A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Annoying Cockador Behavior

I spend most of my day between the kitchen and the loft above, which is my office. The kitchen is marginally warmer than the rest of the house, and the loft warmer still, since hot air rises. So I usually prepare food in the kitchen and then take it upstairs to eat at my desk (bad habit, I know).

A back staircase conveniently connects the two rooms. Out of economy, I keep the door at the bottom of the unheated stairway closed during the winter. A pool of cold air collects at the foot of the stairs, so I don't dawdle once I've opened the door. I pass through quickly and shut the door behind me as fast as I can.

My dog, of course, is my little black shadow. I go downstairs for a cup of tea; she goes downstairs. She sits patiently right next to me, hoping something will drop, I guess. Or lies down on her special rug if nothing smells good. But no matter how comfortable she's gotten, when I go back upstairs, she has to follow.

Except that she's developed (yet another) annoying habit. On her way to the stairwell, on passing her dish, she'll invariably stop to eat a bit. No matter how long we've been in the kitchen, her food doesn't interest her until my arms are laden with dishes and I'm trying to get up the stairs in a hurry and close the door behind me. She's the little kid who doesn't have to go to the bathroom until the car is running, or is "fine" at the rest stop, but immediately begins to whine for a bathroom, a drink, or a Happy Meal the minute the van's back on the highway.

I've tried to break her of the habit by leaving her in the kitchen if she doesn't come immediately. Of course, she then starts to scratch at the door and unleash a steady volley of piercing barks. A better method is to reinforce the command "come" by taking her collar and gently leading her in the direction I want her to go. This physical reinforcement is a technique that most parents have learned by the time their kids are past toddlerhood.

Except that it's hard to grab a dog's collar when your arms are full of dishes! With dogs, as with kids, training and enforcement are harder on the parents than on their trainees. And when you've finally reeached the stage in life that, for better or worse, your kids are as trained as they're ever going to be, it's a bear to have to start all over with a little bratty dog.



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