The Husband fills in this morning.
As one travels the Intracoastal Waterway through South Carolina and Georgia, one encounters tides rising and falling through heights from four to nine feet in the course of a usual tidal half-cycle of just over six hours. And our last marina, like many in the South, uses a floating dock to manage its own location-specific tidal range of about five feet.
While the floating dock moves with the tide, the land on which the marina’s buildings sit quite predictably does not.
The bridge between the two, therefore, must be mobile. It is a self-adjusting ramp, fixed on land by a hinged connection that allows it to rise and fall as the diamond-tread aluminum bottom plate at its lower end rests atop the dock.
Naturally, the ramp is steepest when the tide is lowest. In some places, this can be quite steep indeed. But it has never mattered to me; I have not yet seen a ramp so steep that I doubted I could walk up it.
Apparently, Honey sees it otherwise.
During high tide, with a ramp at its most nearly level, Honey won’t give it a second thought. She will approach it with me at a brisk stride or even a run, depending on the immediacy of the blood racing through her veins or of other fluids exerting pressure on other inward parts.
And she will hit the aluminum bottom plate and breeze over it, and up she will go.
At low tide, however, not so fast. At low tide, she will often do as she did this morning: she will hit that aluminum bottom plate and then stick to it as if it were iron and her feet were magnets.
At that moment, she will turn toward me. And the look in her eyes will say, “Are you kidding?”
This morning, in my usual frustration, I considered the usual options to get Honey moving again: cajoling, yelling, dragging. (Hey, it worked on me when I was a kid.) After all, I couldn’t see what possibly could have her so worried.
Then a thought occurred to me that some might describe as enlightenment and others as a direct revelation from Temple Grandin. “Hmmm, my eyes are about sixty inches above the surface of the dock. Honey’s are about eighteen. I wonder what she’s seeing that I’m not seeing.”
So after going back to the boat to get the camera, I returned to my standing position at the bottom of the ramp and snapped this picture.
Then I dropped to my knees, brought the camera down to Honey’s eye level, and snapped this picture.
The apparent change in height between the two perspectives is, perhaps, not huge. At least, not to me. But it makes all the difference to her.
So I chose a gentler way forward. With my hand on her rump, I spoke quietly and encouragingly to her while applying a gently insistent pressure on her. “You got this. Yeah, you do!” After some resistance, she made a dash over the diamond plate until she found her paws on the wood treads just beyond. And after a few more rushed, uncertain steps, she suddenly found her confidence and proceeded to the top as if she never had a worry in the world.
What have I learned? Not enough, apparently. Because when Pam goes to take Honey up that incline, Honey will hit the aluminum bottom plate and breeze over it, and up she will go—and it doesn’t matter how low the tide or how steep the ramp.
Pam, of course, has worked every day for the last seven years to build an unfailingly positive relationship with Honey.
And that relationship hasn’t taught Honey a thing about ramps. But it has taught her to trust Pam with everything she is and has.
Note from Pam: Well, it’s not just that. I also know that Honey gets stuck once she hesitates. So I take a few steps back with her and we go up the ramp at a quick jog. Some things are easier when you go fast.
So maybe what I need is more than a simple dockside lesson in dog motivation. Maybe what I need is a whole new perspective.
Your Turn: Was there ever a time when you put yourself in your dog’s place to understand them better?