It’s a good thing to make a habit of having your dog sit before a treat or a toy or anything pleasant is handed over.
Boxnoggin, however, thinks he’s found a loophole.
Not to the sitting—he LOVES to sit. Any time there’s a chance of a treat, a pat, or a toy flung down the hall to chase, his ass thumps to the floor like an angry rabbit’s stamp.
But Boxnoggin has thought, long and furiously, about the connection between sitting and treats, and he is CONVINCED that magical things will happen…
…if he just sits ENOUGH.
In other words, he’s engaged upon a course of sitting in order to make it clear he DESIRES a treat, and of course DESERVES one because “look, I’m SITTING, that’s the MAGIC KEY, right?”
We would, of course, be running the risk of breaking the connection between “you sit before you get” except for one simple neurological fact.
Inconsistent rewards are more addicting than consistent ones.
So we have a dog who is dead certain he’ll get a treat, any treat, at any moment, if he just sits enough—and the guilt of knowing we’re basically using a Las Vegas casino strategy of dopamine addiction.
This morning the dogs got morsels of crust from my breakfast, as usual. But Boxnoggin was in the other room when I told Miss B to sit for her treat.
Boxnoggin, of course heard this. And he went…let me find a technical term…
Ah, yes. The dog went positively apeshit.
He tore down the hall like he was on fire, skidded into my office, and attempted to sit to claim his prize.
There was only one problem.
He was still moving.
Technically there were TWO problems.
And Miss B, sitting and chewing her prize…was in the way.
Because of the way my office is set up, my desk is kitty-corner from the door, which put my chair—you guessed it—right in the path of a two-dog cyclone.
So. Boxnoggin attempted to sit while still moving at high speed, crashed into Miss B, and both of them tumbled into my chair. My plate went flying. The remaining crust-morsel was tossed ceiling-ward.
You know that thing in movies where everything’s flying in slo-mo? Like that.
I want to report that I rolled a natural 20 on gaining my feet with a fish-straining lunge, another in catching the toast-morsel, and a third in catching the plate in my opposite hand.
(Vegas, eat your heart out.)
All luck is inconstant, though, and all natural 20s come with a price.
My chair rolled a zero.
So did both dogs.
Miss B ended up under my desk. Boxnoggin tangled himself up with my chair, still trying to sit. The entire office rocked on its foundations.
I started cursing.
It took a good ten minutes to sort everything out. Ever ranted at dogs while uncaffeinated with a crumbling bit of toast in one hand and a dirty plate in the other?
It’s an Experience.
Peace was restored. I could finally put the plate down. The dogs were separated and suitably chastened. I got my chair back up and found, to my relief, I didn’t have to cast a Major Heal.
Even my coffee survived. I told the dogs “be about your business” and Miss B, knowing that tone in my voice, retreated to the door. Then she paused, because Boxnoggin hadn’t moved.
No, Boxnoggin was staring at me expectantly.
The damn dog was laser-focused on one, only ONE thing.
You guessed it. The toast, clasped in my sweating palm.
I stood there, uncaffeinated, trembling with adrenaline, gaze locked with a big black dog.
Boxnoggin held eye contact for what felt like forever.
And then, deliberately, making sure I was watching…
But that’s not all.
You see, the dogs had visited the open-air loo, as usual, and consumed some of their own brekkie kibble, as usual. And they had just experienced some exercise.
Which meant their peristalsis was in high gear.
So as Boxnoggin sat, with the air of a king settling into his throne during levee, fully confident he would receive his due…
…there was a long, fruity trumpet-blast.
Yes. The dog farted.
And he scared himself.
And he LEVITATED.
Not only did the dog fart loudly, scare himself, and levitate, but he also began to alert everyone to the sudden danger.
Which meant Miss B had to follow suit.
Which is how I, utterly uncaffeinated, came to be clapping my hands over my ears and screaming at my dogs to “JUST CALM DOWN FOR FUCKSAKE IT WAS JUST DIGESTION.”
With the toast still mashed in my palm.
I did manage to restore some version of calm.
But now my heart is racing, I have crumbs in my hair, my office chair is wobbly, and my entire office smells like the ass-end of the Pit of Stench.
What? Oh, yeah. Yes, Boxnoggin got his damn toast.
I wouldn’t put him through all that and then withheld the reward, even though it was soggy and pitiful indeed by the time it vanished between his slavering jaws.
But the damn dog thought it was manna. And you know what?
I repeat, you know what, friends and gentle hobbits?
He bloody well sat before he got it, too.
Boxnoggin has one word, and he uses it. Be proud.
@mwlucas He’s a marvelous dog. Affectionate, eager to please, protective, and extremely…enthusiastic. In every. single. way.
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