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.
Oh What a Beautiful Morning
The sun was shining. The morning was warm. Leaves all around us were crunchy and colorful. I was outside with my favorite dog and my favorite guy.
So why couldn’t I stop crying?
Today’s Going to Be Rotten
I could hardly wait to show Mike how well Honey was doing in her preparation for the Canine Good Citizen test.
We’ve been practicing in really challenging settings. Honey proved she could sit and stay calmly as bicycles, scooters, strollers, and other dogs walk by a dozen at a time. She remained sitting when children ran toward her from the sidewalk to pat her on the head. She even learned to ignore the crossing guard with treats in his pocket.
But today, none of that training was in evidence.
Aliens had come in the night and taken my dog. They replaced her with one who was unfocused, undisciplined, and obsessed with squirrels.
I swear, I even checked her dog license to make sure she was actually my dog.
Even with treats (liverwurst, for the love of God, liverwurst!) I couldn’t keep her attention for more than a few seconds.
And her citizenship exam was scheduled for a little more than an hour later. And if you fail your Canine Good Citizen test, doesn’t that automatically make you a cat?
I’ll Never Make History
If it’s true that, as the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, I’m destined to die unknown.
I’m, unfortunately, one of the best-behaved women ever.
Besides following all the rules of society, I make some up for myself:
- Never eat a meal without a fruit or vegetable
- As a bicyclist, I have an even greater responsibility to communicate clearly to cars so they acknowledge my legal rights on the road
- After, and only after, you finish your work can you have a little fun
Yeah, I know they’re ridiculous. And so does Honey.
Mischief First, Test Second
If Honey’s Good Citizen test was part of a group, we would have scrubbed for the day and scheduled another session later. Why force something on a bad training day?
But Honey’s test was the only one scheduled. And good girls don’t put people out at the last minute after they’ve been kind enough to arrange a command performance.
So we headed up to the arboretum a half hour before test time. I figured my best chance of reconnecting with Honey was if we got to sniff all the smells in the area and play a few games before the test.
We sniffed. We played fetch. We practiced.
We never got to the point of our practice sessions earlier in the week. But Honey got a little of her focus back and I recovered some of my sense of humor.
Honey was great at some things. She has a near-perfect stay. She comes every time I call her. She will drop on a dime when I ask her to sit or lie down. Loud noises or someone running by didn’t faze her a bit. She’s happy to be groomed or handled.
The things I expected to be tough, were. She wanted to rush forward to greet everyone. We had to practice walking through the crowd twice because she just knew one of those other charming people needed some Golden lovies.
But our evaluator was very kind and encouraging the bond between us more than lock-step obedience.
So we passed. Honey is officially a Canine Good Citizen.
And now we know what areas we need to continue working on.
I think the play time in the field was what Honey really wanted. And, although she was less focused on me than usual, she came through in the clutch. I guess our bond is strong enough that even on an off training day, we’re not totally disconnected from each other.
A Little Mischief is Not a Disaster
Honey’s response to the nice day was perfectly reasonable. Who’d want to work on such a lovely day? And, in the end, starting off distracted and fun-loving didn’t hurt a thing.
I need to learn from Honey and mix it up a little. It’s not bad to have fun first and work later. Who made up these crazy rules anyway?
The Footnote to the Story
This morning Honey and I went for our walk. It’s as sunny and beautiful as it was yesterday. But today, Honey was right by my side.
I’d tell her to “go sniff” and she’d move ahead of me to check out her p-mail but the leash never became taut. When someone came by us on the sidewalk, I told her “with me” and she snapped to my left side instantly. I took her to the Ithaca Falls for some fetch and zoomies and she never got farther than 20 feet from me without darting back to check in.
So glad the aliens brought my dog back.
Do you always work first and play later? Do your dogs try to convince you to mix it up a bit? Or do you know it’s ok to make mischief first and work later?