Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
Obey the Scent
When we first tried K9 Nose Work with Honey, our instructor told us to do everything we could to rev up her excitement levels. Nose work class was a “no obedience zone.” We were told not to correct Honey, make her sit, stay, or do anything else that sent a signal that nose work was about anything but having fun.
While it’s important to have good manners in most settings, nose work class was all about increasing the drive to sniff.
One of the hardest things for Honey to learn in nose work is that the item she’s supposed to find might be located over her head. Honey has never counter surfed. And getting her to raise her head to search for smells off the ground took her a while to master.
You see, Honey’s such a good girl she doesn’t even want to look like she’s counter surfing.
Good Behavior Kills Fun
I frequently see a bumper sticker around town: “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” The quote is by Pulitzer prize-winning social historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
It’s not often that academics see their words plastered on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But this phrase has resonance with a lot of women. And it has resonance with me.
I am insanely driven to be obedient.
Right now, at the top of the WordPress dashboard while I’m typing is the message, “WordPress 3.3.2 is available! Please update now.” And I feel incredibly guilty that I haven’t yet done just that.
When I was a little girl, I remember my dad saying to me, “A lady always carries a purse.” That simple phrase has seen me taking a purse camping, strapping it over my shoulders before hopping on a bike, and cramming one into my backpack full of books just to be sure I was in compliance with paternal wisdom.
Of course, keeping track of a purse while camping or riding a bike doesn’t exactly add to the fun. And the really crazy thing? The only things I have to put in a purse are a tube of lipstick, a change purse, and my keys—all things that easily fit into a jacket pocket.
Breaking the Law (Soundtrack here)
It’s time to start breaking some rules. And it’s all Honey’s fault.
Updating WordPress is going to have to wait. I’d want to fit in some training with her teeter board and bicycle cart before I go to work.
And who can manage a purse along with a leash, clicker, and treat bag? Not me. The purse stays home.
But Honey is driving me to even greater lawless behavior.
Our dog trainer suggested we take Honey to the local playground to expose her to new moving objects and to build her confidence. Unfortunately, the local playground is flanked with signs that say “No Dogs Please.”
You know what? I don’t really care. Well, I do. I know they want the playground to be a safe place for kids and free of dog waste where children are playing. I get it.
But I’ll obey the spirit of the rule without the letter. We go to the playground early in the morning while kids are still sleeping in. And we make sure Honey has taken care of all her hygiene tasks before we get there.
And this summer, Honey and I will be lawlessly enjoying the lakeshore.
Let me explain. I live in a tiny progressive town that brags about how 41% of its residents walk to work. The government talks a lot about ensuring the town is safe and easy for bicyclists and pedestrians—but only if you don’t have a dog.
You see, public transportation and local cabs are off limits to dogs. The local carshare program lists as a benefit that every car in their fleet is dog free. And the nearest lake front access, a city park, allows no dogs despite being so overrun by geese that people find it unpleasant to picnic among the droppings.
I’m tired of being an obedient girl who goes along with stupidity. And I bet Honey would agree—if she could talk. And if she wasn’t a dog who didn’t think about these things.
Being Bad, Building Confidence*
(*I had a more alliterative word but after Doggy Style Pick-Up Lines I thought I’d better tone it back.)
Honey and I are such good girls that I don’t think the Sheriff’s department has to hire more staff to keep up with our crime spree. I also don’t think we’ll be inspiring gangs of women with dogs to roam the streets breaking laws with impunity. I don’t even think we’ll make history.
But maybe showing just a little bad behavior is a good start.
Are you a rule follower who needs to show a little bad behavior? Or do you refuse to follow rules that enforce stupidity? And does your dog inspire you to follow or break rules?