You know how it is when you get preoccupied with some pressing domesticity. You see confirmation of your struggle everywhere. Last week, my friend Bill Croke wrote a column on this site titled, “Clueless in Cody.” You see how I read that. Our dog Cody is currently learning to obey the electronic dictates of an invisible fence. Poor dog. He hugs the house on his walks outside. And he won’t poop. He appears to have identified the yard as part of the house.
“Business, Cody, business!” we urge him, using the word taught us by the trainer from the fence company. “Business, Cody, business!” we congratulate him when, after escorting him off the property in a car, he gets to walk in his normal smelly semi-rural premises, and, thus prompted, does his business.
Cody’s not the only one. My wife, finally fed up with changing diapers, decided that our three-year-old had taken quite enough time, thank you, to start using the potty. Me, I was waiting for a clue, like I had with our older boy, who had learned the process in about three weeks once the light of recognition appeared in his eyes. Sally correctly observed that Joe learned things differently. He needs demonstrations and experience. Lots of demonstrations and experience.
And lots of support, too. Joe and I sit, him on the john, me on a chair nearby, and we “play guys.” That is, we engage in mortal combat with action figures with unspellable names like Dabora, Goku, Bajeeta, Majim Bu, and so forth. I have tried to limit the mortality by making up theme songs for the guys to sing.
Mostly this works. We have had only three poop accidents in six weeks. So far, he has not quite gotten the notion of peeing when he needs to. I’ve told Joe over and over about how proud Mommy and Daddy would be if he would get up in the morning and go by himself to the potty and sit down and have his morning pee. (The kid’s a camel. He always wakes up dry.) But he still doesn’t get it.
It probably has something to do with how tough he is. On occasional mornings when he sleeps in, I’ll bundle Joe into his carseat while we drive his big brother to summer camp. It’s a 45-minute round trip, and, while Joe wakes up gradually, he still stays dry. I don’t know about you guys, but man, that’s got to hurt. And then we get to Dunkin’ Donuts and he pees.
Of course we reward him. Every Saturday, we go to the toy store so he can choose some toy for a good week of potty sitting. Problem here is, Joe has never had to make up his mind about toys before. He thought all toys simply appeared, handed down from his older brother. The cat’s now out of that bag. He takes a good half hour turning over one package after another before deciding what he’ll buy — always another guy — and then half a mile away from the store, he changes his mind, throws the new toy in disgust on the floor of the car, and declares that he hates it.
This changes again by the time we get home.
Cody, meanwhile, puzzled most by all the attention he’s getting, settles in on Daddy’s feet under the computer, wondering when we’re going outside again so he can get doggy treats. Here’s the routine: We walk Cody on a leash gradually toward one of the temporary flags marking our invisible fence, his collar emits a beep, and we turn him around, praise him, and give him a treat. Cody learned rapidly that this was going to happen and decided he’d simply cut to the chase, sit down in front of me or Sally, and ask for his treat. That fence? That beep? Oh, forget that.
The trainer came the other day and assured me we’re doing a good job. I stood there, swaying under the machine-gun force of the chatter all dog trainers spray around — how do they do that? — and nodded numbly. She also guided us through administering Cody’s first shock from the collar when he went too far.
And then she told me just to play with him in the yard for the next few days. Play? All I want to do is go to sleep. Same for Cody.
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