Learning Patience From A Pooch
Wednesday - May 11, 2005
I’ll admit that I’m not an especially patient person. I don’t really like to wait for things I want. But I learned a lesson the other day from my wiener dog, Pono, on the importance of discipline.
Mr. P has not always been a patient dog, either, when it comes to things he covets.
This applies mainly to the blue and purple ball, which he wants to be thrown about every two seconds.
Patience was something Mr. P needed to learn. Able to adapt quicker than most humans, it took Pono a week to learn to sit and wait. I’m not talking about your typical “sit and stay for 30 seconds” routine. This task took some serious brain power.
The object of desire in this case was a Canine Carryout beef-andcheese flavored morsel about the size of a quarter.
My best friend gave us a bag of the treats for Christmas and they quickly became Mr. P’s favorite snack. The bag sits atop the sink in the kitchen so every time someone goes to get a glass of water or grabs something from the refrigerator, Pono thinks it’s time for a bite of something beefy for him as well.
He’s too short to reach the ledge, even standing upright on his hind legs, so he’ll show his interest in the treat by either putting his paws up against dishwasher and whining intermittently or by staging a vigil a few feet away — trying to use the power of his mind to stare the bag right off the counter.
Sebastian and I got tired of telling him to “stop whining” and of feeling bad when we left the kitchen and Mr. P continued to stare longingly at the bag for the next 20 minutes.
Sebastian took matters into his own hands, determined to teach Pono the importance of patience. I came home from work one day, and both my boys greeted me at the door. Sebastian had a big smile on his face, and, if it’s possible, so did Mr. P.
“Want to see what he learned today?” Sebastian asked.
“Of course,” I said, thinking, as mothers do, that maybe Pono learned something miraculous, such as how to fold the laundry with his little paws.
“Go sit in the living room,” Sebastian told me.
He proceeded to get a beef-andcheese snack from the kitchen. Mr. P was bouncing up and down as if he hadn’t had anything to eat all day. Typical.
“Are you going to balance it on his nose?” I asked, having seen that on Amazing Pet Tricks once.
“Nope, just wait.” Sebastian continued. “Mr. Pono, sit!”
“Stay …” Sebastian commanded and placed the beef-andcheese on the carpet a good 10 feet away from Pono.
Mr. P waited. Usually, he’ll wait about two seconds before rushing to the treat. Hey, if you saw something you really wanted lying just a few feet away,wouldn’t you try to get to it as quickly as you could?
But here’s where things got interesting. Mr. P kept waiting. Sebastian sat down next to me, put his arm around my shoulders and started to ask about my day.
“How long is he going to sit there?” I asked, noting that Pono looked pretty pitiful waiting for his snack and I felt bad for him.
“He’ll sit there until I tell him it’s OK to go get it,” Sebastian said.
Sure enough, Pono sat there a good minute or two before getting the go ahead for the beef-and cheese.
I thought that was pretty amazing for a dog, but Sebastian proved Mr. P was even more disciplined by putting the animal right next to the snack and leaving him in the room while we went and waited in another room.
Pono could surely smell the savory allure of beef flavoring just inches from his snout, but he waited, patiently, until it was the right moment for consumption.
Couldn’t we all learn a lesson in discipline from this most intelligent of wiener dogs? Patience is a virtue that sometimes takes practice to perfect. There are times in our lives when we need to discipline ourselves to not always jump at the first sign of opportunity. Sometimes waiting until the right moment to grab the prize is the course that will yield the best outcome.
Of course, just like humans, Mr. P is not perfect. Four out of the five times we tested his will, he succeeded in waiting it out for the beef-and-cheese. The fifth time, however, he faltered and made a break for the salty snack before Sebastian said he could.
Mr. P obviously felt a bit remorseful that he had jumped the gun, and spit the partially moistened treat out onto the carpet, backed up and waited a second time for the command.
And here was another lesson for humans: Even if you make a mistake and seize opportunity before it’s time, it may not be too late to take it back and try your luck at being patient once again.
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