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.
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?