Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Try and Try Again...Until It's Time To Give Up

Lesson Number Eight: Persistence Is The Key…But Some Things Just Aren’t Meant To Be

Early Education experts say that children learn through repetition. Animal experts agree with this statement as it relates to young animals. “Practice, practice, practice” is the mantra of anyone trying to learn something. I am convinced that the reason Bijoux was so smart is because in her earliest years with us, Jim and I spent hours training her. There were teachable moments (house-breaking, “sit”, “stay”, etc.) and near-impossible-to-teach moments (“roll over”).

She had achieved great success with “Sit”, “Lay down”, “Go outside?” and, most importantly, “No!” She understood when I said, “Want a treat?”, “Hungry?”, or “Want some food?” She certainly knew her name. (In later years, she even responded to “Susie”, but that’s in another essay.) She even looked up at the ceiling when I said “Up!” and responded by looking around if I said “Where’s Dylan?” If I said, “Who’s that??” she ran to the door or window. If I said, “Daddy’s home!” she would bark like crazy and anxiously wait for Jim to walk in the door of the house. The fact that I could say “Roll Over!” and nothing happened was definitely not a communication problem, then. When she was a puppy and I was spending hours teaching her the various tricks that she carried with her throughout her life, I did my best to teach her to roll over. I gently pushed her down, paws straight out in front of her. As I said, “Roll over”, I put both of my hands on her back and rolled her over, her legs wildly searching for the ground again. After many days and many attempts, I decided that teaching her to roll over just wasn’t going to happen.

Running was another activity in which Bijoux, for the most part, refused to participate. Jim used running to keep himself in shape for the Navy, and was looking forward to having a partner to keep him company. The very first day he took her out, she got very excited at the sight of the leash. He attached it to her collar and walked her outside. When he came back minutes later, he told me that at the corner of our street when he prepared to “take off”, she sat down and planted her feet firmly into the sidewalk, refusing to move. After repeatedly tugging on her leash and her absolute refusal to accompany him, he pulled her home and, highly agitated, gave up. As a dog set free in a yard, she would run wildly, doing laps around the yard and the house until she could barely breathe. As a dog on a leash, running was just not part of the repertoire.