Snorty is a young bulldog who is deaf - he lacks audio input. He didn’t think that was a big deal, but experiencing life as a dog for the first time certainly is. His perspective is interested, curious, he’s filled with that light and laughter that signifies a Being with a lot of love to offer. Snorty’s Mom approached me for help with his understanding of desired behaviors...the immediate issue was his deafness, but Snorty soon led me to understand that what he really lacked was experience being a dog. Throughout, he showed me some thoughtful and enlightening perspectives that also had me laughing, and I wanted to share them with you. From a couple of conversations with him:
S: I don’t get all the connections everyone else gets so I really appreciate the ones I receive. I’m a GRATEFUL dog. I said a big YES to dog. This is the first time I’ve ever visited in a dog body; I usually come as a cow, or a pig, or a (he shows me a porcupine, but for some reason also shows me a bowling ball).
C: Why did you show me that? (bowling ball)
S: I’m roly poly. I like being as round as possible if I’m going to be in a body.
C: You are so entertaining and interesting, Snorty - why is that?
S: Round is happy. The Earth is round. She’s smart, and I thought I could be as much like her as possible. This is the roundest dog body I could find.
C: Good job- you look pretty roly poly. Are you always this happy, this pleased with yourself and life?
S: As much as I know how to be. There are a lot of things I don’t quite get. I do things ‘wrong’. I’m not sure how to do them any other way.
C: Well, we’re here to work on that. The connection that is turned off in your body is hearing.
S: I know that. ‘Snorty can’t hear’. Snorty is deaf. Sometimes people think there are other things wrong with me too, but I think most everything else is right. I just don’t have it all worked out yet. (He’s showing me behavior issues)
I explained what we needed to address re behaviors, and listed a few: Chasing, Following fast motion, Running to catch something that is not part of a game between you and a participating human..for starters.
Snorty interpreted my presentation when I asked if he understood:
S: I’m not supposed to have fun, and I’m supposed to override my instincts. My body is not going to like that.
I proceeded to reframe his assessment, and showed him some moving images of the chasing behavior that we were requesting he replace with stillness. Snorty’s passion for life interrupted my still images:
S: Oh no, we have to race! We’re both moving! We have to win!
C: You have a great, enthusiastic spirit, Snorty. Maybe your mom can get you involved in some more complicated or competitive games or training to satisfy that. But you MUST simply BREATHE. That is how you win, now. You let the other car pass by while you are quiet.
S: I don’t know if I can do that.
C: It’ll be a challenge, but after you master sitting still and letting the car pass by, then you can work on moving in the car, while the car passes by, and you sit still.
S: It’s so enticing, so delicious. I can catch it!
C: Not in this scenario. It’s off limits. You wanted to learn more. This is very important. You have a human dog trainer who is assisting you, Snorty, so you ARE an Elite Athlete in training. This is discipline. The final step is when the car that you have been riding in slows….it stops. They’re getting away! The other cars are getting away, running circles around you in all directions! It’s crazy making!
S: (shows me himself jumping in circles in the car)
C: But, you are a trained elite dog, and you sit still, and breathe (I show him this, in the buzzing of traffic).
S: I might as well shrink down and poof disappear. It’s impossible. How can I let them go? It’s my job to go get them!
C: That’s bred into your species, Snorty, but the purpose of your species is changing; the more domesticated you become as a dog, the closer you live with humans. It’s hard for dogs to understand that their instincts are at cross-purposes with keeping their humans safe, sometimes. For instance, a constantly barking dog can cause humans to lose the right to live in their home, whereas in the past, a sensitive barking dog saved the humans’ lives when warning of predators or attackers. I’m telling you this to help you understand why it’s ok to feel conflicted. Dogs are very good at learning, and you need learn past these conflicting instincts, ok?
S: Well I understand but I never guessed dogs would have such a complicated life. I think I’ll be a pig again next time.
We tried another off-limits scenario with images of runners and cyclists.
S: But I know I can catch them! I know it!
C: But that’s off limit behavior, remember, Snorty?
S: Oh yeah. What a mess. Who created such torture for poor dogs? Why do I have to even see them? (he’s being funny, serious, mock-dramatic)
C: I don’t know, Snorty. They must have surely thought it up as a particularly evil design for dogs. (I send him more humor)
S: Whumpf. Ok.
We moved on to learning to bark so that he could request to go outside to potty. His understanding so far was that he simply was not supposed to go...
C: It’s a connection issue. When you need to poop or pee (show him smells and feelings of needing to go),
S: Oh yeah...that’s terrible. I’m not supposed to go.
C: Well, actually you are, Snorty, but within a structure.
S: Oh boy.(mock eye roll energy) More learning.
I explained further, finding more confusions…
C: Your mom can’t understand when you need to go. She doesn’t know. That’s what she’s disappointed about, not THAT YOU NEED TO GO.
S: Oh. I thought I wasn’t supposed to...that my body was wrong...I was confused. She wants me to go?
C: Yes. OUTSIDE. So since you can’t open the door, you need to signal to her.
S: Oh. Shouldn’t I learn how to open the door?
C: No, your challenge is communication. How would you like to signal to her that you have to go? Here’s what she gets so far: “I'm beginning to see that he's sitting in specific areas when he needs to go out but he doesn't vocalize and those areas aren't necessarily near the door.”
S: What’s vocalize?
Clearly, Snorty is all for learning and resolving issues, I knew by the nature of his questions and suggestions. But just as clearly, this was Snorty’s first experience in ‘Dogdom’, and without hearing for feedback. I demonstrated how to push air over vocal chords. We worked on this and Snorty was ready for a break.
