Andy has a bad attitude. He's a plotter and a prankster, the kind of a dog that, had he been a person, would be a con man. smart, that dog, smart enough to figure out the angles and bide his time until a situation is more to his taste.
And when it comes to taste, that of the little guinea pig, Jeepers, has been on his mind for months.
I've told Andy to quit thinking about it many times, catching his eye, pointing to the cage and issuing a stern order, "Leave it."
Andy takes this as he takes all other commands -- with an outward show of agreement and the look of the devil in his eyes. Later, I'd find Andy on the floor beneath the cage, focused on the tender morsel in the kind of scary trance that children get when playing video games.
"Andy!" I'd hiss, for the millionth time. "Leave it! Leave Jeepers alone!"
If he could speak, I'm sure he would have said, "Oh, that's what you meant. The guinea pig cage. No problem."
Now, I'm a strong believer in taking lifelong responsibility for pets, but in this case I decided there was a good chance Jeepers' life would be a short one if he didn't go to a different
home. So I started looking, finally finding a sixth-grade teacher whose previous guinea pig, George, had recently died after an illness the vet couldn't cure.
The decision made, I put Jeepers' cage on the patio table -- as I had a hundred times before -- in preparation of a final cage cleaning. I discovered I didn't have enough shavings and went to the store for more.
In retrospect, it would have been better if I'd taken Andy with me.
I returned to the sound of loud squeaking on the other side of the garage door. I knew it had to be Jeepers. I rushed in. The patio was covered with shavings, the cage split where the wire meets the base. Jeepers was nowhere to be seen and Andy had fur on his muzzle.
"Andy!" I screamed. "Where's Jeepers?"
From under the patio stair came the response, that high-pitched squealing so familiar to anyone who's ever shared space with a guinea pig. I reached under and pulled out the terrified -- but unhurt -- critter.
Andy lunged for him.
"No!" I roared. "Leave it!"
The dog sat, eyes full of mischief. If he could speak, I'm sure he would have said, "Oh, that's what you meant. The guinea pig. No problem."
I put Jeepers in a small box with fresh hay and shavings and found him a quiet, safe spot for the night. By morning he had settled down enough to eat and drink normally.
His first few days as a sixth-grade mascot have passed without incident. I had originally worried that the stress of so many children would be rough on him, but then I realized: After you've looked death in the face, a room full of sixth-graders doesn't seem half-bad.
I miss him a lot, but I know Andy misses him more.