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.
Sit, Stay, Down — It’s all Good.
I am not a good dog trainer. I’m unimaginative and don’t think well on my feet.
So you’re never going to find videos of Honey and me doing dance routines like Shiva and Kristine (aren’t they so cute?). And if you say “paw” to Honey, she’ll look at you blankly. She does, however, like to “high-five.”
And yet I bring the clicker and treats out to keep our basic skills strong. Although up, down, sit, stay, go to bed etc. are easy behaviors for Honey, when I get the clicker and treats out, she acts like she’s expecting the most fun ever.
Even routine things are fun to Honey. She finds the joy in figuring out what I want and she doesn’t get bored or resentful no matter what.
Curing an attitude problem.
Many years ago, Mike and I had a weekend routine that made me insane.
Mike’s mom was bipolar and found routine life management tasks hard to manage—shopping, cleaning, paying bills. So every Saturday morning we’d cross the bridge from Philly to South Jersey to help her out with a few things.
I started out really resenting the time. It broke up the entire day. We couldn’t plan other activities for the time. And although Mike and his mom loved each other very much and were very close, they’d argue over every little thing.
It made me nuts.
Then one day it hit me. What would I have been doing with that time if we didn’t have to visit Mike’s mom? Well, my first choice was always to spend it with Mike. And guess what? I was spending time with Mike.
Washing the dishes and listening to the two of them argue about money wasn’t a great joy. But the trip gave us great views of Philly as we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge. And every time we’d stop on the way home at one of those amazing New Jersey diners that are the envy of the world.
Once I let go of my resentment, the chore became fun.
It’s not a walk. It’s a treat.
Most of my neighbors disappear in the winter. They limit their dogs to quick visits to the yard and stay bundled up inside until the first warm day.
I hate the cold. I struggle to go outside if I don’t have to.
But a walk is always a treat to Honey. It’s never routine. Just like a training session is never routine. There are smells to smell. And people to greet (although fewer than in the summer).
It’s hard not to get swept up into her enthusiasm.
I won’t get the benefit of all those awesome smells. But I can build some fun into our routine too by making a hot cup of tea on our return and enjoying it with my tired and satisfied dog.
Join us for a hot drink.
Today Honey and I are featured on Coffee with a Canine. It was a gracious invitation since I’ve never drunk coffee in my life, with a canine or otherwise. Thanks for hosting us, Marshal.
Maybe someday we’ll be invited to a blog with a more fitting beverage. Perhaps Margaritas with a Mutt? Dewar’s with a Dog? Galliano with a Golden?
But in the meantime, stop by and say hello.