Friday, May 28, 2010

More Interesting than Dirt

Nothing is more humbling than knowing that, in the eyes of your much-loved dog, you are less interesting than dirt.

This is not a new realization for me. I came to grips with that fact, years ago, when competing with Beau in Rally. That doesn't mean Beau does not love me, nor does it mean I can't get him to listen me. It does mean that, given his druthers, he would rather be snuffling around some scruffy patch of weeds than sitting at my feet staring up at me attentively.

Acceptance of that fact (that Beau puts me a distant second to dirt) was actually quite liberating.

Acceptance of something implies you are no longer in denial. Acceptance means you are no longer making excuses. Best of all, acceptance means that you can move on to mitigation vs. the never-ending search for a cure.

I wasted a lot of time time searching for a way out of my bottom-dwelling status in Beau's Me vs. Dirt poll. In the end, he and I worked out a backroom deal such that he would pretend to find me more interesting than dirt (when asked) in exchange for quality time with his true love (aka dirt.)

It works for us.

Zachary is not Beau, and while I am definitely not as interesting as some dirt in his eyes - perhaps even most dirt, depending on the location - I'm at least in the running and under the right circumstances I can even pull out an upset.

This is a somewhat novel experience for me and I'm finding myself a little unsure how to take advantage of it.

For example, as you might have read the Other Day, we did a run-through of the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test in class. I was dismayed (although not surprised) to find that for all exercises that required moving from point A to point B (over dirt) with my dog, I failed to actually have my dog. Or at least I failed to have the all-important brain of my dog.

Now, I will be the first to admit Zachary is working under a huge disadvantage. My desire for him to keep all the parts he came with means his brain has to work much harder than the "fixed" dogs do. And as I am well aware (oh, so well aware) with the intact boys, all sensory input going in the nose is passed through the testicles for detailed examination before finally being shuffled off to the brain for final processing. This rather circuitous route seems to take up a horrendous amount of CPU time, leaving very little left over for such mundane things as, say, walking next to me, realizing I'm turning left and I'm about to fall over him, realizing I turned right three steps ago and he is about to run out of leash - little things like that.

And we demonstrated that very fact (in all its glorious permutations) the Other Night.

What's interesting (at least to me) is that this isn't as permanent a condition for Zachary as it is with Beau.

That is, while Zachary was thought-impaired during the practice test itself, when the practice test was over and we were practicing that which needed practice, Zachary was the picture of attentiveness.

He trotted heads-up by my side, sat when asked, ignored the other people and dogs, and was pretty much all a Canine Good Citizen wanna-be is supposed to be.

How intriguing. How novel. How unfortunate that I have no idea why it happened later and not sooner, nor exactly how to make it happen again (say, on the day of the real test.)

I do have a few theories.

Theory One: With the practice test over (and him having "failed") there was no longer any pressure. Of course, since Zachary hadn't a clue that a practice test was on, let alone that it was over, the pressure must therefore have been mine, and thus the whole darn mess was entirely my own fault.

Theory Two: During the after-action practicing I was walking really slowly, bending very close to him, and chattering on in a cheerful, bubbly (some might say idiotic) fashion that he found irresistible, or worrisome, or at least worth paying attention to. Once again, the fact it worked later (if that was the cause) and not sooner (when I didn't try it) means the whole darn mess was entirely my own fault.

Whether you choose Theory One or Theory Two (or some other theoretical theory I have yet to come up with) there is no doubt - the whole darn mess was entirely my own fault.

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