So I mentioned in the footnote of yesterday’s post that I haven’t really taught Tink anything beyond the basics, and that I tend to just click and reward her for being adorable. She is often adorable, with a whole repertoire of head tilts, nudges ranging from gentle to “Elbow Flipping Nudge of Doom”, and coy looks, so it’s easy to give her cheese. She also does a killer “sit up and beg” maneuver that will melt your heart and cause you to shovel your lunch into her mouth.
I could have taught Tink a lot, to be honest, she’s a pretty bright dog and will work for food and applause. But one of the things I have always cherished about Tink is her stubbornness and independence. With a large enough investment of time (and cheese) I could have made her into a dog who will always get off the couch when you ask, who will reliably sit and down on demand, and even hold a stay. I could have taught her to walk sedately next to me on leash, instead of applying the 1-3 pounds of constant light leash pressure she applies.
But to do these things would have squelched some essentially Tinkish part of her nature. She is not a dog who was made to walk sedately next to her person on leash, put a leash on her and take her out in public and she prances, her wrists coming all the way up to the middle of her chest in a slow-motion fancy trot, her head up and eye bright. Let her find a scent and she buries her face in the underbrush, coming up periodically to ask why I’m so slow, often with her nose bleeding from pricker bushes. Ask her to stay and she tells you to go to hell, there is nothing you have that she wants so much as to explore the world on her own terms, or possibly just to lie on the futon amid a pile of pillows.
She is utterly herself, and who she is happens to be a dog who is intensely alive and vital, a dog whose being requires that she be out front, the center of attention, that she have all the bones, that she get so into whatever has captured her attention that the desires of human beings are an annoyance she prefers to flick off like a pesky fly. I could have trained that out of her.
I didn’t. It would have so fundamentally altered her Tinkishness that I never could bring myself to do it, so instead I taught her just enough to make her a dog that is fun to live with rather than a constant trial, just enough to keep her safe. She will even get off the futon (most of the time) and give her spot to me if I ask her with enough conviction, although if Daniel tries it she gives him a Look and stays put. She is not a dog to whom human approval means a great deal in and of itself, although she does like to be admired and a stranger who tells her how pretty she is will be sure to receive her gracious attention and an invitation to stroke her silky-soft head or perhaps scratch her significantly more bristly butt. A Princess in her youth, at six years old she is Queen Tinkerbelle, fast to madteeth a dog who does not respect her position, determined to collect all the bones in the most comfortable spot, kind to humans (generally speaking) and deeply desirous of human food, excited to wear clothing (only dogs go naked, after all, and getting her OUT of clothing is an adventure in wrestling), and gracious and poised with her admirers. She still won’t hold a stay worth a damn but that’s all right. To be Tink is to be in motion, unless you have all the pillows.
I think my choice to cherish her rather than try to turn her into a stolid, placid dog like Beowulf is one of the reasons she adores me, just as her “go to hell” nature is one reason I adore her.