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.
Have you ever come home from a bad day at work, started to complain, and found someone giving you advice about how to fix things? Isn’t it annoying?
Sometimes people just need to B & M a little. And dogs do too.
What’s Wrong, Honey?
It’s 8:00 p.m. I’m settling down for the evening but Honey’s just warming up. Her vocal cords, that is.
Now compared to the machine gun staccato of a Yorkie or the alert barking of a German Shepherd, this is nothing.
Woof! A few seconds pass. Woof! Another small pause. Woof! Woof! Woof!
But it’s annoying, you know?
So let’s go down the list:
- Two long and interesting walks? Check.
- Two nutritious meals and several small snacks? Check.
- Time spent training for mental stimulation? Check.
- A few random games of tug throughout the day? Check.
- Recently let out to “fertilize” the lawn? Check.
Honey, you have nothing to complain about. You’ve had an ideal doggy day. What more could you want? And why won’t you just be quiet?
But one thing was missing from Honey’s perfect day. Because Mike was still at work. And Honey really looks forward to playtime with him. After all, he plays to win. And he’s her partner in causing all kinds of mischief.
I don’t think Honey believed that by barking she’d make Mike appear. I think she was frustrated. She wanted Mike to come home. And she just felt the need to let the world know.
She just wanted to
Bitch Bark and Moan a little.
B*tch and Run
This morning, at the halfway point of my three-mile loop along the lake, I was having a great time. I felt lucky that my body is strong enough to run. I loved looking out on the mist over the lake. What could be better?
Then my mind cast back to me running at eighteen years old.
I hated it. And that’s not a word I use lightly.
But here’s the rub. My freshman gym class had fitness goals we had to meet to get an A. One of them was running 1 1/2 miles in twelve minutes or less. The slower you ran, the lower your grade dropped.
All of my friends decided to encourage me. Every night, a different friend went running with me to keep my spirits up. It felt like torture.
Some of my friends were athletic. My roommate was a talented soccer player who loved all kinds of sports. My friend down the hall had been running for years.
Others never ran except to keep me company.
And boy, did everyone get an earful. I don’t think i’ve ever complained so much about anything in my entire life. Let’s just say I was far more of a female dog than Honey.
And yet they stuck with me. One of them even married me. And they never tried to “fix” me. They just let me vent, step after step.
Oh yeah, I got my A. And I learned something else.
Complaining Serves a Purpose
I was called for jury duty several times in Philadelphia. There are so many trials that they need every potential juror they can get.
If you’ve never lived in a big city, you may not realize how trying jury duty can be. We arrived two hours early to get through the metal detectors and bag search. You’d be considered for several trials over one day before being either chosen for a jury or sent home.
And the whole time, everyone is whining and complaining about being there at all.
Eventually I realized that the whining was part of the bonding process. It gave strangers, who otherwise had nothing in common with each other, something to talk about. People of all races, ages, income etc. were united by doing something they really didn’t want to do. And complaining about it.
B & M probably kept the crowds happy. At least as happy as they could be under the circumstances.
Maybe Honey just needed an outlet too.
Everyone Deserves to Bark and Moan Sometimes
Honey didn’t want to play with me. She certainly didn’t want me to rely on her willingness to please me to train her to bark only when I allowed her to.
She just wanted to complain a little. Her world wasn’t right because someone was missing from it. And she just had to let it out.
So I remembered my college friends who listened to me whine on those short runs. And I thought of all those complaining people I met on jury duty. I decided that maybe it’s ok to whine sometimes if it gets you through a rough patch.
And, I figured that to be a good friend, sometimes you just listen when someone wants to Bark and Moan a little.