It’s been a long time ago now, but our family used to have a dog when I was growing up. I was in 4-H and one of the adults involved had an overnight doggie daycare that not only offered kennel services but also training and handling classes. So when she said she would hold obedience lessons as a course through 4-H, I thought it sounded fun and signed up with our little dachshund named Fozzy.
It was a good thing Fozzy was cute because we weren’t too far into the first lesson before it became abundantly clear that he didn’t have much going on upstairs. Initially, the trainer thought it must have been me doing something wrong, I was probably no more than 13 years old. I remember her coming over and taking the leash to do some one-on-one coaching with me while everyone else worked on SIT and STAY using pavlovian conditioning. However, she couldn’t get Fozzy to understand either and eventually gave the leash back to me and advised me to “just do the best you can”.
Fozzy and I worked hard together for weeks trying to master SIT and STAY before finally finding some success. Unfortunately, once he eventually got it and we moved on to another command, he started getting it confused with SIT and STAY and we were right back to square one. Over and over we practiced but to no avail. We finally gave up on trying to learn a third command and went back to relearning the first two. Sadly, Fozzy and I never successfully graduated from doggie obedience school.
All the same, SIT and STAY ended up being pretty useful things to know. Screaming SIT kept Fozzy from running into the street when a car came down the road. STAY helped us break him of slipping out of his collar and running around like a crazy chicken with us following in hot pursuit all over the neighborhood every time we took him outside to do his business.
Little did I realize then just how hard it would be for me as an adult to conquer these two seemingly easy commands. The absolute hardest thing for me to do since this ordeal of living with MS started has turned out to be the only thing Fozzy ever successfully mastered. I unequivocally and categorically have an impaired capacity, coupled with what I strongly suspect to be a willful disdain, for learning how to merely SIT and STAY. Time and time again I push and push and push my body WAY too far until my legs enforce a coup and SIT and STAY are obtained by browbeating me into submission rather than a graceful acquiescence on my own part. When I see a project that needs to be done, everything in my brain sort of snaps and I cannot make myself quit until it’s been accomplished. My world is so upside down with MS that this crazy disease has even found a way to punish me for having a driven, solid work ethic!! (Well, that’s how I see it anyway. My hubby simply thinks I’m deranged when this happens 😉.)
Once again, I found myself at this all too familiar crossroads yesterday. As I was moving and sorting through boxes in the garage looking for the birdseed I knew had to be out there somewhere, I heard the firm voice of reason saying, “Woman, stop! You are getting too tired. SIT and STAY in a chair for awhile or else your legs are going to give you fits of spasms and you’ll battle with obscene levels of fatigue for days.” However, at the exact same time, I could hear my own placid but neurotic voice whispering, “There’s just a little bit more to do. You’re almost done. Keep going.” Which voice did I ultimately end up listening to? Well, I’ll give you a hint. As it turns out, Fozzy was smarter than me.