Haines: We’re working through doggone shenanigans

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Stephanie Haines

Yogi doesn’t like to be separated from mom. So when she was working on a project in the basement, I opened the door and led him down there so he could supervise what she was doing. He enjoyed doing his reconnaissance and securing the perimeter, which basically means sniffing around a new space.

But when the time came to get him back upstairs, he didn’t want to go. I made the mistake of trying to urge him up the stairs but after so many attempts he dug his heels in and flat out wouldn’t move. (Kind of like when you type your password wrong too many times and can’t move forward with what you’re doing.)

I put his harness on him, as Yogi is aware that this usually signals good things, like a walk or a ride in the car. His misgivings continued. Mom was sitting on a step pulling on the leash, waving one of the good treats. I was leaning on him from behind. He wouldn’t budge.

Generally, it’s probably good to have a dog that is a bit bottom heavy. That means it’s unlikely he will be able to jump up on furniture. But this stairs thing was proving to be the downside to this trait. To add some levity to this situation, I started singing that famous James Brown song, but with new lyrics: “Get Up (Get Up Pup).”

I realized that the only way to get the dog upstairs was through physical, rather than psychological means. I reached down and picked up a back paw to place it on the next step. I tried to hold it in place with my knee, but the time I got the other paw up, the first leg was back down on the original step.

After a few attempts with this, I’d had enough of these shenanigans, so I wrapped my arms around his middle and picked up his entire hind quarters on the next step, performing a whole body block to keep his feet on the steps. The front paws were easier to lift, but the back end required heavy lifting.

So it went, all the way up the stairs: He let me move his front half but every time the caboose needed to leave the station I had to hoist him up. I was starting to remember all those articles I’ve read about why you need to make sure your workouts include some strength training.

I’m not sure what goes through that dog’s head. Some things I can grasp—like the time when dad took Yogi for a walk and forgot to take off the collar for the invisible fence and he got zapped (Yogi, not dad). After that, Yogi was leery of the driveway. In order to take him for a walk, dad had to put Yogi in the car and shuttle him down to the street.

I had to work with Yogi for about a week, taking his collar off and deliberately showing it to him. I coaxed him with goodies through the side yard to break the bad association with the driveway. I continually praised him with all the enthusiasm I could muster. It sounded like I was talking to a preschooler.

You can learn a lot from dogs — especially how much we are like them. When we are pushed to do something, we tend to resist. We need someone to come along to help us, and show there’s nothing to be afraid of. When they stand with us we can incrementally conquer our fears. And treats sure don’t hurt either.

Stephanie Haines enjoys looking at life a little differently. She can be contacted through her website: www.stephaniehaines.com.