22 March 2015

Gone To The Dogs

So there's this old movie called If A Man Answers starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin . . . Cesar Romero, too. Anyway, newlywed Sandra struggles to make Bobby into an ideal husband and approaches her mother for advice. Her mother presents her with a little book on . . . wait for it: dog training. It's entitled something like How to Train Man's Best Friend. Sandra is appalled! She's disgusted . . . even more so when she realizes that her parents' perfect marriage is the product of tips in a dog-training book. But wait, ChouChou, she tells Sandra, and turns to the chapter describing how to make your dog come to you. "Rule Number 1: Always associate something good with the words "come here."

Suddenly it all made perfect sense. In my junior-high-school brain, I now had a plan to live happily-ever-after, one day. Of course in the film the scheme blows-up for both marriages . . . but everyone still lives happily ever after. Hey, it's Sandra Dee . . . we expect nothing less than a fairy tale.
A dear acquaintance of mine trains dogs. Jill and I have been to her workshops in Illinois. Pat Muller is a genius with dogs. She examines the breed or mix (toy breed, for example) and recognizes the job(s) for which the dog was bred. Let's stay with the toy group. For example, the job of a little Maltese, in human terms, is the stereotypical receptionist. Look cute, maintain your manicure, and be friendly to everyone. How about the German Shepherd? There's your TSA employee. Know the rules, walk and speak with authority, no rocket science involved. How about the big standard Poodle? There's your CEO. Highly intelligent, stands out in a crowd, and has the final say in everything.

I remember Pat's illustration of the Poodle on a walk with his owner. The Poodle was sitting as the owner tugged the leash. Classic passive-agressive management style. Last week as I recalled the seated Poodle, I schemed to force Rusty to clean-up the garage, and then finish the house, and then sell the cars, weed the yard, stain the greenhouse, and then cater to my every whim. Rusty is a poodle! And he's simply sitting down while I'm fighting to move-on with this moving process. No barking, no fighting . . . there's no need to do a thing when you can establish total control by lack of confrontation. I could pull and pull, but that dog's not gonna budge. Passive aggressive . . . or is he?

And that's when it hit me: Ma'ma's rules for training your best-friend-husband. Positive reinforcement. Treats, petting, and a scratch behind the ears. I am an idiot. I'd spent four days at the end of my tether. In my mind it was time for the come to Jesus talk with hubby . . . but it had to be presented to a passive-aggressive poodle in terms that would make the poodle want to walk nicely on his leash.

OK, so admittedly my presentation wasn't perfect . . . far from it. And I'm not even certain that I can take any credit . . .but by coincidence or my words, it seems to have prompted the poodle to step-up to his CEO duties. And how!

From the man with over 50 wrenches, hundreds of sockets, dozens of hammers, etc. . . . from the man who repeatedly refused to even estimate how many pallets he'd need in order to ship his tools, from the man who has repeatedly lectured me on the need for about 2,859 screwdrivers. Kathy, each one is for a specific purpose! Rusty, there's phillips and flat-head -- take ten of each! From this man we have now a toolbox that would be the envy of any tool-hoarding man. And all my angst and frustration had nothing to do with the transformation.

I just stood and stared . . . speechless (to Rusty's delight) . . . and then I ran for the camera. A final note from Sandra's movie-mom: Husbands often leave home. Pets never do. There must be a reason. 
Mea culpa!
Lo que hay!