Dog scraps can teach lessons for life

By Jim DeBrosse

Don't waste your money on a 50-page best-seller about kindergarten. Everything I happen to know I learned from my mutt, Bandit. And I can share it with you in the space of this newspaper column.

Good things come to those who wait. Bandit never barks, whines or paws when his dog dish is empty. He simply stands around in the kitchen with a hang-dog look in his eyes until someone in the family (OK, me!) takes notice. If I were a dog and had to wait any length of time to be fed, I would knock over the dog food can, roll it down the basement steps and pounce on dinner the moment the lid fell off.

Enjoy the process, not the outcome. Bandit has been chasing squirrels on our walks for the past four years and has yet to catch one of the wiley wascals. Does he give up? Never, because he knows the thrill is in the chase, not to mention that magical airborne moment when the leash runs out and the collar takes hold.

Learn from your mistakes. When chased, squirrels run to the nearest tree, cleverly escaping up the side of the tree trunk hidden from their pursuer. In his own version of Kick the Can, Bandit has learned to race directly to the tree trunk to cut off the squirrel's escape path. This gets him at least three strides closer to the squirrel's tail, but, alas, no furry chew toy as a reward.

Forgive and forget, and forget again. No matter how many times Bandit is sprayed with a water bottle to stop his mindless barking at the living room door, he will return to the sofa and snuggle with the sprayer -- until he hears another noise outside, then goes right back to the door and barks some more.

Don't let a little rejection deter your advances. Bandit loves to chase after cats and, when they turn on him, sniff them all over in greeting. Never mind that the cat usually hisses in his face like a pint-sized demon or rakes its claws across his nose. Bandit is determined to find that one friendly feline who wants to be his BFF.

Be kind, don't litter. I can't explain this, but Bandit prefers to do his business in areas where he knows people won't be walking -- that is, under bushes or hedges or in thick patches of ivy. This little courtesy, however, means I have to get down on my hands and knees and search for his business with my mutt mitt.

Never raise your voice in anger. Bandit shivers if anyone in our household screams or shouts, which is our basic MO for handling most family crises, from finding an empty ice cube tray in the freezer to running late for school. If the shouting continues, Bandit gives the offender his most guilt-inducing hang-dog look before he leaves the room.

It's the little things that count most. A family member coming though the door. Your dog dish being filled. Someone to scratch your belly, and scratch it (please!) again. A walk. Squirrels. Cats. Oh, and rabbits! Let's not forget rabbits.

A good nap can fix anything. Cat claw your nose again? Dog dish empty and nobody around? Only one thing to do -- lie down on your master's quilt and fall instantly and blissfully asleep. After all, you haven't a thing in this world to feel guilty about.

Until you catch that squirrel.

DATE: June 13, 2008     PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)

 

Copyright, 2008, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

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