Monday, December 10, 2007

The Test of Time

Hub and I didn’t intend to wander from our own deep-seated intuition, but with a brain-dripping kind of programming going on, we eventually did. We scoffed at all the new notions about rearing younguns but the steady bombardment through television, radio, and books, left us insecure in our own abilities and we fell into the trap.

So the new-age ideologies took hold when he was only a baby and now he is grown. Raised without discipline, spanking, or any sense of obligation to others. The outcome is, as the old ones had warned, a bloody annoying conviction of entitlement. That it is his right to spin the world in whatever direction he chooses to spin it.

He comes and literally dismantles the bed when he gets up. He whines and treads about with heavy footsteps. He kisses us again and again to get pats and tickles without risk of impatience on our part. Looks his sweetest. Acts his sweetest. But still maintains enough disturbing noise through voice and action and bed ruffling to make it impossible for us to snooze just a bit longer. We are forced to comply.

For him there has been no discipline and rules beyond the one rule that vetoed bullying. In that we were adamant and he is truly in no way a bully.

So how did it work out now that he is an adult? He is gentle, kind, and honorable. And though not empathetic in the least to demanding a walk before we’ve even had our morning coffee when the wind is howling and the thermometer as close to forty below as it can dare to be, he does have sensitivities. When Hub or I raise our voices even in good-natured bantering, he runs to intervene. Pulling at pants or skirt and begging for kisses to calm and distract us. And yes he is honorable. He does not steal. He does not attempt to take others treats. He is not deceitful. But he can be annoying.

He rattles a metal dish with loud muster in the hall when his meals are not ready on time. When big, bold, and brash friends come to visit, he bounds after them, throws them down, makes them say ‘uncle’ just so they know, without slapping, kicking, or biting, and then the play begins. But other friends that are shy, insecure, are simply kissed and coddled until they are comfortable and then the play begins and he takes the utmost care to not tumble them over or step on them.
But his sense of entitlement just grows and grows. He used to insist we play outside once a day. Now he insists we play outside twice a day. And believe me, he can count to two and past it very accurately. He is not kenneled. And in the woods are his toys – his fox, his deer, his squirrels, and chickens, but he will not play with those amusements unless we come play with him. In fact, come to think of it, he won’t do anything independently. For everything he needs Hub or I as a sidekick.

When Hub saw him on the road and yelled at him to get off the road, he nodded in compliance. But then when a truck came along, he moved to the side and yelled at the truck. “Get off the road”. He doesn’t speak clearly but the emphasis and syllabic rhythm was exact enough to know that’s what he said. Rules, it seems, are made for others—most definitely not for him.

Some of the older generation used to say, “Why don’t you teach him some manners?” But teaching manners would require spanks or withholding treats and we suddenly found we were not about to do that. So now, what do we have?

We have a dog whose demands on our time are endless. He thoughtfully maps out every day so that it will include two group walks, four or more belly scratches, plenty of stroking, several treats, and of course a car ride with Hub. If he is lounging on the floor in the middle of the hallway, anyone passing through that corridor will simply have to step over him. Without restrictions, his consideration must come first. Without rules, without spanking, these are his entitlements, and no one better be forgetting it. And yeh, we could tell him to go lay down in a stern voice. But then he limps to the other room, with his tail between his legs, and sulks and weeps in the big chair. And it is so evident to both of us that the pain he feels surpasses anything that could come from spanking. Without us ever keeping a strain on him, he cannot accept that sometimes we are too busy for him. That sometimes that is how it is. And so he becomes an emotional basket case.

Meanwhile old dog was raised according to the old-fashioned rules. When she was young Hub and I were too busy with young children to make her the center of the universe. So she was kindly cared for but not to the extent that allowed her to ever think that the world revolved around her. So with that kind of upbringing, she apologizes for everything, demands nothing, expects nothing, but she is every bit as kind, loving, and even more patient than Doughee.

She amuses herself without demanding anything. She never complains she is bored as Doughee does. She never demands car rides, or group play, or belly scratches, or walks. If supper is late, she stares at me, but says nothing. If anyone is close to her she rolls on her back just in case they want to scratch her belly, but she never begs or insists. There is no need to tell her to go lie down because she lies dutifully at our feet whether we are home or out visiting until she sees us donning outer wear or hears the hum of a vehicle started outside. Still she is a happy, carefree, dog with no psychological damage.

We love them equally, but with Doughee Dog pushing me off my chair, and I haven’t even yet had my morning coffee, I must go for a walk with him in the big storm, or the big wind, the big rain, or the big chill. So you see, more and more I have my regrets that I didn’t let Doughee Dog know from the get-go that he needs to be less confined in attitude to his own self-interests. And I regret that I didn’t humble him with measured discipline.

Truly both are much beloved. But I can’t deny that Old Dog is so much easier to contend with. Everyone who has met my puppies, loves Doughee because he is so handsome and good-natured—and in their face. But all soon say, even those who see no value in dog ownership, that if they ever choose to have a dog, the best they could hope for would be to find a dog as well-behaved as Old Dog. A sweet loyal dog who understands that life is about quiet acceptance and apologetic appreciation rather than impatient demands for compliance.


Matty said...

What a beautiful tribute to 2 wonderful dogs.
I have to hubby is a lot like Doughee Dog...always kissing me or looking to be petted...never makes the bed....has no manners and can be annoying as hell. And watch out if his meals aren't served on time. What a sulk!
But loyal to a T!

Roberta S said...

There is something to be said, matty, for husbands that never do what they are told, but still are loyal, and never bite. And yeh, meals are pretty much top priority around here too.

Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed my overly-long-winded rant.

joared said...

I like thinking about the analogy of new age vs old fashioned discipline differences be they with dogs or children.

I do wonder with your dogs how much breed characteristics and maybe even age are variables influencing behavior?

BTW I wrote a bit about your blog at my place as I finally got around to adding you and others to my blogroll.

Roberta S said...

Hi joared. I guess to some extent I did take breed into consideration. Doughee is part Bassett and part Rotweiler and it was the Rotweiler that concerned me most. Never saw one of that breed without feeling a chill. Guess that's why Hub and I were so mindful to instruct Doughee in anti-bullying behavior. But now with that instruction so firmly in place, (he has never snapped at anyone, not even children who have pinched and poked and startled him with screams of every character), I wrote this blog thinking about what other things he could so wisely know if I had just INSISTED on it. Having said that, may I say for the benefit of anyone reading this that dogs are never to be totally trusted with young babes no matter how gentle their character -- supervision is ultra important!

I did check out your site, joared and I blush. Feeling so pleased. Like I've won an honor that I revel in with such pleasure, but at the same time a prize that I'm not sure I deserve. Thank you so much for your very kind words.

kokopelliwoman said...

Joared was right, Roberta. Everything she said about your writing is true. She obviously put some thought into her recommendations ;). Glad to have found you.

Roberta S said...

Hi 'koko' (may I take such liberty with your formal blog name?) Thanks for visiting a sometimes lonely place where every visitor is appreciated and every comment valued. I enjoy making new friends and look forward to reading thoughts and observations at your site in the coming months.