Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

Life can throw you curve balls. What you thought would be your constant can change in the proverbial blink of an eye. During the time of adjustment, when you are struggling and dealing with a new way of doing things, guess who may be struggling right along with you?

I am in a current transition. Some days are great and positive and full of an “I can do this!” attitude. Some days my mind whirs with everything that needs to be done and the urgency of the thoughts is overwhelming. My three pups are right there on the roller coaster with me. It’s good to have them near.

They have gone from having someone with them for most of the day, to my departure early in the morning and late return 5 days out of 7. That may be what has changed their everyday over-the-top enthusiasm when I come home to an extreme “YOU CAME BACK!!!” greeting. We are all adjusting.

One of the biggest changes for them is that no longer is the door left slightly open for easy nose-opening access. One day about four weeks ago, my middle-aged pups were given the daunting task of figuring out how to use a dog door. I had thought that my pack leader, Waylon, a speckled coon hound, would be the first to conquer the heavy plastic flap….and I was correct. Next came Cash, my happy-go-lucky Boxer mix, but it was not immediate. He would dash right behind Waylon, almost as if he were going to try to fit next to him as he exited through the one-dog sized opening. It took a few “are you kidding me” looks from Waylon before Cash took a leap of faith and made it through on his own. Now he dances back and forth through the opening just for the heck of it.

And then there was Harper Lee. Many repeats of me holding the flap open so she could see the yard outside. Many moments of her standing just outside whining as she tried to figure out how Waylon and Cash made it though the scary entrance. Many nose pushes as I sat on the inside coaxing her. Only her snout making it through until she pulled back frustrated and began her barking. And one day, right at dinner time, she decided getting to her bowl of food was worth possible injury and in one swift movement, she burst through the door. It was quickly followed by much praise and dancing to the tune of her elated barks.

I was thrilled. No more worrying about coming home to a mess in the house! No more worry that Harper Lee had been sedentary in the house for sometimes 12 hours. The problem was, Harper was okay with coming in to the house where she would be fed, but going out was still an issue.
For four weeks, I would come home and round the curve in the drive to Waylon and Cash and no Harper; but, I heard her in the house barking to come out. And then one day, three pups met me. And there was dancing, and laughter, and joy.

The pups and I are learning new tricks together: how to move on, how to try new things, how to take on challenges … proving that, with patience and time, old dogs can learn new tricks.

by Elizabeth Sullivan