A few weeks ago, she took it to a different level. She walked back into a part of the bushes where I had to let go of her leash. So she was on her own. She poked around for a few minutes and finally reappeared, very Golden-Retriever-proudly, with a tennis ball in her mouth. She keeps getting better at this.

So here’s where it gets almost scary. It turns out there are some tennis courts near our house — with the same chain-link fence, green screen, and bushes around the perimeter. We often walk past these tennis courts, too. Well, Callie figured out that it’s the same deal. She got the idea of looking in these bushes for old tennis balls. Three days in a row, now, she has disappeared into the bushes and returned proudly carrying a tennis ball.

I am continually surprised at some of the clever things dogs do. Scientists tell us that dogs aren’t all that smart — equivalent to a 2 1/2 year old human — but I have a real hard time believing it. Maybe “smart” isn’t quite the right word. Sure, dogs can’t do a Rubik’s cube. And they don’t do very well on an IQ test. But I am constantly seeing them put “two and two” together in ways that I don’t think a 2 1/2 year old child would be able to duplicate.

Dogs seem to have incredible memory and a great ability to “connect the dots.” Call it “clever,” or “smart,” or “creative,” if you want. It’s part of what makes us appreciate them so much!

Tuning into your dog’s intelligence — and nurturing it — is a great way to build a stronger bond with your dog. That’s what dog-bonding is about.

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