Training Miss Sugar
Sugar, my lovely wife, has been to college. She actually has a couple degrees. I used to think she is pretty smart. She was a teacher for many years. Now she is being schooled by a Yellow Lab.
Beau has pointed out to me that Sugar is very forgetful and irresponsible. He has been working on training her, yet, despite his efforts, she frequently just doesn’t catch on to his instructions about how she should live her life.
For example, last night, Miss Sugar was tardy with her chores. She has volunteered for the responsibility of feeding the dogs at approximately 5:30 p.m. Having assumed the responsibility, one would expect her to be, well, responsible. Beau had to remind her that she was behind schedule. He did so by getting the tin cup she uses to measure the dog food and bringing it to her. Duh!!!!!!!!!!!! Does Beau have to do everything around here?
It is part of responsible pet care to provide water for thirsty pets. Beau often has to remind Sugar when his water bowl is empty. He has to pick it up with his mouth and bring it to her. She has perfectly good hands with perfectly good fingers and an opposable thumb on each hand, which Beau lacks, yet she apparently expects him to use his mouth to transport the bowl. Very inconsiderate. When she finally “gets it”, she fills the bowl, which is the least she should do. If Beau brought his bowl to me, I would gladly fill it.
Beau was hoping that Sugar would improve her dog care skills. Instead, it seems that poor Beau has to do more and more to practically take care of himself.
When it is bedtime, Beau puts himself in his crate. He opens the door and puts his treasured possessions in first. Then he gets in but, without hands, the squeeze latch is too much to expect him to operate, especially when it works from the outside. Does Miss Sugar think he is Houdini in reverse, that he can lock himself in the crate?
Miss Sugar has a good heart. Maybe she isn’t as sharp as Beau, but I expect him to be patient and not insist on taking matters into his own hands, er, I mean, paws.
During dinner, Miss Sugar left the dining room for a moment, foolishly leaving a plate of food unattended. When she returned, the food was gone. The plate was empty. Doesn’t she remember that Beau is tall enough to reach plates on the table? Doesn’t she possess the manners to recognize how discourteous she was to Beau to eat in front of him? Maybe she should re-enroll in the Cotillion etiquette classes.
In contrast, when I eat in front of Beau, I have learned to not leave my plate as a temptation for him. I am considerate of his feelings. I lead him not into temptation. Miss Sugar could learn a lot from my example.
I am careful to not overtly criticize Sugar. (I hope she does not read this criticism behind her back). I have chosen to let her learn from her mistakes and have delegated to Beau the task of pointing them out to her.
Earlier this week, Beau pointed out to Sugar that leaving a cake on the counter results in a broken dish on the kitchen floor and the absence of the cake. If he had not been careful, he could have swallowed shards of glass along with the cake due to her negligence. In law school we learned that negligence is when one fails to do what an “ordinary, reasonable and prudent person” would do under the circumstances.
Oh, no! Miss Sugar just told me that Beau ate the bread dough that she left rising on the counter. When will she learn to not be so negligent? I was looking forward to homemade bread. Obviously, it was not prudent of Sugar to leave bread dough out in her own kitchen.
Before we got Beau, Sugar seemed more than ordinarily and reasonably smart. Beau has caused me to see her in a new light, but I still believable that Sugar is trainable. At least Beau is willing to work with her. He has all the time in the world.
P.S. To put this in perspective, Sugar has successfully trained many animals, including a trick horse, a companion dog for a man in an electric wheelchair (the dog could travel on airplanes and go to restaurants), and even parakeets. Beau is perhaps her greatest challenge. It will be interesting to see which of them is more stubborn, I mean patient.
Scamp, our trick horse, thinks Beau is funny. (Sugar taught Scamp to smile, nod “yes”, shake his head “no”, count, shake “hands” and stand on a box). She has taught Beau to steal food, pull hoses, and chew everything in sight. Beau has taught Sugar to come when she is called, to feed him on time, to keep his water bowl full, to share her food, to lock his crate, and to use a child-proof gate to protect her kitchen. She is still working on the kitchen gate trick because Beau showed us how to open it. Sugar’s skills at locking the gate are not yet equal to Beau’s skills at opening the gate. Maybe we need a better gate latch. What kind do they use at high security prisons?