I just wrote a cranky comment on a blog and actually posted it. I think that makes the second time in a week. I read a blog post recently in which a line said something like, “If you want people to take you seriously, you must…” and my immediate mental reaction was “Why would I want people to take me seriously? Why does that matter?” This is relevant to my cranky comments, because, wow, some of the commentary on self-publishing takes itself really, really, really seriously. And yeah, technically I should be blaming the people behind the commentary, but I think it’s just group-think. People read advice and accept it and then articulate it themselves without ever really saying “Why?”

But I did not come here to rant about that. The dog has been amazing me recently — truly amazing me — with her cleverness, which is pretty impressive for an eight-year-old dog. I did a really good job of training her not to make noise to get what she wants as a puppy, so she’s never whined to go out or barked much. Run-down: noisy dog gets isolated in bathroom. Noisy dog stays isolated until noisy dog has been silent for exactly one minute, at which time the door opens and companion appears, lavish with love and praise. The quick response to silence allows noisy dog to realize that noise is counter-productive and silence is rewarded. Dog becomes quiet dog, especially remarkable for a JRT. Except in the back yard, where dog is allowed to bark freely. So the dog doesn’t make noise to get what she wants. Except now she’s learned how to make mechanical noise.

She started with the bathtub. She doesn’t like still water and never has, so for years, she’s hopped in the tub to get a drink. I think she might have started that in a house where the faucet dripped. And she’s got me well-trained now, because I usually hear the sound of her claws hitting the porcelain and come turn the water on trickle so she can drink. But I need to hear her when she hits the tub, because if I don’t, she’s quiet inside it. Lately, though, I’ve been listening to a lot more music so I don’t always hear her. She’s figured out how to make the drain plug rattle in the faucet and that’s loud enough so that I do hear it.

So she’s now learned that I respond to sound. Extension of that: she used to sit and wait patiently at the back door for as long as it took me to notice her and let her outside. Not anymore. The doors are French doors, and on one side, the unused side, there are blinds that reach to the ground. On the other side, the door we actually use to go in and out, no blinds. She sits at the door we use and if I don’t pay attention quickly enough, she sticks her nose over, into the blinds, and lifts them up and down to make them rattle. Then she waits at the door again. If I don’t respond, she gets more and more energetic with her rattle, making the sound louder and louder. I’m obviously letting her train me, but I’m so impressed by how smart she is to have figured this out after a lifetime of not using noise in this way, and to have managed to extend knowledge gained in one area, ie “if I rattle this metal thing, my person will come and fulfill my wishes” to another area, ie “if I rattle this plastic thing, maybe my person will come here?” 

One more story of Zelda cleverness: she has made a connection between the sound of the phone and my preparations to leave the house. Normally, if I am wandering around looking like I might be going somewhere — hitting the bathroom, picking up my keys, looking for my glasses — she watches me with interest and a little hope, but not eagerness. And she waits in the living room to see what I might be doing. But when the phone rings and in response I start making preparations to leave the house, she dashes to the back door and waits there. She’s realized that those two signals connect to mean a ride in the car to go pick up R wherever he might be.

I think what amazes me about these things is that she’s making connections. It’s not just that she’s learned one piece of information or signal, it’s that she’s putting signals together to make sense out of larger ideas. She’s the only dog I’ve ever known well, but I think she must be a really smart member of her species.

Also gorgeous and maybe later I’ll add a picture to this post to show off how cute she is. At the moment, though, we’re sitting outside, and I’ve got no pictures handy.