S: Ok. This is a lot of work. Why is it so much work?
C: Snorty, when you signed up for this body, it didn’t include hearing. Did you realize that?
S: I thought since I could do pig and cow, I could do dog. Dog looked easy. So I figured it was ok. Dog is hard.
As we talked about some other subjects, Snorty let me know about some things he is good at, and some messages he had for his human.
C: So, your mom thought you might be connected spirit-wise to her former dog, Big Boy. Are you?
S: Big Boy visits and wants to hang out. I let him a little bit, sometimes, but he can’t live in my body!
C: Good job, nice boundaries, Snorty! Good balance letting him visit but not stay in your body.
S: Yeah I’m a good at that. I know who I am and I know who I’m not.
C: You could teach a lot of humans a bit about that.
S: That’s my specialty. Being me, very good at it. Not being anybody else.
C: Your mom wants to know: “How did he find me and what are we to learn together?”
S: Well, you are supposed to teach me everything you know, and I am supposed to teach you everything I know. But that’s just a little part of it. The big thing is we’re supposed to have fun together, all the time. We’re not supposed to waste any time not having fun, or not having warm feelings in our heart. Mopey-dope or anything like that is OFF LIMITS! Don’t chase that car!
C: Oh you are hilarious, Snorty. Perhaps your mom has integrated that quickly from you and you both can just enjoy the happiness of life together.
S: That’s the success I signed up for with her. Others can teach her the fancy stuff, but I get the fun parts.
C: She is enrolled, Snorty. She says: “I hope that we have a long and happy life together, Snorty. I love you!! Thank you for all the joy you give me!”
S: (shows me his happy tongue) Ok is my turn?
C: Sure. What do you have to say?
S: Just that I’m very serious about the having fun part - it’s very important. I knew a lot of humans would think it’s ‘lightweight’ stuff, but it’s the most important ‘lesson’ you can learn, and it’s something that is important to do every day, so it’s actually a big job, a big lesson to practice, and it goes on and on your whole life. So here I am, with it!
Snorty learned to bark when he needed to go outside! He made some progress in other areas, so in our second conversation we revisited what he had learned, and introduced some new concepts too, in another session. His mom wanted to give him more freedom from the crate while she was away, since he still did not understand where he was supposed to go when no one was home to open the door when he barked. I gave him the scenario, and he responded:
S: It sounds like follow the rules.
C: It is like that. Is that ok?
S: I’m good at following the rules once I understand them.
C: Yes you are. My intent is to get things very visibly clear for you today. Here is how your mom explains it - now anything that is not 100% clear, we will go over, and try different angles until it is, ok?
C: Your mom says: “In order to do this, I need to train you to pee on the pee pee pad. That is the thing that has been in your crate all week, hoping you will understand. However, you often pee on your bed instead.”
S: (He sends me a picture of the pee pee pad going outside with him with a question mark)
C: No, only if you are in the house, and no one is there to hear you request to go outside. There’s no one to open the door. So you showed me real quick that you think the pee pee pad smells nice and has fresh crisp clean energy, and you don’t want to mess that up?
S: It’s fresher than my bed. I don’t understand why I should pee on it first.
C: Because it is designed by humans for dogs who can’t go outside when they need to pee, to have a nice easy place to pee on. Pee pee pads are also very easy for humans to pick up and dispose of. Then the floor, your bed, the house is nice and clean.
S: The pee pee pad is the cleanest thing. (he has a great nose, and he smells all kinds of smells on the bed and the floor...just life smells)
C: Snorty, do you know that dogs can smell about 40 times better than us humans? I’m going to show you how much that is. (I show him this spacaily)
S: What’s wrong with humans’ noses?
C: They’re just not built to be as good as dogs...or pigs. Species have different qualities. So, the humans can’t necessarily smell everything that you can smell on a floor, a dog bed, anything really. Dog pee smell is strong, and humans do smell that, so we’d like you to make sure you pee on something we can take up (I show him), and then put another clean one down. Your mom doesn’t have enough extra dog beds or floors for that, but she has lots and lots of pee pee pads. (I show him a mini video of you putting them down, him peeing on them while you’re gone, then you replacing it when you get home after you praise him intensely).
S: Do I still need to go outside?
C: YES, Snorty, without fail when someone is there to understand your bark and open the door.
S: But no pee pee pad outside?
C: Right - you have it exactly right - there is no pee pee pad outside.
S: What about cleaning up outside?
C: Nature does that.
S: Nature doesn’t come inside?
C: Not for that purpose.
S: Ok. It’s kinda confusing. Why wouldn’t Nature come inside?
C: It’s the way humans have designed their living spaces. You are invited in and included in the living spaces, but you have different pee pee needs.
S: Ohhh. Humans pee in their water dish.
C: Yes, they do pee where you are showing me(the toilet bowl), but that’s actually not their water dish, that’s a little bit of Nature designed to take the pee pee outside. (I show him a toilet flush) That’s how it works.
S: But I can’t do that too?
C: Can you get up on the toilet and be very precise, aim your pee in the bowl?
S: (he laughs hard) Nooo...I have fun peeing very relaxed. I can’t get all constrained about it!
Snorty is a very smart Being, and he is getting better at ‘Dog’ every day. But his preference is always to enjoy life with ease, and have fun. And he is succeeding at curbing his instincts - his mom reported he’d been able to sit quietly while riding in the car through some of the busiest intersections, eyes wide, but quiet, still.