Sunday, January 31, 2010


People can learn a lot from dogs. For one thing, dogs live in the present. No exceptions. They aren't planners. They don't dwell on their past mistakes. It's all moment to moment for them. Dogs are also very determined to get what they want IF they want it badly enough. For instance, I was just brushing my dog, Shelby, which always requires a muzzle since it is not her favorite thing. I chose to do this while my mom was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. My mother dropped a piece of broccoli on the floor. We have three dogs in our house. Delilah probably wouldn't have eaten it anyway. She tends to roll things around on her tongue and spits out whatever she doesn't like. Molly would eat it, but she isn't willing to fight for it. Shelby ran from the living room with her muzzle still on to get that broccoli. One of my greatest fears is that someone will be working with plastic, or something worse, in the kitchen and drop it, and Shelby will swallow it before she realizes it isn't actually food. Now, Molly could have taken Shelby with a muzzle, but she still sat and watched. My mom couldn't stop laughing. Shelby ate the broccoli with the muzzle on. It wasn't an easy task, but she broke it down until it fit through. As I said, she was determined.

About ten years ago, after my mom and stepdad adopted Molly they decided to get another dog to keep her company. One of the dogs they hoped might be a good fit, but wasn't, was named Lady. I believe she was a collie mix. However, I could be wrong about that; my memory is lacking in some ways. Lady taught my parents that dogs can be a lot like teenagers. For instance, if you take a really good kid and throw him in with a bunch of delinquents, in no time flat your really good kid has become a delinquent, rather than your really good kid turning the delinquents into a bunch of really good kids. It was kind of like that with Molly and Lady. Molly was housebroken; Lady was not. After a week with Lady both dogs were peeing and pooping in the house. It smelled a lot like Grand Central Station; for those of you who haven't been there, that isn't a good thing.

My mom is a big believer in praise and understands that punishment after the fact is useless because dogs live in the moment and don't understand what they are being punished for unless you catch them, literally, in the act. So she spent a lot of time outside with both dogs, hoping to catch Lady doing her business so that she could lavish her with praise. Her time was rewarded when Lady produced a huge pile of #2. All the while my mom is praising her like crazy, "What a good dog, Lady. What a good girl." Molly is very jealous of any other dog receiving any praise for any reason. She immediately bolts across the yard at 100mph to horn in on this action and steal Lady's thunder; her right front paw lands squarely in Lady's "business." Mom says that Molly picked up her right front paw, stared at it with something akin to horror or, perhaps, disbelief. It was like her own foot was something foreign and she desperately hoped it didn't belong to her. She tried wiping it on the grass and then took off like a dog possessed, vigorously shaking her right front paw.

People can learn a lot from dogs. Learn to pick your battles. When it's important, keep fighting even when the odds are against you. Don't eat something just because it's there. Keep up with your kids and pay attention to who their friends are. Hygiene is important. Interpersonal battles are won with praise not punishment. Jealousy will take you to places you will regret later. Be more careful with your crap because you don't want to spend all your time cleaning up your shoes. People can learn a lot from dogs.

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