Universal Translator

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dog Training

So I keep both dogs in crates when I leave the house these days.  Napoleon is so old that – especially with his recent prostate trouble – I can no longer trust his control over his bladder when unsupervised (although he does retain control when he’s in his crate).  And Homer is so young that I cannot trust him not to casually destroy something if left alone for too long.

They’ve both taken to their crates quite well, Homer especially.  The doors always remain open when not in use and Homer frequently slumps up and sleeps inside his crate when he wants a little down time.  When I need to leave and so start herding Napoleon over to the area where the crates are kept Homer scurries into his own all by himself and patiently waits for me to close the door and give him his doggy biscuit.

And for some reason he really likes the water bottle that hangs on the side of his crate.  It is an oversized version of the same kind of water bottle people provide their pet hamsters, a large cylinder of water connected to a curved metal tube that contains a ball inside it.  The ball naturally rolls down the inside of the tube until it blocks the opening, which prevents the water from simply spilling out of the cylinder.  But when Homer licks the end of the tube the ball gets pushed back up and Homer can get the water that comes out.  For some unknowable reason, Homer seems to prefer drinking from the water bottle than from out of the large water bowl that I keep next to the dog food right beside the crates.

Anyway, a few days ago I was working away on the computer and I heard Homer licking furiously at his water bottle.  (With each lick the small metal ball makes a click-click sound that is fairly loud.)  I ignored this and kept working until about 10 minutes or so had passed and Homer was still going strong.  Finally curious, I got up and went to investigate.  As I suspected, there was no water left in his bottle and Homer was licking a dry spout.  Click-click, click-click.  Homer looked up at me and I swear there was a puzzled, confused look in his eyes.

“Look, buddy,” I told him, “let me point out a few things to you.  One, you’ve got a huge bowl of water just five feet away that you could drink out of – you don’t need to get your water from a bottle.  Two, the bottle isn’t magic.  It isn’t going to suddenly fill up with water just because you keep licking it.”

Of course, Homer is a bulldog and didn’t really understand a word of what I said.  So I sighed, detached his bottle from the side of the crate, filled it up and replaced it.  Homer drank from it for a few seconds, and then trotted out and looked for a toy to play with.  I went back to the computer.

But after I sat down I replayed that one-sided conversation in my head and I realized that – from Homer’s point of view – I was very probably wrong about the bottle not being magic.  All Homer had to do was keep licking that goddamned thing long enough, and eventually it would refill with water because I would get up and refill it for him.

He is training me well.

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