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Training Cricket, Again


We are, once again, trying to intervene with Cricket’s bad behavior, but focusing small this time: just don’t bark on the way out the door. If she barks, I sit down and count to ten. The hardest part is remembering to follow through with the plan each time we take the dogs out. Cricket is very hard to train, and so am I. It’s usually the last trip at night, when other people are trying to go to sleep, that her barking is at its most inappropriate. She seems to think that I need to be reminded, even as I am getting her leash and putting on my shoes, that she really, really, really wants to go outside. And it takes her a while to notice that each time she barks, I sit down and start counting to ten, starting over at the beginning each time she interrupts the count. But I’m persisting with the plan.


“I am Cricket. Hear me bark!”

It seems like a very small thing to try and improve about her behavior, especially because it has no impact on all of the other barking she does throughout the day: rushing to the front door of the apartment to tell the non-existent bogey man to go away; barking at boxes on our neighbors’ porches; and shadows on the grass fifty feet ahead; and, of course, barking at random humans who dare to walk in her yard. But it’s a place to start.


Hmm. This method could work too.

Mom is trying to go along with the plan, but she’s set in her ways too. She tries to talk Cricket into being quiet, which just makes Cricket bark more, because she thinks they’re having a conversation. And Mom doesn’t like having to sit down each time Cricket barks, especially at night when she’s already exhausted. So I sit, and Mom stands, and Cricket thinks that means Mom can be convinced, so she jumps at her grandma’s legs and paws at her, in vain. Eventually, Cricket figures it out and quiets down, and we go outside.

I wish I could convince Cricket to stop barking at babies, and other random residents of the co-op, when they try to pass within five hundred feet of her; I wish I could convince her to keep her teeth to herself, especially when I try to wipe the goop from her eyes; I wish I could convince her that the bath tub is not a torture device. But my many, many, previous attempts at teaching her those lessons have been utter failures.


Cricket has some anger issues.

I rarely try to train Butterfly in anything anymore. Early on, we had to teach her how to poop outdoors, and climb the stairs, and take pills. After that, I thought I’d try to work on basics with her, like sit and stay, but she looked at me like I was a crazy person. She has her own learning style and it doesn’t include responding to voice commands. I’d love it if I could teach her to be less stubborn when she’s walking on her leash, or maybe teach her to sleep past seven o’clock in the morning, but after numerous attempts she is still indifferent to my efforts. And she’s twelve years old. She never bites anyone, and only barks to tell me that she’s hungry or needs to go outside, so, I’ve decided to let it go.


Yes, Butterfly knows how cute she is.

But Cricket is a menace. The noise pollution alone is at toxic levels, and I can’t, in good conscience, stop trying to protect my neighbors from the full panoply of Cricket’s behaviors.


“Who me?”

One magical moment happened, though, a few nights into the new regime. After three barking eruptions, and three full counts of ten, with no sign of a let up, Butterfly walked behind Cricket and gave her a look that seemed to say, please don’t bark anymore, because I really need to pee, and that actually seemed to work. Cricket quieted down, and we all went outside in relative peace. But most of the time, Butterfly is too busy having one last kibble for the road to expend too much energy in teaching her sister how to behave.



So I guess it’s up to me.

Down the Kibble Trail


            Butterfly wants to make our house a home. She does this with her art projects, and by scratching designs in the wood floors and the rugs, but most of all she makes our home her own by spreading kibble into every corner of the apartment. She loves her kibble. She treats each bite like a delicious piece of candy to be savored, and she makes sure to spread the smell of kibble all over her face, so that when she hunkers down to sleep next to me at night, I can share her joy.

"My kibble!"

“My kibble!”

"Can I eat now, Cricket?"

“Can I eat now, Cricket?”

            She doesn’t believe in just eating her food in the bowl, the way her sister, Cricket, does. Butterfly noses the kibble around, swishing it over the sides of the bowl, creating a kibble fountain. And then she chooses two or three pieces of kibble to eat on the rug, or bring to the bathroom door, or next to my bed, or into the kitchen. When it’s time to go out for a walk, she gulps a mouth full of kibble, dropping pieces like breadcrumbs down the stairs, and choking on the rest, as she runs for the door.

            It occurred to me, watching Butterfly’s kibble trail grow, that a lot of humans would appreciate her way of doing things too. Wouldn’t you feel more welcome at home if there was a trail of M&M’s leading to the living room, or peanut butter cups stashed between the books on your bookshelves?

A few months ago we had a visit from two toy terriers. They were fragile little dogs, and on very strict diets that did not include anything as daring as kibble, so we were careful to take the food bowls off the floor, and sweep up the kibble trail so they would not be tempted to hurt their sensitive tummies. But, of course, we couldn’t find everything. One of the little dogs, Milo, squished himself under the bookcase in the hallway, to get at what must have been stray kibble dust. Then he went over to the placemat where we keep the dog bowls and sniffed it centimeter by centimeter, lifting up the edges to see what he could find.

I swear, he really did get all the way under there.

I swear, he really did get all the way under there.

Milo is very thorough.

Milo is very thorough.

I can relate to this kibble fixation. I see food as comfort too. I’ve always wanted to have an open pantry or Swedish shelving where all of the food is easy to reach and clearly visible. Putting food behind opaque cabinet doors makes it harder for me to believe the food is really there. Some part of my brain is still mired in the Peek-A-Boo stage of development.

If I did not have to worry about weight, or cholesterol, or tummy trouble, I would like to have something like a rotating cake cabinet, like the ones they have at diners, set up in my dining room. I would fill it with homemade cakes, with Buttercream frostings, and chocolate ganache fillings, and marzipan, and lemon curd, and chocolate mousse. There would be seven layer cakes, and Babkas, and apple pies with lattice tops and whipped cream. If I could have that in my dining room, with everything visible at all times, brazenly dancing behind the glass, I think I would feel like I was in heaven.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Marzipan cake

Marzipan cake

Maybe I should find a way to make Butterfly’s kibble fountain spin?