, it was as simple as “We were both running after the ball and I won.” Even though what happened to Clover was ultimately an accident and not anyone’s fault, Sean and Nate and I all felt a degree of guilt over what had happened; as a dog, Penny doesn’t really have the capacity to feel guilt over Clover’s tooth, and now that I think about it, Clover probably doesn’t have the capacity to feel angry about his tooth, either. But it’s interesting, nonetheless, to consider the limited range of concepts and emotions that can be understood or felt by dogs in comparison to humans, and to think about the lack of complexity in Penny’s feelings toward most things, not least of all us, her human companions.

All of which is to say: we’re really glad that physical injury did not befall Penny, and still kind of shocked at the damage our sweet girl accidentally inflicted on another pup. It’s already become a joke, though: we’ve been calling her Penny the Destroyer all afternoon, and I kind of hope that’s a nickname that sticks.

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