Can you really teach an old dog new tricks?

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Rosy, after her beauty day at the dog spa. 14 years young.

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Silver and Rosy team up to ask if we can go for a walk.

I have two very old dogs, a 14 year old golden retriever named Rosy and a nearly 12 year old Siberian husky named Silver. All you have to do is see ’em to love ’em.

They are old friends. Faithful, well except for Silver’s many excursions out of the yard, and true. They don’t hear so well anymore, but when they see you they are ever so happy to greet you. Unfortunately, they both have crotchety old hips. Rosy was born with them. Silver just developed them, long about the time when I injured my hip. Perhaps it was a bit of solidarity.

The two of them have been having a hard time climbing the few steps from the garage into the house. So, we did (rather my husband did with my encouragement and design consultation) what any responsible pet owner with 2 old dogs would do; we built a ramp for them to climb. So they needn’t navigate the steps.

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At first, it was too steep.

Then, it was too slippery.

Then, it was just right.

But of course, they preferred the steps.

So, we got a piece of plywood to block the steps. Then, with much cajoling and bribery, we finally got each of them to make the descent ever so tenuously down the ramp. Then all we had to do was get them to choose the ramp on the way up. Which we did, eventually, with much herding and calling – that for our own sake because they don’t really hear us.

So now, 2 weeks in, we still must go out ahead of them and place the plywood across the stairs like a baby gate so they will choose the way that’s healthier for them. The old dogs’ way. The easy way. And my husband asks, “Do you think they’ll ever choose the ramp on their own?”

Which begs the question of the day, perhaps of our day, “Can you ever teach an old dog new tricks?” Because just telling them it’s good for them will not cut it.

Ah, it’s so much easier to remain firmly in our old ways. But the times, they are a -changin’. And so, I guess, must I. I’d like to stick with what I know, even if it’s not the best or most effective way, because I know how to do it. I’d like just to plunk words on a page, or a computer screen. But they tell me that no one reads just words in blogs anymore. You have to have at least a photo or two.

So, I went back and put in the dog photos and the ramp photos. Better? Yes, you can see them. And who has time to write beautifully descriptive prose these days? Prose that would do those two dogs justice?

But the ramp event… The snap shots, even the blurry ones, don’t cut it. For those I really need video. Yes, video captures the movement in the moment. These darn online editors tell me I need to create that!

Man, can’t we just freeze things? Just pick something that works and stick with it? It was so nice and easy back before we didn’t have to change with the times. Didn’t have to deal with all these innovations. Hmm, flexibility may be more of a component of fitness than I thought.

Feeling kind of creaky this morning. Guess that makes me an old dog. But I hope there is still a place for beautiful words, told thoughtfully and truthfully and meaningfully. Aahhh, 3 adverbs in the same sentence!! But I have to admit that the photos (and okay, one day I’ll get videos) do add a lot to my story. I just wonder how much room they leave for yours – which is the beauty of a story well written or a tale well told. It leaves room. For the imagination. Or the cream in your Starbucks coffee. Whichever.

This morning I woke to a couple of flashes in my darkened bedroom. I didn’t know they were lightning until I heard the thunder. Then I knew I had to rush to let the dogs in. They’re deathly afraid of thunder, even though they are basically deaf. Perhaps it’s the lightning. It does startle and suggest supernatural visitors. I was describing the scene to my daughter over breakfast and she said, “Mom, you’re a good storyteller.”

She has a great imagination that one. And she already knows the dogs.

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About wlebolt

Wendy is a health and fitness professional and coach who specializes in helping young athletes dig deep to reach high. Her business, Fit2Finish, LLC, serves the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Posted on April 12, 2013, in Body, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Mary Anne Noland

    Perhaps a little outdoor carpeting on the ramp would help so their claws won’t slip.

  2. Yep. The outdoor carpeting would have been smart. We (Scot) ended up putting an indoor remnant and some wooden slats at intervals. Slippage still occurs, but they do pretty well. Now, we’ll see how it holds up as Silver launches himself onto it. It isn’t designed to support people-weight. I put up a “Dog’s only” sign. 🙂

  1. Pingback: On her last legs, since she was born | The Kinesthetic Christian

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