I don’t think this is what I should be doing with Rubi.
A couple of weeks ago, I tried to imagine what this was like from her perspective. I’m pretty sure that if I were Rubi, I’d be thinking that my mistress is terribly finicky and inconsistent. If I’ve taught B that she needs to “ask permission” by laying down before get up on the couch, and she lays down and I don’t let her on the couch, what message am I sending her? How worth it to her to ask permission in the future? If I want Rubi to come to me to get resources in her environment, shouldn’t I give her those resources when she asks for them? If I want her to know that she can manipulate her environment by coming to me, then I had better damn well let her manipulate her environment by coming to me.
It’s more than a matter of consistency; it’s also relationship building. Think back to when you were a kid: did you have a favorite parent? Grandparent? Aunt or Uncle? How did they treat you? When you asked them to play with you, did they brush you off and say, “not now”? Probably not. More likely, they spoiled you rotten. If they didn’t want to do what you wanted, they’d try to find something else to do that you’d enjoy. I am not the same as a cookie or a toy. I’m not asking Rubi to develop a relationship with the couch. My time and attention is a resource, true, but handling them the same as I would an inanimate object doesn’t help strengthen our relationship.
So every time she comes and asks me to come up on the couch, do I let her? Well, no. Sometimes I don’t want her up on the couch with me. But I’m making a point not to tell her to go away and leave me alone. If I don’t want her up on the couch, I pause in whatever I’m doing and rub her ears for a bit. If she brings me a toy to play tug with, and I don’t feel like moving, we’ll play fetch for a bit. A year ago, Rubi couldn’t have cared less if I dropped off the planet as long as there was someone else around to feed her. Now, she wants to hang out with me. How cool is that? Why am I taking it for granted?
Photo by Paige Reyes