Our little dog Chance is a creature of habit. He is also blessed with a robust internal clock, so that all his days, as far as he can manage them, unfold right on schedule. From the moment he wakes up, to climb sleepily into my lap where he will snooze for another hour and a half while I drink coffee and read the news, (the only time of day he even considers snuggling in the recliner with me) until he successfully wrangles me onto the couch in the evening so he can press first his head, and eventually his entire length, up against my leg and, you guessed it, sleep, each day’s events unfold in the most predictable, most delightful (from his point of view), manner.
At the same time, he can be very adaptable if he so chooses. Nimble in fact. If one day I randomly hand him a dog biscuit as we are coming in from the barnyard, he adds this exciting event to his list, and the next time we come in from the barnyard, he beelines to the closet door behind which the dog biscuits live, where he stands eyeing me with a confident air, genially wagging his tail. If I keep walking, turn the corner and head up the stairs, he quickly deflates, his body language screaming his disappointment, and trails glumly after me up the stairs. He will keep asking for days, if not weeks, every time we come in from the barnyard in the afternoon, before he’ll sadly strike “receive dog biscuit after barnyard” from his schedule. Lord help me if I give him that après barnyard treat more than once in a month! He almost needs counselling to finally let go.
The daily schedule around which Chance’s life orbits consists mostly of events involving food, although specific types of snuggle time on specific pieces of furniture with specific people are right up there too. As is going outside at specific times (ostensibly to relieve himself, but really to yell at anyone, man or beast, daring to use the road in front of our house), play time with Arrow, feeding the horses in the evening, and to cap each day, his chew chew (rubber bone stuffed with tiny treats).
I admit I do indulge him, and yes he is a manipulator. I am quite aware and I do allow this; I take reciprocal pleasure in making my dog happy. Chance’s schedule harmlessly choreographs our days, and has for years. I know that his schedule makes my little rescue dog feel secure, but sometimes his fervent adherence to it still surprises me.
Each day after early morning barnyard (for me, he stays behind snuggling in bed with DH) he and I go into my office where I nudge my computer awake and grab him his daily half a dentabone. I throw it, he grabs it excitedly, and I “change my mind”, chasing him down the hallway and into the living room, growling that I want it back. He dearly loves being chased, he cavorts and practically giggles as he goes. Then I laugh and give up, he plops down and begins to devour his treat. I retreat to my office, shut the door, and start to check my email. After a few minutes, his single soft ‘scritch’ at the door signals that he’s ready for breakfast, which I serve in the kitchen, then back to my desk. Another ‘skritch’ a few minutes later tells me he is ready to go outside. Generally his barking gets him brought inside again, usually by DH, and eventually another soft ‘skritch’ tells me he is ready to take up his position on his six inch foam bed under my work table, where he snores away the remainder of the morning while I conduct my business of the day.
The other morning, I had a deadline and was already working when he got up from DH snuggle time and skritched at my door for his dentabone. Knowing that he would just sit there, softly skritching every few minutes, until I gave him what he was “owed”, I grabbed half a dentabone, opened the door, and dropped it at his feet, then closed the door, sat back down, and got back into my task. Until. Skritch. A minute or two. Then, skritch. “Oh jeez.” I thought, “He’s got to be kidding, it’s not enough to get the treat, he wants me to chase him too?” Realizing that the quickest route to peace was to indulge him, I got up again and opened the door, whereupon he grinned up at me, picked up his half dentabone in his mouth and tossed it high in the air over his shoulder into the hallway, pivoted, pounced on it, took possession, and ran down the hallway giggling, with me in hot pursuit.
“Excellent” I could practically hear him thinking as he plopped down to chew, “that’s done properly now, and rightly so.”