It all started as a simple game with a new puppy. You know the game. It’s the one where you take a (somewhat) loud, deep breath and then gently blow in the puppy’s face. The puppy then spends the next five minutes acting silly and nuzzling his face on the couch and blankets to make his nose stop tickling. The puppy then quickly comes right back to you for more of the game. It’s fun. It’s cute. And everyone seems to enjoy it (the puppy and the people).
That’s how it all began with our puppy, Rocky, and then it became a little out of control. Rocky is now three years old, 60 pounds and tall. Now, when Rocky hears anyone make that (somewhat) loud, deep breath sound (even when it’s NOT associated with that blow-in-the-face game), he thinks it’s time to jump into action. Rocky jumps and barks with a little bit of playfulness mixed with a little bit of protectiveness (it’s a very animated and confusing response). Lately, when my 14 year old son uses his inhaler, Rocky comes running and barking from the other room. Rocky tries to take the “evil” inhaler away in an effort to protect my son. When my son came home with his bubbles from the student blessing last week and started to blow bubbles, Rocky came running and barking at the bubble wand. Before the first bubble was ever blown, Rocky jumped up and tried to “save” my son’s face from the “evil” bubble wand. You should have seen the chaos that occurred with Rocky and the giant kazoo the other night (I’m not even sure where the giant kazoo came from). What started as a fun and simple game has now turned into some crazy obsession for Rocky. You cannot make that deep breath sound with your mouth (and you cannot put anything near your face) without Rocky going crazy and trying to take it away from you. Last night at dinner, Rocky kept watching us eat dinner and stood on edge if our forks lingered near our mouths for too long. What is happening in our home?
We are now in the process of trying to help Rocky unlearn these responses. While my husband, son and I can handle Rocky’s behavior, we aren’t sure how this will go over with visitors in our home. It’s hard enough to teach an old dog new tricks (not that he’s old), but it’s even harder to un-teach a dog a trick. We are attempting to have him unlearn the protective response and replace it with something more positive (thankfully he’s highly motivated by food/treats, so hopefully it won’t take us long).
I, like Rocky, need to unlearn some things of my own. I’d love to unlearn parts of my morning routine and parts of my bedtime routine and replace them with something more positive. Instead of spending 20 minutes scrolling through social media and the news and feeling that protective, defensive response building up inside of me as I read negative stories/posts, I need to spend time reading something more positive such as a devotional and/or scripture. When I close my eyes at night, I need to unlearn the process of obsessing about my To Do List in my head. I need to replace that evening time with something more positive, like prayer.
Rocky and I both have some unlearning to do. Maybe I’ll teach Rocky that inhalers, bubbles, a kazoo and forks are just fine to have in our hands and near our faces, and it’s the phones and other electronic devices that he should keep away from us.