The more one gets to know of men, the more one values dogs.
-A. Toussenel (1847)
I tried to out-stubborn Shadow the other day. I suppose it all hearkens back to the days in which my dad laid a heavy hand on our poor dogs and forced them to do things they didn’t really want to do. My dog attitude is more of praise and reward for a job well done, not one of yelling and/or beating for bad behavior or a command not obeyed. I have learned my lesson about yelling at a dog for something he did not do, and I will never repeat that mistake again!
But I can be a stubborn person, as anyone who knows me will tell you (thank you, Dad!). So when I asked Shadow (who was COVERED in oak pollen/pine tree ‘worms’ and assorted leaves) to do his famous “flappy flappy” trick (i.e. shake it all off), he wouldn’t do it. I tried hand signals, loud commands, brushing his fur all backwards. No dice. He looked at me defiantly and would just sit down, which is his own signal that he’s not going to do it.
Well. I dug my heels in. He wanted to come inside, but I wouldn’t let him until he did what I wanted him to do. No yelling or beating was involved, but I just wasn’t going to let him in. And he wasn’t going to do it. We went around and around… he would bark to come in, and I would go outside and ask him to do this one small thing. He would sit down, and I would go back inside.
I should mention that Bailey was hovering anxiously and trying his best to do what he thought it was that I wanted, but he doesn’t know that particular command; it’s strictly a Shadow trick! I’m not sure what was going on in Bailey’s head as the drama played out, but I wouldn’t let him in either. Whether or not he knew of the power struggle at hand didn’t really make much of a difference. It’s hard to work with two dogs sometimes.
Then the phone rang. Joel said he was on his way home! And so one of us was going to have to yield. I decided to play a dirty trick on Shadow, and I pulled up his collar so that it draped over his ear. He did not like that! And he shook his head. Success! I won!
Or did I? It was a false victory, I know, because I knew I really didn’t win. And it was also a hollow one, because my heart wasn’t really in it. How juvenile it is to be in a power struggle with a dog!
It reminded me of a recent horn-honking duel that transpired down around the corner. Someone honked at another car (who knows why), and the other car’s driver took exception. So he honked back. And then she honked at him again, and he honked back, and so they honked at each other all the way until they went in different directions! How ridiculous was that?
I know I was being ridiculous, too, and as I looked at that serene dog face later in the evening, I was sorry for being so insistent that Shadow DO something. What did it matter in the long run? I’m not sure, but I wonder if his heart was hardened as a result. I know I am anthropomorphisizing human feelings onto him, but after all, he IS the smartest dog ever!
Postscript: The next day, Shadow was his usual sunny self. All was forgotten. I love how dogs are so forgiving, as opposed to people. Something to think about!