We All Learn Things At Our Own Pace
By: Linda Turk
(Reprinted with permission.)
20th July 2003 - It seems as if this past week was dominated by that big storm on Monday night. Ever since that big storm on July 4 a few summers ago, I pay more attention to storms than I used to, but most people came out of it all right.
My very old cat used to simply disappear about a half-hour before a storm started; she’d wait it out under a bed or in the back of a closet, safely hidden away from the noise. This summer, I don’t know why, she’s decided she’s not going to do this anymore. She spent Monday evening sprawled out on the floor of the back porch, apparently relaxed and watching the show, while I was the one prowling from window to window to door, watching for hail or falling trees.
I’ve learned just how much damage a storm could do in a short time, and the cat seems to have learned that if nothing’s got her in the past 14 years, why worry now?
Well, we all learn things at our own pace. I’ve had four little finches living here for the past few months, and it has taken them all that time to learn that I’m not an enemy. They’re going to a new home this week, and I hope they learn that their new humans aren’t trying to hurt them, either, because it’s startling to set off that noisy fluttering every time you open a cage door to add food or water.
My cousin has two intelligent black Labs, a mother-and-son duo. If you ask them, in a conversational tone, "Would anyone care for a cookie?" they race over to the cupboard where the cookies are and sit to either side of the door that will be opened. The young fellow has learned not only where the cookies are but that he has to do a perfect sit to get a cookie, and he’s so proud and excited at doing this right, he’s just vibrating with the thrill of it all. This makes me laugh every time, because I know he’s so proud of himself he wants to do his happy dance to celebrate but, of course, if he does the happy dance, he won’t get a cookie.
Cats will meow and twine around your ankles when they’re hungry, hampering you as you try to get their food. Then every cat in the world will go and sit by his dish, waiting for a meal. Every cat in the world except my neurotic male cat, that is; he walks back and forth over his dishes and waves his long tail in your face, crying the whole time, and doing his best to keep you from doing what he says he wants. This is the sort of thing that leads to his being labelled neurotic.
There must be dogs who learn to be philosophical about the fact that they’re never likely to catch a squirrel, but I have yet to meet one. I believe squirrels talk to the dogs and make false promises, maybe saying, oh, this time they’ll slow down a bit. The dogs fall for it every time, and seem surprised, every time, that they still can’t climb trees to go after this chattering little guys. Even very old dogs, dignified and arthritic, will still fall for these false promises.
My dog has learned to like haying time. For one thing, she likes anything that brings men and machines to this farm, and also, she’s learned that a cleared field is likely to have nests of mice in it. I watch her tearing around 20 acres of stubble, moving excitedly from one likely spot to the next, and I think, This is how all dogs should celebrate July.
They don’t have to learn to enjoy each thing as it comes along; they already know this.