The Puppiness Project – Some Things Aren’t Worth Fighting Over

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.

Golden Retriever and mixed breed puppy

Do you really think you're big enough to take a rope toy away from me?

This week I’m learning life lessons from two dogs: Honey and our foster puppy Scooter. Observing the two of them together is a master’s class in relationship-building.

Honey chooses her battles.

Honey was here first. And she’ll be here long after Scooter goes off to his forever home.

So we try to accord Honey the respect she’s earned as furry diva of the house. That means Scooter can’t take Honey’s preferred spot on the couch or have all the freedom she has.

We’ve also noticed that Honey will sometimes guard balls from other dogs in the dog park. We wanted to be very careful that Scooter didn’t get in over his head if he decided he wanted something belonging to Honey.

For those reasons, we were a little concerned when Scooter started eying Honey’s Nylabone—while she was chewing it.

First he looked. Then he jumped up against the couch. He swiped at the bone. Then Scooter quietly, gently swiped the bone right out of Honey’s mouth and ran off with it to the cushion by the bookcase.

Honey just watched.

It’s just not fair.

I’ve been known to wade into an occasional conflict when I think a situation is unfair. Sometimes the unfairness is really important and needs to be corrected immediately. But other times, it’s not worth the effort.

I remember serving on a management team at a previous job when someone suggested that non-management staff should be prohibited from having coffee or tea at their desks. The reason given was that the staff members had precious archival items on their desks that could be damaged if liquids spilled.

The crazy thing is that management staff were as likely to have archival materials on their desks as anyone else in the building. We all worked in an historical archive, after all. And we all had computers which can also be damaged by spilled liquids.

The illogic and unfairness of this arbitrary decision made me insane. And I’m not a coffee drinker and believe everyone should take breaks away from their desk on a regular basis anyway.

I put a lot of (wasted) energy into fighting this policy. And for what? I have no idea.

(Well, I have a little idea. I have very little tolerance for nonsense unless it’s for the purpose of entertainment. Nonsense as policy makes me nuts. )

I need to learn from Honey how to choose my battles.

Honey the Golden Retriever

I need to stay mellow. I don't want to get wrinkles from worrying. That Shar Pei down the street looks like he lets every little thing bother him.

Just let it go, like a gnawed on Nylabone.

A large part of Honey’s decision not to fight Scooter over the bone was her realization that Scooter is just a puppy. She cuts him a lot of slack.

Just like Honey recognizes that children are different from adults, she knows a puppy is not an adult dog.

But I think the look of resignation on Honey’s face told me that this battle was not worth fighting. She’d get the bone back eventually.

In the meantime, why give up her comfy spot on the couch?

In the future, I’ll channel Honey when I’m deciding which battles to take up. And when I should just keep the comfy spot on the couch and let everyone else worry about what’s fair.
This is the Mischief Monday Pet Blog Hop. Hop on…

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  1. Haha Storm believes all kongs and toys are hers! Thunder, even though bigger is OK with that, mostly. On the rare occasion that Thunder has kept a toy, Storm just waits for an opportunity to snatch it. I guess both dawgs pick their battles. :)

  2. At least Honey lets your dog have it! My new puppy will trick my old puppy into playing, indulge him in a single loop of chase around the house, and snatch up what ever it was he had on the return trip. >.<

  3. Honey is very smart and I could learn a few things from her myself.

    I do tend to wade right into the thick of things when I think something is unfair, it is hard to sit back and watch, but I am (slowly) learning to choose my battles.

    Dogs have the diplomacy thing down real well. :-)

  4. Great life lesson for everyone to remember.

  5. Mike Webster says:

    Pam, maybe now you won’t put up such a fuss when I borrow that black velvet dress without asking you first.

  6. Sounds like Honey is a wise woman who could teach us all a thing or two! The most amusing part of your story for me is that anyone would find a Nylabone something to fight over! To me they look like such boring pieces of plastic–but I am so happy that Sandy seems to think they’re pretty special too!

    Years ago I had a Dental Dinosaur…I think it may be time to invest in one of those again….

  7. That’s a great lesson! Honey is truly a lady.

    Elka tends to believe that all food is hers or about to become hers. While she never steals it outright, she can get vocal!

