When my dog Boomer reached age seven, he became more and more disagreeable. As in: I disagree that I should come when you say, “come.” I disagree that I should sit when you say, “sit.” I disagree that it’s time to “go get that ball.”
My golden mutt was in some kind of rebellion. Like dance partners who couldn’t get it right, we were out of sync. One of us was slacking off in his performance.
Eventually, the partner with the larger brain identified the problem: I was the slacker in our relationship. Why? I was failing to uphold my end of the bargain, my part of the dance. I had stopped watching Boomer come, or sit, or go get that ball, and had started taking him for granted.
When given a command, Fat Dawg, as he’s also known, is eager to please, but only if I pay attention, remain committed and acknowledge and praise his completion of the task. That’s the way we drew it up, indeed, the deal we made for life: I speak, he follows, I watch, then offer praise.
“Eye contact. Active interest. Participation. A smile on Daddy’s face.”
During Boomer’s rebellion, I showed less interest in the things my dog loved doing for me, the things that gave him self-confidence, joy and security in our relationship. His rebellion was against my lack of attention, my not living up to my established role. His disagreeable actions were his way of telling me: perhaps you’re the one who isn’t getting it right.
Once I got the message, I began to get it right. Again. Consistency. Attentiveness. Eye contact. Active interest. Participation. Encouragement. Approval. A smile on Daddy’s face. These are the things that brought us together. Like fibers, they are also the things that keep us together, helping us to form a stronger and stronger bond. Boomer will follow, as long as I lead and do my part. In terms of effort, he gives whatever I give.
My dog is eleven years old now. His rebellion a distant memory. I can’t help thinking staying connected is the key to any relationship, be it with your dog, the kids or your significant other.
It’s about always honoring that which bonded you to one another. The more you stay connected to that bond, the greater the rewards. Like a job you love to do. And loving Boomer is a job I hope to do for a very, very long time.
Note 2 Self: Still need to do the one about Boomer Loves the Bearcat, and tell readers how I came up with the name When In Doubt, Pet the Dog, a periodic memoir or blog feature or journal thingy, now and forever at Randy Boyd’s Blocks (.com).
- Photos by Jeri Thompson