This boxer's bite may be worse than his bark

July 25, 1997

The first time I met Ikey (pronounced I-kee), he tried to eat my ear. This normally would be cause for affront, if not a slap in the face, but the guy was so disarming I just couldn't muster up any anger.

The second time I got up close and personal with Ikey, he was eating a rock. At this point I realized I had no reason to take the ear thing personally.

Ikey must be suffering from a severe eating disorder, I thought. And it could be pretty disgusting - depending on what was in Ikey's mouth at the time.


But then Ikey's a boxer, and I had a boxer once. When I thought back to my days with Muffins I remembered some of the things we used to find in his mouth. I realized then that while Ikey's behavior might not be considered proper in the world of poodles, for example, it was perfectly proper in the world of boxers.

If you were to measure Ikey against others of his breed in the foraging category, he would no doubt come out top dog.

At any rate, after meeting Ikey I took great pains to reassure his owner - I'll call him Luke - that his pup's eating habits were perfectly normal. Although Luke had owned and trained dogs in the past, he had never before had a boxer.

He was well read on the breed, and had already fallen head over heels in love with this playful, butt-wriggling pup who possessed an unrestrained enthusiasm for life.

But he was yet to learn that Ikey's table manners would always be unsavory at the least and disgusting at the worst.

He had easily taught Ikey to sit on command, but if he thought he was going to train him in the fine art of proper etiquette, he had another think cqcoming.

It's been a couple of months now since Luke got Ikey, and he has finally seen the light. He no longer tries to keep Ikey from picking up disgusting things. He simply reaches his hand into Ikey's mouth at regular intervals and removes what's inside.

Sometimes other people also have to reach into Ikey's mouth. My girlfriend had to do that when Ikey snatched her gold earring right off her lobe the first time he met her. It was only by luck that she was able to retrieve it from somewhere around his uvula. Another instant and it would have been goodbye.

Ikey knows how to "drop it!", but he doesn't always want to. Thus the hand-in-mouth routine.

Take the other day, for example. Luke and I were talking outside when we looked down and saw something greenish protruding from Ikey's lips.

"Drop it, Ikey," Luke intoned. Ikey looked up with those big brown eyes, and totally ignored him.


Ikey's eyebrow went up, and he cocked his head.

When the greenish thing started to disappear, Luke reached into Ikey's mouth and began groping around.

"God, what is it?" I asked.

"I don't know," Luke said. He was still groping.

After he got it out, we still didn't know what it was.

"Looks like something that might have been alive once," I offered.

Ikey gave us a dirty look, turned, stuck his head into a patch of undergrowth and resumed foraging. In a span of about 15 minutes, he managed to find a veritable potpourri for the palate - plastic, styrofoam, tree fungus, coal slag, whole walnuts ... .

The other day, the two of them stopped by my place to visit. As Luke and I talked in my garden Little Eden, Ikey roamed at leash-length from us. I wasn't paying much attention to him until I heard the distinctive "cr-a-a-a-a-ck" of splitting wood.

Luke bent down and began removing large splinters from Ikey's mouth.

"That was a piece of driftwood," I commented.

Ikey firmly believes that anything visible is edible. If he can't chew it, he swallows it whole. If it will fit, of course.

Muffins had the same philosophy. It got him in trouble on several occasions. For example, he should not have swallowed a corn cob whole, or inhaled a banana with live bee attached, or devoured my bug collection - pins, formaldehyde and all.

To his credit, Muffins didn't let those painful incidents deter him from what we believe was his purpose in life - to find the incredible inedible.

Muffins never did.

I think it only fitting that Ikey continue the search.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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