Training your pet is an important part of responsible pet ownership, but I think pets train us more than we train them. Here are a few examples, confessed over an exam room table.
Cats work very hard to set up a daily routine which involves their use of as little energy as possible, while you and I do as much as possible for them. One of my feline patients, Hatshepsut, had a feeding tube placed to help facilitate her recovery. It only took a few days for this savvy cat to realize she no longer had to expend any energy to eat if she just screamed in front of the refrigerator to be tube fed. Her owner, delighted at her recovery, came running to feed Hatshepsut at the smallest cry. Hatshepsut felt totally in control as her owner put food in through the tube and then cleaned the box as she pooped the food out. By my estimation, the next training goal for Hatshepsut’s humans will be to teach them to dig in the litter box so she doesn’t have to!
Lift me, I can’t jump
Dogs train us too. Lizzie, a mature Golden retriever, couldn’t seem to jump up on the bed anymore, waiting every night to be lifted up at bedtime. I discussed physical therapy, dog stairs and arthritis medications with her owner. He started getting off the elevator two floors early and walking the stairs with Lizzie to strengthen her hind legs. One week he went away on business, leaving Lizzie under the care of his housekeeper. The housekeeper reported Lizzie vomited on the bed, so he asked the housekeeper not to lift her on the bed any more. Boy was he surprised when the housekeeper said Lizzie got up there on her own every day while he was at work!
Sleeping arrangements are another arena where pets feel the need to train us. One of my terrier patients, Darla, prefers to sleep with her humans, but never seems to have enough room. When her unsuspecting owner gets up in the middle of the night for a sip of water, Darla slips herself right into his spot on the pre-warmed pillow and then growls when he attempts to reclaim his space. Now, he has learned to protect his pillow by setting it on its edge to keep Darla from hogging the bed.
Who screams for ice cream?
For the last week or two, the New York area has been going through a terrible heat wave. My co-worker’s rescued dog, Summer, found this the perfect time to regulate her cold treat time – in other words, to train her owner allow a daily ice cream treat! Doggy ice cream was always Summer’s favorite and now she has figured out a way to get a cup every night instead of only once in a while. Each night after the evening walk, Summer normally return home without so much as a drop of sweat on them. This week as the temperatures have soared through the 90’s even in the evening, my co-worker would return home after their walk and go straight to the refrigerator for a glass of cold water. Summer quickly learned to give her best imitation of a linebacker and block the closing of the refrigerator door while letting out a high pitched whine until given her doggy ice cream!
How did your pet train you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.