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This Couple Said Their Dog Faked A Cough So They Would Stay Home With Him (It Worked)

"We’re pretty sure he knows that we know he was faking it," Sully's mom, Kennady, told BuzzFeed News.

Posted on November 7, 2017, at 5:08 p.m. ET

This is Kennady Longhurst, 22, and her husband is Alex Salsberry, 25, from Utah with their dog Sullivan ("Sully" for short).

Kennady Longhurst

Last Thursday, Longhurst said she came home for lunch and heard Sully making "this weird combination of coughing, choking, clearing his throat sound." She was alarmed and called her husband, who returned home from work immediately.

Kennady Longhurst

"I immediately freaked out and started googling dog CPR," Longhurst told BuzzFeed News. But then, she noticed Sully reverted to acting "completely normal."

He was "wagging his tail and running around acting like himself, besides this weird cough," she said.

Nevertheless, Salsberry took the afternoon off work to stay home with Sully for the rest of the day. The couple said though Sully he would occasionally cough, he was behaving normally.

The cough appeared to have stopped that night. But the following morning, as Salsberry got ready for work, Sully started to cough again.

Salsberry worked from home, and the couple ultimately decided it'd be best to take Sully to the vet to get the cough checked out.

Longhurst said the vet named a series of possible causes, including "kennel cough," which can develop after dogs socialize with other dogs. But test results suggested that Sully was normal and healthy.

Kennady Longhurst

"They gave us some antibiotics just in case it was a bacterial infection, but he didn’t have a fever or any symptoms," Longhurst said. "So the doctor was confused."

The couple continued to keep a close watch on Sully for the rest of the week, but didn't observe any strange noises or coughs after the vet visit.

After checking in with the doctor again, Longhurst said, "He told us sometimes animals fake sick or limp for attention or treats or special privileges."

Kennady Longhurst

"We’re pretty sure he knows that we know he was faking it. So he is just a naughty faker who wanted some extra attention, and boy did he get it," she said. "We baby him so much he probably learned that if he acted weird or different someone would spend the day with him."

Colin Allen, a professor of cognitive science at the University of Pittsburgh, told BuzzFeed News that based on his knowledge of animal cognitive behavior, he suspects Sully was not deceiving his owners, but drawing upon past learned behaviors.

"I’d be less willing to agree that it’s a deliberate deception such that the dog realizes that by coughing the owners will assume it’s sick," Allen said. "I’m going for the explanation that it’s learned behavior."

Longhurst tweeted about the incident and said other dog owners have reached out with similar stories about their dogs.

husband stayed home from work cuz our dog was coughing. We took him to the vet and paid 85$ for him to tell us OUR DOG WAS FAKE COUGHING

@Kennnaughty My dog did similar. He stopped walking, I rushed him to the vets. £36. Nothing wrong, he just didnt li…

And the learned behavior may not be limited to dogs. One person said their cat "faked a limp once."

@Kennnaughty My cat faked a limp once. Most expensive pity party ever!

Others were simply impressed with Sully's maneuver — and could really relate.

tag yourself I'm the dog

Me when I want attention

"Sully is so so, so smart," Longhurst said. "We’ve babied him so much he knows how to play us like a fiddle."

So your dog is a stunt queen

She confirmed that he has not coughed since the vet visit, or been up to any other mischief. "He is his happy self," she said.

Kennady Longhurst

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.