On Dogs and Snow/Christmas

By Lynn –

This morning we had our first big snowfall of the year. A bit overhyped, maybe&”3 inches” isn’t exactly something over which to panic and run to the store for milk and bread, but somehow the wonderful Weathermen of my state managed to do it.
Wish I was awake for this: apparently when Z was put outside this morning, the snow was already over the top of the grass and he did a pretty good double-take at it. Took a tentative step&another tentative step (apparently looking just like a slow-moving American Saddlebred, complete with the high tailset)&then he dipped his nose into the snow, blew some snow out of his way and then I guess it clicked. “Hey, yeah! I remember this stuff!” Where’s the video camera when I’m never around?

‘Tis also the season when we make our annual pine-tree purchase. Z hasn’t seen the tree yet since it’s sitting outside in an obscure corner, but when it comes inside, things happen! For one thing, it’s set up in a dog-free room, but we’ve made it tradition that he’s allowed in there ONLY on Christmas: just so the whole family can be together as well as celebrating his birthday, since he came from the shelter in June 1997 at 7 months old, he wasn’t papered (never mind that I hear they’re actually trying to make the golden retriever/Labrador mixes some type of ‘designer breed’&more on those in a later entry), and come on, it’s the shelter; their mission is to find eternal families for these dogs, not to determine their pedigrees. [Wow, I still wonder how I got an “A” on those English papers! I run on like nothing else!] So come the 20th or so, the tree will come into the house and the PUPPY STOCKING comes out of hiding! And when the PUPPY STOCKING is the only stocking NOT shaped like a demented sock of some sort, it’s rather recognizable by a pair of beady brown eyes. This brings on the eternal “Is it Christmas yet?!” dance that only ends when Z is given the “OK” to go into the dog-free zone and open his own gifts.

Unfortunately, as a behaviorist AND a pet owner, it almost pains my brain to think of what is going on in that one scenario.

Behaviorism goes off stimulus-response, the association of an action with a consequence. So the behaviorist part of me just says that Christmas tree + PUPPY STOCKING = anticipatory response to be let into the dog-free room (dancing, hyperactivity, etc). I’ve considered it as a frustration response to NOT being allowed to go into the room, but usually in behaviorism, frustration is associated with the extinction of a response (think of the vending machine that always worked, but for some reason NEVER works anymore&you’d get frustrated first, keep trying it day after day, and then just finally leave it alone). So there’s no emotion involved, no higher-level thinking, no trial-and-error, no insight&just stimulus-response.

And then&well&we’re all pet owners here. Everyone knows that the dog knows that it’s time for Christmas, time to poke his nose into his stocking and root all the toys out of it, time to play with new toys that still smell like the pet store, pondering the reason of the season and knowing WHY they’re being allowed to do these fun things that never happen any other time of the year&

I know it’s only the start of December, but I tend to be a Scrooge about Christmas anyway, so let’s get this Christmas blog done and over with so I can get on with torturing people with my Dr Demento, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (heaven forbid we put such cherished melodies to metal!) and other interestingly inappropriate Christmas music that makes people squirm.