Every Day Self-Sufficiency – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Layla the foster dog beagle looks up.

Problem Solving 101: There’s a noise outside. What’s going on?

Sometimes, on a long car trip, I’ll look at the surrounding landscape and ask myself, “If there were no cars around, could I survive here? And for how long?

I look for the warmest, driest shelters. I consider what materials are available. I wonder what I could find to eat.

If I had to, could I survive on my own? And could my spoiled dog?

I’ll probably never find myself in a wilderness struggling to survive. But I’d like to think if I had to, I could.

It’s why I take pleasure in solving small problems for myself without relying on money and technology. And it’s why I build problem-solving into Honey’s life too.

Honey, Autonomous Dog

Honey doesn’t have to hunt or scavenge for her own food. But she has to work to feed herself.

The Kong I use to feed her meals is too big for her to empty using just her tongue. So she’s had to learn to pick it up and drop it hard on the floor to loosen the food inside so it empties out.

Every treat Honey gets is either a reward for offering a behavior or she has to track it (in the snow, lately) using her nose.

Layla the foster beagle finds a good view on top of the couch.

Problem Solving 101: This should give me the view I need.

Honey makes other decisions around the house as well.

On most walks, I let her choose the path. And the speed. And even how long we stay out.

If we return to the house and she’s not ready to go in, sometimes we’ll just keep going.

I don’t know that allowing Honey to make small decisions about her activities means she’d be better prepared if she had to manage on her own. But I still think encouraging self-sufficiency is good for her and builds confidence. Just like it does for me.

Pride in Problem Solving

I do all my grocery shopping by bus. And I’m really proud of how I’ve managed the task.

I place the heaviest objects (milk, dog food, flour) in my backpack. I pack my bags so that some are light and others are heavy. I carry the heavy bags with one hand, leaving the light bags on the arm I use to swipe my bus pass.

Once I get off the bus with 50+ pounds of groceries, I have a 2 1/2 block walk. Luckily, I parked a shopping cart to a street sign using a bike lock to keep it in place. I put my bags in the cart to wheel home without a struggle.

Yeah, I know it’s not comparable to cutting off your arm to escape from a tight canyon. But hey, every one of my neighbors works within walking distance of their house and still owns a car. So I’m going to take some pride in doing well something very few people, even in my environmentally conscious town, do at all.

Every Day Self-Sufficiency

Not owning two items commonly seen as necessities in the U.S. (a car and a cell phone) makes me think differently.

If something goes wrong, I can’t count on hopping in the car or making a quick call to fix it.

Being self-sufficient in little, every day things has been good for me. It’s a thrill to figure out how to do something a new way. And I think Honey would agree.

I swear she looked very pleased with herself the first time she got up on the couch to drop her Kong when she couldn’t shift the food any other way.

I need to be more self-sufficient in other areas of my life, like fixing my bike and doing home repairs. But it’s a start.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the flush of pride that comes with independent problem-solving. I’ll keep looking for ways to share it with Honey. And hope I never have to test my problem-solving abilities in the wilderness.

Do you see the clever things you do each day as signs of your self-sufficiency? Whether it’s making a meal from whatever you have around the house to finding a way to coax a stray dog or cat out of hiding or fixing a car problem when you don’t have any tools, what problems have you solved with your own ingenuity? And what problems does your dog solve?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. I love your self-sufficient, I can do it attitude! I’m not really good at problem solving of the survival nature. I know that Brooks had been on his own for a very long time before we adopted him, and I wish he could tell me where he was and how he survived. He was in pretty bad shape when he was found, fur falling out, skin covered in bumps, ear infections, malnourished, etc. But he made it, and now he’s thriving. It would be interesting to know what he learned from that experience and how it uses it to adapt to his new life. Fortunately, he is not fearful or angry or anything…he is just a big loving sweet dog.

    • I hope Honey never has to rely on herself for survival. But if it ever happened, I’d love for her to be as resilient as Brooks.

  2. Great start at being self-sufficient. We try too but have to admit to not being very good at it. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Wow Pamela, that’s marvelous. I had no idea that you had no car, although you do strike me as the “no-cell-phone” type of person. It’s great that you find a way to manage your shopping without use of a car, and that you are always alert to your surroundings.

    • The hardest part of being car-free is the limitations it puts on going places with Honey.

      But it’s nice not having to pay for gas.

      • How do you handle things like vet visits?

        • The vet is less than a mile from our house so we walk for regular wellness visits.

          But one of the reasons I worked so hard on training Honey to accept the bike cart was in case I needed to take her to the vet if she was injured or ill.

