From her first day with us Kali has always respected the house and seemed to know which of our belongings were off-limits. She was five years old so its not like she was a puppy with a lot of training and socialization needs. Presumably she had some training before she became a stray and she certainly received some amount of socialization and training while she was in foster care in Taiwan. Regardless of her experiences before she arrived in America I still find it interesting how in tune she was from the moment she stepped into our house which was now her home.
Kali received her first toy – a large bone shaped squeaky toy – the night she arrived. We got home from the airport around midnight. After she ate and smelled around the yard for a while we took her upstairs, pointed to a blanket next to our bed and gave her the toy. She lied down and seemed instantly content. Of course she was. What dog doesn’t love a brand new fluffy bone that squeaks? But most of all she knew it was hers and it was OK to chew on.
Kali is very comfortable with rules. She reminds me of my oldest son Jonathan who read at a very early age. He was about four years old and we were at the park. As we strolled along he stopped me and says, “No dad; we can’t go that way. The sign says “stay off the grass”. I said something like, “it’s ok – it’s shorter this way and it’s just grass. It’ll be fine”. “NO dad – the sign says stay off the grass!”
Geesh – what a Rule Follower!
Kali instinctively seems to know what’s allowed and what’s not. She willingly follows the rules that she’s either learned or instinctively knows. She actively explores her toy basket and takes out what interests her at the moment. (If only I could train her to put those toys back…) But Kali would never pick up a slipper or shoe that was lying around even though it would be easy to see how they could be mistaken for a toy. She’ll eye the garbage can from a distance during clean up time after dinner but she has never approached it.
So this morning it was with great surprise that I caught Kali break a rule.
It was a particularly quiet morning in the house. I was in my office upstairs reading, Holly was getting ready to go to Yoga, and Smokey had gone back to bed in my daughter’s room. Kali was still downstairs and hadn’t yet made trek up to my office to check on me. I was heading downstairs for more coffee when I see Kali at the bottom of the stairs with a food wrapper about three inches from her nose.
We have a small pantry in the kitchen where we place recyclables in a bag for later disposal in the plastic tub on the side of the house. Kali watches us all day long place items in the bag and knows the pantry is off-limits. But there she was laying at the bottom of the stairs with something that was clearly taken out of the recycles from the pantry. As Kali sees me coming down the stairs she slowly gets up and moves away from the wrapper. Her head is slunk down low and she momentarily glances at me moving her eyes up but not her head. Without saying a word I reach down and pick up the wrapper, stare at her (trying my best not to smile), and gently say, “No”. Kali, still standing with her head slunk low moves into a crevice between a chair and table and lays down with eyes flittering from me to the ground. I put the wrapper back and walked upstairs without saying a word. Inside I’m smiling. I totally enjoyed this very adorable moment with my Golden Kali.
A few minutes later Holly comes into my office and I describe to her what happened downstairs. Kali must have heard her name because she walks in still looking a bit guilty and does what we call her “pretty little princess bow” where she arches her back, puts her butt up in the air, and her front paws reach forward. Kali does this when she wants something. It’s her way of asking nicely to go on her walk, or for her meal, or sometimes just for attention. In this case I believe the “pretty little princess bow” was to ask forgiveness. “Sorry dad. I knew that was against the rules but my curiosity and nose just got the best of me. I’m really sorry and I can (almost) guarantee it will never happen again. Are you mad?”
I think in the nine months that Kali has been with us I’ve only been mad at her once. OK twice if you count the time that I felt she was practicing extortion for treats (re: “Pay Me”). And both times it was all about me and not Kali. How could we ever justify being mad at our pets. If they do something wrong it’s usually our fault as owners for not providing enough training, boundaries, or putting them in a situation they aren’t equipped to handle. It’s never our pet’s fault. If they make a mistake or break a “rule” it’s not done with malice or out of spite (well maybe out of spite if it’s a cat).
So, no Kali of course I’m not mad. But I won’t let on how cute I thought you were and how much I enjoyed this moment with you because then you might get the idea it was OK. I am very proud of you for knowing the difference between right and wrong and for acknowledging the difference with your eyes and body language. But I have to let you know it was wrong so that you don’t do it again.
Being someone who over the years has been compelled to challenge authority I have to admit it made me feel good that Kali had enough moxie to challenge the status quo and take a chance. And what’s up with being at a park and having to stay off the grass? But when you have a four-year old Rule Follower who happens to read it’s just best to do what he says and follow those written rules even if it means staying off the grass that my tax dollars paid for.