I’m getting closer to awarding myself an ‘Associate Degree’ in Bryn Studies, a frequently complicated, always fascinating personal course requiring observation, experimentation, and, above all, patient consistency as I, the pack ‘Alpha’ (and student) learn to train Bryn-dog.
At the beginning of her life with us, our 14-week-old puppy discovered that things moved very fast (she’d never ridden in a car), and many objects were truly BIG.
Bryn had never seen stairs before coming to her new home that first day in April, 2014. She stopped at its foot, and looked up to the top. Wow!
At the top, we watched as she studied the situation. I made encouraging sounds. Bryn put a paw on the bottom step as we held open the kitchen door for her. She tackled those broad stairs with awkward, gangly hops on too-large paws. At the top she looked back down its length, pleased.
That wasn’t so hard!
(Later I lowered myself to puppy height down there; the view up was quite intimidating.)
It’s instructive to see the world from another’s perspective.
She’s never allowed on the furniture, or to beg at mealtime. But she has her own comfy nests placed close to us in the most used rooms, and she can ask for treats.
Bedtime is around 9. She’ll look pointedly at us, then up the back stairs. Then she’ll climb to the first landing and wait. If we take too long about it she’ll simply go on to her bedroom nest. It’s a gentle admonishment.
When I work in the garden she comes with me, but must never exit the property or run into the beds. Multiple rabbits are only feet away: she’ll pierce them with her gaze, but that’s it. Well---she might (rarely) chase baby rabbits, but come to an abrupt halt at the grass/garden border and look my way. I’ll look back- and nod. We understand each other.
She won’t pee or poop in the garden, as she’s long since figured out that it’s an extension of her home.
When I first included her outside in mid-June, she broke The Rule soon after I’d demonstrated what it was. So, to impress her with my displeasure, I immediately stomped around making a loud vocal objection, then grabbed her ruff, dragged her into the house and slammed the door. Bryn was horrified! She wasn’t allowed to join me out there again for two days. Breaking The Rule had consequences. I felt upset, too, as it isn’t in my nature to make a scene. But false fury (learned from watching mother bears discipline their cubs) helps to solidify important lessons.
I’ll stop weeding at random times, make eye contact, hold it--- hold it—then drop my gaze to resume working.
She’s been reminded, silently.
I love solving Bryn-puzzles...At bedtime, after settling in her nest, she’d suddenly move out of the room if I opened the closet door, at right angles to her bed. At first her ‘skedaddles’ puzzled me. But then I settled into her nest with the closet door opened, and understood. The big mirror attached to the door had suddenly presented another ‘dog.’ She’d learned two years ago to avert her eyes from the huge upstairs hall mirror. But to have an ‘Other dog’ spring out at her in the bedroom was deeply unsettling.
So now, before I open the closet door I tell her what I’m going to do and ask her to stay. She’ll remain nested, but avert or close her eyes. I’ll open the door half way, rummage around, then shut it quickly.
Bryn has an excellent command of words and phrases. And I am learning more Canine. Watching her signals is instructive. For example, at certain times she’ll softly bump my leg or arm, once. Dog park, Boss? Or a walkabout? Her eyes will flick toward the door.
Working at my computer I’ll acknowledge the time, but often ask her to wait while I wind up my work. She’ll look at me, process the information, then settle at the kitchen window to wait. I’m always impressed by her patience, and am trying to learn from her example.
Patience has never been my strong suit.
Note: if she immediately bumps me again, we go outside right then. When she asks for something, it isn’t frivolous. If she needs to go out, I need to get off my duff and take her, even if it’s inconvenient.
She never lies.
After a lake swim, when she’s half dry, I’ll say, “Time for the hair dryer, Bryn.” She’ll lie down on the living room carpet. I’ll plug it in and begin. She ignores the cord- which wanders snake-like over her body as I work away- and focuses on the warm air and massage. The job takes about ten minutes. I always tell her the part I’m going to dry next. It twitches just before I get there.
Always, our communications foster mutual respect and understanding.
And always, its foundation is love.
P.S. Yesterday she and I had completed her round-the-block evening constitutional, and were nearly past my front garden’s iron fence, where my climbing red roses were effusively blooming.
I felt a tug on the leash.
Please Boss; wait a bit...
I was astounded to realize that Bryn wanted to sniff the flowers!!
She took her time in the soft evening light, moving along the fence’s length, stretching to reach the chest-high roses, taking in their essence... I didn’t move, or breathe, afraid to break the enchantment.
Had my contemplative friend been a gardener in another life...?