Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Baby Love

      We keep a small dock on the kitchen counter for playing Pandora radio through an iPod, and my younger son begs to hit the "thumbs down" feature that means you'll never, ever hear that particular song again.  There I am cooking away when on comes Sam Cooke singing some shot-to-the-heart.
     The kid: "This is the worst song ever!  Can I hit thumbs-down?"
     The cook: "No!  This is Sam Cooke!  He was one of our greatest singers!"
     Sam Cooke: "If I had someone to love me true, then I know I wouldn't be so blue. . ."
     The kid: "This is terrible."
     The cook: "Would you set the table?"
     Ivy bursts through the dog door, Revel on her heels, both panting and expressive, seeking eye contact, trying to tell me what an exciting thing they've seen outside.
     The cook: "Hi baby loves!  Did you see a deer?  Or was it a squirrel?"
     The kid, immersed in table-setting: "There's no such thing as a baby love!  Why do you call them that?"  He is familiar with the Supremes singing this classic because it's one he'd very much like to thumbs-down.  I have the perfect answer: "I call them that because they are my baby loves."  Take that!
     Now that the weather is cooling off some, Ivy and Revel are choosing to be outside more, rather than going out only when following me (and they would follow me through molten lava, which is precisely why they are my baby loves).  Since we have a dog door and since they love to fly through it at warp speed, I try to make sure human-door-opening moments are handled with some manners.  "Wait," which to me means dogs wait for human to go through first and then go through themselves when released to do so, is one of the more useful things they know and was also the easiest to teach.  Obviously they could do a sit-and-stay while I go through, but "wait" is a little less formal; they can stand or sit or down, as long as they aren't jostling for position or barrelling ahead of me.  It can be taught to even a very young pup, because it's so clear, and here's how you do it:  first get some treats or be prepared to deliver lavish praise or both.  Approach the door with your furry baby love, who will automatically be waiting for you to open the door since she can't open it herself.  Whatever her position, look down and imagine the dog absolutely glued to it.  Open the door a crack and if she stays put or looks to you to see what will happen next, say softly, "That's right," and let a feeling of warm encouragement go from you to her.  If she makes even a micro-move toward the door (and the move is not as micro to her as it is to us), close the door.  You don't need to say "No," or anything else.  The door opens when she waits and it closes when she moves.  Do it fifteen times if you have to, but keep a very happy, matter-of-fact attitude.  There's no good or bad; there is simply the fact that the door is going to open for a waiting dog, and the door is not going to open for a not-waiting dog.  Revel, who is a very visual learner and does far better with hand signals than spoken commands, understood this quickly; three or four door-closings and he sat and waited to see what would happen if he didn't move toward the door, because he already knew what would happen if he did move.  The first time, you might stop at this point.  The next time, go a little farther and see if the dog can wait until the door is opened wider, then make a big deal of releasing her to go through.  If you have a release word like "Free," great, but if not. . .it's not difficult to communicate release to a puppy who is intently waiting for it.  "Yay!  Go ahead!  Good girl!"  Don't even go through yourself.  Next time, if she seems to know that you are Master of Door Opening, go ahead and add the word, "Wait."  And don't underestimate the power of speaking dramatically and picturing the dog doing exactly what you ask of her.  It's fun!  And it might someday save you from tripping over an Aussie butt.
     Ivy and Revel have no idea what it's like to be without someone to love them true.  Their biggest problems right now are that the squirrels are faster than they are and the deer don't want to play with them.  I think they enjoy being asked to wait at the door and then doing it well.  They seem to feel comfort in knowing how to act in a given situation, and pride in their knowledge.  And of course they looooove that big thumbs-up from their cook.

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