I was standing in the yard one day, disgruntled about some form of unfairness in life, and i decided to channel my frustration into pulling up some of the young tree stumps. The medium ones required a lot of back-breaking work, hacking the thing to pieces with the axe and wedging the shovel underneath roots to try to lift it up. However, sometimes the really small ones could be lifted from the ground with just the shovel. I picked one of the small stumps and dug around it a bit. Then i wedged the shovel as deep as i could underneath the biggest root visible and put my weight into the handle. The stump was lifted from the ground with dirt and tiny spiders still clinging to the scraggly root structure. Where it had been, a tiny crater. Cashew watched me do this with head cocked and ears alert. I looked around the yard and found my next target. I went over and tugged at it with my fingers to see how hard i would have to work to pry it loose; trying to judge if i needed the axe yet. Cashew ran to where i was, pushed my fingers out of the way with her nose, grabbed hold of the stump with her mouth, and tugged backwards with all her might. It didn’t immediately come loose but it was moving. I was thrilled with her enthusiasm for my project so i decided to encourage her efforts. I dug around the stump with the shovel to try to help her pry it free. She bit the shovel and barked at it. She wanted to do it herself. She began digging with her paws around the stump. Dirt was flying in every direction. She was so excited to be useful! Then she grabbed hold of the stump with her mouth once again. She tugged backwards 6 times and the thing came loose, sending her backwards on her rump. She got up and carried the result of her work over to me for approval. I couldn’t believe it! The dog had taught herself to dig up stumps! I grabbed her and kissed her neck. I praised and petted her. Then she carried her prize proudly all over the yard. She did this until she saw me picking out another stump. Then she dropped her prize immediately (which Sili took full advantage of) and ran over to push me out of the way to do the job. She didn’t want any help. All i had to do was touch a stump with my finger and she’d dig it up. I sometimes worried that she’d hurt her jaw or break a tooth and tried to help her but she would have none of it, so i became careful to point only at loose stumps and dig the harder ones up when she was inside the house. I had to be careful not to touch anything i wanted to keep because she understood the finger point as a universal sign of sorts for “dig”. I was thrilled with her new skill. She really aimed to please and if her owner was in the yard she would always look for a task her owner desired her to do and then perform it. I had to learn over my first year with her that the problem arose when her owner was not in the yard. If she could not see her owner, she aimed to please herself. That could mean anything from digging up buried lines running from the house to chewing outdoor extension cords in half. I had to learn that if i was not in the yard, neither could she be. It wasn’t ideal but it was a policy necessary to enact if i was going to enjoy her personality, gifts, and talents without having to yell at her all the time and constantly save her from near death experiences. Cashew was an amazing dog. She was also exhausting. She required a lot of work from her carer but when put in, she was incredible to witness. I had to be careful to remember on days when i was tired that she was not like my beautiful couch-potato mutt, my older dog Sili. She would not be resting with us in the house and there was no universe in which i could expect that of her. It made me cry some days in the throes of mental and physical exhaustion but her talents far outweighed the sacrifices made to keep her happy and healthy.