  8. Honey is smart and sweet.
    Kelly used to steal food and toys right out of our yellow lab’s mouth. Hudson, being a sweet and gentle lab, just let her take it. Some dogs are like that.

  9. Several years ago I brought home three Nylabones for the three dogs I had then. They all scurried away to hide them. I wasn’t sure whether they thought a nylon bone was ridiculous or just too good not to save til later. I’m actually sure it was the former because we didn’t see them again for a long time. They would happily have shared with another dog.

  10. It’s amazing what our dogs can teach us sometimes. Like you, I often find myself spending too much time agonizing over the “fairness” of a situation when it’s really not necessary. Dogs just live in the moment and never seems to stress about fairness like we do!

  11. When our puppy Hurley was smaller, he did the same thing with bones and my older girls just let him. Unless there is a confrontation brewing, I let them figure out toy/bone possession for themselves. The end result of me just letting them figure it out is that Maggie would steal it back, Hurley would try to get it back and they would end up sharing the bone, each gnawing on one end. It was the cutest thing! I am really glad that I didn’t feel the need to interfere and let them work it out on their own. Sadie isn’t into sharing her bones but will let Hurley have it unless it’s a new bone. Maggie & Hurley still share – toys, bones, whatever. I think I could have created issues between them all had I interfered so I’m really glad that was a battle I chose to remain neutral in and let them figure it out on their own!

  12. As I tend to avoid confrontation, instead of arguing when I think something is unfair, I will just pout over it by myself. That isn’t very healthy either. Some things are definitely worth making a fuss over (No tea?? Really??) but others just create unnecessary negative emotions. But in the moment it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. Honey clearly knew the nylabone just wasn’t worth the battle. I’d love to have that kind of calm thought process!

    I wonder if she would be as indulgent if Scooter was closer to her age?

  13. Honey is a wise dog. My late heart dog Louie would not have been so understanding of Scooter; I do think she “knows” he is a puppy, no real threat. Louie (I saw him do this twice) woud put a rawhide in a doorway, back up to “hide” waiting for an innocent dog to come along, thinking she could have the rawhide at which time Louie would ferociously pounce, claiming his rawhide back. I miss that old Beagle.

  14. I need to take a tip from Honey… “nonsense as a policy” could perfectly describe my work some days. It’s true that not all battles are worth fighting… who needs the stress?

  15. Honey, you’re a martyr. Go get Nyla back right now. And while you’re at it, remember to sit on Scooter just so he’s clear who’s boss. Pups these days!

    Signed, your friend Georgia.

  16. I’ve been called part dog before. It’s intuition at its finest. I’ve learned soooo much from my dogs throughout the years.
    It is reason to wag every single day.
    Aloha wags!

  17. I can so relate to this! This is a very good lesson that I am just now learning!
    Instead of me getting my panties all up in a bunch I am starting to let someone else fret about the small stuff!! Life is just to short to be battling all the time!!

  18. I need to channel my inner Honey sometimes, too! lol Actually, working in PreK, I’ve learned that I have to stand back and let conflicts work themselves out a lot of the time. Sometimes it would just be easier to step in and solve the problem with an arbitrary decision, but it wouldn’t teach them how to solve their own problems. And, well, okay, I admit it, every once in a while, a kid just needs to be clocked by another kid to get the point! 😛 It’s so hard to remember to transfer all that good stuff to your adult life sometimes, though!

  19. **sigh** Felix feels Honey’s pain. Sometimes when kol wants that nyla Felix just heaves a little sigh and let’s him go. Other times, that swipe can bet the start of WWIII. You just never know.

  20. It’s interesting that Honey seems to be tolerating Scooter’s puppy mischief, despite not biologically being related to him / meeting him immediately after birth (this can really matter in the animal world!). Dogs can be remarkably patient in comparison to other species.

  21. Isn’t it amazing all the wisdom we can learn from our pets? Thanks for sharing the story — I loved it. My pets have yet to learn this wisdom. Crystal gets what she wants … always … because she’s the boss. She may be the smallest by far, but she won’t put up with anyone messing with her. She makes ALL the rules. And so Ryker bullies Russet, because he can. And I suspect because he’s frustrated that Crystal runs the show. And I have to rescue Russet, because I have to step in for unfairness too. LOL, too bad my animals can’t take a lesson from Honey. :)