Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
C: Entitlements, or Who’s Training Whom?
Yes, I understand that the dogs are spoiled. I do try to keep the separation clear between homo sapiens and canine in this household. Unlike V’s “Dudley” or my sister-in-law’s “Sophie,” my dogs do not presume to sleep on my bed. But they each have their own bed at my bedside. I’m not sure that’s particularly “canine” but, still, it is on the floor.
My dogs both sit beautifully on command and obey the basics. I make sure to order them around every so often just to remind them. “Stay!” I will command, for no good reason. And they both dutifully do, albeit with rolling eyes sometimes as though they are humoring me; but they do it. Rarely do they give any offense whatsoever. Still, the title of “Pack Leader” sometimes seems to hang in life’s gray area around here. Sometimes we can blame that on others….
Take the couch, for instance. Scout is eleven years old. The first nine years of her life as a dog in the house were spent contentedly on the floor. You know, where dogs live? It never-even-crossed-her-mind to get on furniture. Then, when my in-laws had to move away, they could not take their beloved dogs. Sport, their larger dog, was euthanized, a sad task that had been put off for a while. Sport was having major joint and other health issues. Putting him down was something that had to be done, and their move forced that issue.
Perky was their miniature fox terrier. She was old, too, but she moved in with me when her family moved to a senior complex that does not allow dogs (go figure). This was pre-Chili, when Scout and I were on our own. Perky was never under any illusion about pack leadership; she claimed and walked in that authority—in a sweet way, mind you. It’s just that if Perky wanted something, she got it, by hook or crook. She taught Scout a thing or two…watch and learn. The couch was the first lesson.
One thing about Shetland Sheepdogs is their intensity. Because they watch everything so closely, waiting on their opportunity to be of service, their little faces seem to speak their thoughts. This is her "I wish you wouldn't take my picture" face.
You should have seen Scout’s face when Perky first leapt up on the couch to lie down for a snooze (so much better than the hard floor). Scout’s face registered sheer amazement. You could almost hear her thinking, “Wow! I didn’t know dogs could get up there!!” So, she joined Perky. Two dogs on the couch. And, believe me, once that genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back in. Scout has remained an evening couch dog ever since, long after Perky has departed this world.
But the thing that has me writing this post is a recent development and it revolves around one of my dogs’ favorite English-language words: “Treat!” The sound of that word will perk these babies up like no other. When it is spoken, they immediately stop what they are doing and prance joyfully to the cabinet where the dog treats are stored. And, as embarrassing as it is right now for me to admit it, there is quite a selection to be had. Just look at these "Canine Carryouts." Think they make them in those fun T-bone shapes for the dogs??? I don't think so....
Now, in my defense, let me say that the array of treats has grown out of my kind consideration for little Scout. As she has aged, I have noticed that hard biscuits sometimes seem difficult for her to manage, and she cares not one whit for the rawhide chews that Chili loves to gnaw on. Concerned about this, I began shopping for varieties that would allow Scout to enjoy her treat time as much as Chili does. But here’s what is happening now:
We go to the treat door, which is eye level for the dogs. (Probably a bad tactic, right there, huh?). The door is opened, and their long snouts shove right in, greedily sniffing for the treats they know are stored there. “Sit!” I gruffly command; and they both move back onto their haunches, awaiting the favor of a tasty morsel. I pull the treat-of-the-day out and dispense one to each. Chili always happily takes whatever is offered, carrying it into the breakfast room to enjoy. But then comes the vignette that has me re-thinking relationships around here.
Sometimes Scout, like Chili, courteously takes her treat and goes off to enjoy. But, more often than not, she exercises another option: discrimination, of the gourmand kind. She will carefully sniff the treat and then sit back a little and look up at me, her eyes saying, “No, thank you. I am not in the mood for that today. Please offer another.” And, here’s the kicker: I do!! Instead of saying, “Take it or leave it, mutt!” I return the treat to its packaging and search for one that pleases. Sometimes the second choice is a charm; sometimes it takes me three times to please. Some days I believe a silver tray might be in order...
Now, you might think that Scout just has her favorites and perhaps, I should stick with those to make things easier. Nay, not that simple. Scout likes all our varieties of treats, with the exception of the hard rawhide mentioned above. It’s just that some days she’s just not in the mood for dog biscuits, notwithstanding their “oven-baked goodness,” preferring Pupperoni, instead. And, then, there are days when Canine Carryouts (usually a favorite) just aren’t the ticket; “May I have a ‘Beggin’ Strip,’ instead, please?” Of course, she can’t really say this—I have to scramble to read her face and mind to come up with the treat that pleases.
What have I come to? Is it age that has brought me to this? Will I soon be wearing a red hat and toting a little Chihuahua in a purple sweater around? Yes, I do realize that these observations are not really about my dogs…they are about me.
PS – It cannot go without saying that when my dogs visit Mother-in-law (daily while I am at work), they are always given a treat. MIL keeps big dog biscuits for Chili and little ones for Scout. But there is NO VARIETY!! (Horrors!). And Scout does not pull her “No, thank you” routine on MIL. They both seem excited and pleased with her offering…talk about pack leader. I’m afraid to think about what this says about the pack at my house…
Mid-sized city, Somewhere in the South!, United States
We are "C" and "V," two baby-boomers who have been through thick and thin--50+ years of best-friend togetherness.
C is a divorce attorney, separated from her husband of 40(!) years--at age 59 he ran off with a thirty-year-old-never-married-mother-of-two and has now fathered another--and we're not even divorced! A very hard time for C.
C has one grown son--no daughter-in-law or grandchildren yet! (Drat!)
V works in a community based instruction program in a public school, helping special-needs students learn life skills. Mother of three, grandmother of five!
For 50+ years we've laughed together, cried together, and we've learned a lot! We love, love, love writing and want to share with you! Please come share, too!
Check out our posts under the label "Stickhorses" for more, but suffice it to say that these cowgirls started their lives together riding stick horses. Stick horses have come to symbolize the power of dreams and imagination for C and V--besides, we love cowgirl spirit!
You and the mother of the man who done you wrong are going to raise chickens together? I love it. I hope you become international stars in the chicken-raising world, and when you (and his mother and your chickens) are famous, I hope he comes crawling back, pleading with you to take back his poor miserable, not-famous self. You go, girl!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! On to International Chicken Stardom!! C
YET ANOTHER STUPENDOUS COMMENT!
SimplyJoolz (see our blogroll for link) said these kind words about the travails of C:
I love this story -its like a well written novel. I can't wait until the part where C kicks the useless husband between his hanky and his small change pocket! Lol!
It's coming, Joolz! C
PS - thank you all for your comments. They so give me a lift--often just when I need it!
C's SINGLE AGAIN POWER
Below is a list of things I'm learning to do--wish I'd started years earlier! It feels so good to list my "Power Accomplishments" for you, and I'd love to hear about yours!
Replacing the back fireplace refractory panel. Who knew?
Jacking up the front porch with my new, red, hydraulic jack!!
Learning to shoot and getting my Conceal-and-Carry license! (Power rush!!)
Purchasing tires...all by myself!
Buying and installing (!) the lawn tractor battery! Again, not rocket science...
Putting a new end on a ruined looooong extension cord. One prong was missing, and we replaced the plug-in. (Who knew you could do this??) I feel so, well, powerful!
Cleaning Tractor Air Filter
Dealing with fire ants--boy, are those suckers tuff!
Gettin' that utility pole installed.
Ordering gravel (SB 2!)
Replacing hydraulic hoses
Learning about the lawn mower (engine stabilizer!).