After Melvin died and Jake’s
gang violence escalated territorial monitoring and prey drive increased, we called our dear friend and trainer Nancy to work with him (and me). I explained to her that his favorite thing to do was sit at the door but with every passerby, especially that of the dog variety, Jake would flip and flail and foam at the mouth.
Her advice, shut the blinds and work with him under controlled open-blind circumstances until we could give him the skills to handle the activity of outside. It was brilliant and we set off on our positive reinforcement clicker training with fake and real dogs (Yes, our trainer would walk down our sidewalk in front of our house with a fake dog on a leash and I would click from inside with Jake the moment he saw them). It was awesome! I believe in positive reinforcement training – not just for the dog, but for the human too. It’s not ‘all my rules all the time’, it’s ‘how can we both be the best that we can be together’.
Jake didn’t exactly ‘graduate’. We worked real hard but since he was diagnosed with cancer, the clicker got put in the drawer and the peanut butter came out.
There are so few activities that give Jake joy. Partly because there are so few activities that don’t require struggle. But staring out the front door, has always been at the top of his joy list. After his legs started failing even more and we found out about the cancer, he would drag himself to the front door several times a day to see if the blinds had miraculously opened again. Sort of like in Willy Wonka where the candy factory has been closed but then one day, boom it’s wonkafied and back open!
So I ompa-lumpa’d and opened that blind and let him be the jerk he has always wanted to be! Even on the rainiest day when there is no activity, he watches the world. He naps and gets up to make sure the outside is still out there, then he goes back to napping. When he kids walk by from the bus, he makes sure they pass by our house safely. If one of them stops to tie their shoe, he barks at them to keep moving. When the brown truck man drops off a package and gently door taps to say ‘hi’ to Jake, Jake Barry-White-voice barks at him and tells him to scram. When a dog walks by, he flips the F out.
There are moments I think ‘you should be training him’. Then I think ‘just let him have the one activity he can do no matter how many legs work’. I don’t give in or up a lot so there is definitely an internal struggle.
Sometimes, cancer comes a-knocking and you have to lessen your grip. That said, Jake was an ankle biter and now is not an ankle biter and to his last breath, he is not permitted to be an ankle biter again. I mean it’s not a totally rule-less society over here! And if Jake didn’t have cancer, we’d be clicker training every day. I’m not giving up on Jake, I’m just giving up on some rules that don’t fully embrace ‘joy now’.
Happy weekend! Go find your joy!