Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spiritual Practice: Housetraining Bisou

The good news is that Bisou hasn't had an accident in the house in a month or so. The other news is that it takes a bit of an effort to achieve this.

She's six months old now, and her metabolism has slowed down significantly. This means two or three poops a day as opposed to six or eight. So that helps.

Also, she has figured out that P1 and P2 belong outside. She becomes agitated and runs to the back door when the urges strike. If I clip the leash onto her collar and take her outside, with a little encouragement she takes care of things quickly, and then can be trusted indoors for a couple of hours or so.

But, reader, this is winter in Vermont. When Bisou does her little dance at the back door, I have the choice of putting on gloves, coat, hat, and boots and going out with her into the elements(and then undressing again)--or of simply sending her out with instructions and watching her through the sliding door.

But Bisou (for those whom her fame has not yet reached)is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The "Cavalier" refers to her attitude towards life in general, and I haven't figured out the "King Charles" part yet. But the Spaniel in her means she is driven by her little button nose, impelled to follow every rabbit foot print, every whiff of feather, oblivious to the signals from her vitals.

I stand at the sliding door and watch her as she goes back and forth across the snow, farther and farther into the woods, clearly having forgotten why she's there. As she weaves her way behind trees and bushes, I have no idea whether she has done the deed. I watch until I start to worry that she will disappear--perhaps be picked up by an owl. I become aware that I am not feeling serene or centered or grounded, but anxious and perturbed.

I call her--"Bisou!!" She stops--a red speck in all the whiteness--and looks at me as if she's never seen me before in her life. I put a falsely jolly tone in my voice and call again. Suddenly her entire past life comes back to her, and she rushes at me like a bullet.

This is all very nice, but a minute later she's at the door again, agitated. This time I abandon the fireside, heave a deep sigh, dress from hat to boots, clip the leash on her collar, lead her outside, and in a matter of seconds the mission is accomplished.

She's happy. I'm happy. She curls up on the arm chair; I sit before the fire.

The lesson that I cannot seem to learn is that SHE IS NOT READY TO GO OUTSIDE ON HER OWN. She is too young to withstand the temptations of rabbit and squirrel and bird scent. She still needs help. But me, I'm always pushing forward. She's signaling to be let out? Well, then, she SHOULD be able to manage the whole business by herself. Why should I waste minutes of my life putting on clothes and taking them off when she SHOULD be able to take care of things alone?

My unrealistic expectations are usually disappointed, and I have to get dressed anyway, and take her outside and stand there looking at the rising sun, or at the birds at the feeder, or at the stars (and in Vermont, we've got STARS). I could decide to just accept the putting on and taking off of clothing for the rest of the season. I could accept the notion of six or seven daily bathroom trips outside.

I could use the time to reflect on life issues, or to plan what I'm going to make for dinner, or I could just focus on the Red Baroness, who is doing her best to be a good girl, and all the pleasure she brings into my life. Wouldn't that make sense?

6 comments :

  1. well, that would make you saint, not human.

    i sometimes need to go out with the boys for various reasons. even though it is winter in Minnesota i just pull on the boots and go out as-is. too much trouble to get all suited up for a few seconds.

    and then it feels so much better once i'm inside again.

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  2. Maybe Bisou needs a step between you going with her, and her going alone. That step might be to put a long lead on and let her trail out the door, and then pull her in after she's done the deed and alternate praise and treat for her doing the business and "coming in" so fast. I did that with my dog for a while with the words "go pee" as he was heading out the door and also till he did the deed. And then I did the falsely jolly "come, come!" while pulling on the leash as soon as he finished the deed. I randomly alternate praise and treats as soon as he's in the house, so that he doesn't come to expect a treat for preforming bodily functions.
    Jaimie Near Chicago

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  3. That's a good idea, Jaimie. I'll give it a try. My problem will be keeping her from wrapping the leash around the two baby apple trees that are close to the back door. But just this morning I had to go tromping into the woods after her, so the leash would certainly help.

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  4. Albert Ellis said, "Don't should on yourself."

    Don't should on your dog, either.

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  5. I get it about not "shoulding" on my dog. But not shoulding on myself?

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