          I still worry about what I’d do in an after-hours emergency, though. Cornell University Vet Hospital is only 3 miles away but it’s straight up hill and I don’t think I could pull Honey on my bike on a wintry day. Cabs are not pet-friendly and neither is the local car share. I guess I’d take my chance on getting the $250 fine for transporting her loose in a car share vehicle.

          • Some areas offer vet ambulance services now, it might be something to look into as a number to have and hopefully never have to use. :-)

  4. Goodness gracious me. I didn’t think there was anyone left without a mobile phone these days 😀

    • You and everyone else. We continually run into problems with people who assume we have a phone and don’t have any way to deal with someone unconnected. :)

  5. I like to think I could survive if I had to. I’m not quite sure what I would eat, but I guess I’d figure it out. I do think about shelter and how I would warm myself.

    I’m certain Delilah would survive because that is who she is, Sampson on the other hand I’m not so sure.

    I have a curiosity about the lack of cell phone, I’ve been noticing less and less pay phones in my general area, in fact I can’t even tell you where the closest one is to me. So if you did have a problem and needed to get in touch with someone, what would you do?

    • What to do without a cell phone? Well, the most common reason I’ve needed a phone in the past was when I had car trouble. Take away the car and you’ve taken away 95% of all the “emergency” calls anyone ever makes. :)

      Besides, my not having a phone means someone else will get to be a Good Samaritan if I ever need one.

  6. Silas can’t choose about a lot of things, because I have to push him out of his comfort zone a little. If he had his way, he would never leave our house, except maybe to go on his one favorite path at the park. I do try to let him choose when I can–which toy we play with, say, or I’ll set up scenarios where he can make decisions. I also try very hard not to immediately solve all of his problems for him.

    I try to walk out to get our groceries sometimes, but I must confess that mostly I drive.

    • Sitting back and letting a dog (or a child) solve his own problems is tough. But really important. Glad you can do that for Silas sometimes.

      We talked about getting rid of the car for a long time before we did it. But as long as I had it, I used it. Just like everyone.

  7. You sound like you should live in the city! Self sufficiency is key here in the big apple. We don’t use cars and it’s all about finding the easiest way to get things done. Luckily there are stores everywhere so you don’t have to walk too far with groceries, etc..

    • The great thing about NY is it’s easier to not have a car. My town will never be car free as long as it’s so cheap and easy to own one.

      After 12 years in Ithaca, I still get homesick for Philadelphia. I love 24 hour a day, 365 days a year public transit!

  8. I get by just fine without a car, but I’d NEVER get all my blogging tasks done without my iPad. The time I spend on the bus reading blogs & commenting is time I can later spend with my dogs and family. For me, it’s not about the contact, but being able to make use of every minute.

    I do know what you mean about the joy that comes from being self-sufficient. I can never thank my Mother enough for making me stand on my own two feet. The hubby wasn’t as lucky and really struggles with basic concepts like organization or how to turn the dial on the washing machine. (True story: it has a note on it that says ” pull on nob, THEN turn”)

  9. Georgia was a runaway [presumably from a pigdog farm] and looking at her scavenging skills, I think she would survive quite well on her own though she might miss her bed and blankie.

    I still don’t know how you do without a mobile phone. I don’t use mine much at all, but there have been times when it was handy. Do you at least have a landline? I am a public transport user myself which is why it sucks that it’s so bad here in Sydney. I worked out how much 50+ pounds of groceries is [!] and I’m now sure that you’re built like Wonder Woman.

  10. That’s really cool how you get by without those “essential” things. This couple weeks with no car has forced me to be a bit more patient sometimes, though it hasn’t had a huge effect on me as I use my bike most of the time anyway.

    I think I notice my own ingenuity most when figuring out how to solve dog training problems…coming up with creative little prescriptions for this dog’s insecurity, that dog’s impulse control issues. You’re right, it is quite empowering and fun.

  11. I live in an area where public transportation is pretty non-existent so a car is considered a necessity…Yet mine has been in the shop on and off for 3 of the last 4 weeks (weird electrical issues that keep mutating) (and it’s going back again tomorrow) what have I done? Begged a ride to the grocery store and used our morning walks to do a few errands that were doable in our neighborhood…and I’ve gotten by…I do have a cell phone, but i’m the only person i know with just a basic one…no smart phone, no apps and i do just fine thank you…I have enough basic skills to tackle minor home repairs and can make something edible out of the most obscure leftovers…Gizmo on the other hand has no survival skills…He’s been with me since he was 3 months and knows nothing about the world…but he’s clever, so i’m sure he’d figure out a way to use his mega cuteness to sucker someone into taking care of him