The Virtuous Cycle

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Photos courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography

“You can say any fool thing to a dog and the dog will just give you this look that says, ‘My GOSH, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!”  - Dave Barry

I get bored easily.  I definitely always need to be doing “something”.  When I get sick, life is miserable.  Oh, not for me; for everyone in my house.  I get twitchy.  If I’m sick, I can’t work with my clients.  If I can’t work, then all I have is this great big day in front of me with cavernous nothingness.

Why Dogs Exist

See, the thing about dogs is that they’re ready when you are. Every idea you have is great!  Hey we should really try to tackle that plan!  Let’s do it!  Imagine if your humans friends were like that.  Margaritas and at-home ombre hair dye?!  AWESOME!   Live in yurt and herd sheep in Somethingakhstan for a vacation? Wonderful idea!!!!  

Are we in Somethingakshtan yet?

Unlike humans who are a bit more more discerning about what constitutes “wonderful”, dogs think your every plan is great.  If you’ve been giving them the PAW they need, they are ready and attentive, wanting to help you achieve goals.

So, back to sick days.  When I’m bored, I take it out on my dogs.  Sparta will learn a new trick, such as playing dead, complete with “death throes” here.  The thing is, I’m not only teaching them new things, (and giving them mental Work while I’m at it), I’m nurturing our bond as well.  Presented with a problem to solve, such as how to get Sparta to hold an object in her mouth like here  (yes, that’s a raw steak she’s holding and dropping on command) while only using yes/no to communicate.  Remember, dogs are binary – there are no other answers to their questions).

With each new problem that’s been solved, there’s a fresh wave of feel-good endorphin.  Not “I” did it….“we” did it.  Team Sparta & Kerry.  Or Team Orion & Kerry.  Sometimes it’s Team Kerry, Sparta & Orion.  Everyone on the team has to give it their all, or it doesn’t work. (Click here to check out the walk-through of my teaching Sparta to jump through a hula hoop when I had bronchitis! Better than antibiotics!)

Effective Uses

The other day I decided to paint my living room…for the second time…in six days (don’t judge me – the first color was abusive to the eyes).  After having just put my body through all that work merely six days before, I was not “feeling” it when I woke up in the morning.  I had no gumption.  I decided I needed some endorphin-fueled positives.

Sparta has long known how to hold an object in her mouth, but I never got around to training her to bring a specific item to a person without her dropping it.  So she and I spent 15 minutes working at it.  It was slow going, but it’s like a new dance you slowly learn.  My partner and I trust each other, and we know quite a few of the steps already.  We just added a few new moves.  Was she perfect within that 15 minutes?  Absolutely not!  But she went from dropping the object the second I gave her the come command to understanding she was to bring whatever she was holding to me.  More importantly, I was able to give her positive reinforcement when she was on the right track, which makes her feel good about me, which in turn makes ME feel good about me.

I was now sufficiently energized and able to tackle that paint job. Again.  (Please don’t judge me).



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