Monday, January 11, 2016

Who says you can't teach a middle-aged dog new tricks?

Snacks, our beagle mix, has lived in this house for nearly all of the nearly seven years his lived on this planet.

And in those nearly seven years, he's gone down the basement steps on his own four paws exactly once. 

Now, I'm not a dog (well, I'm not literally a dog. I imagine if you asked enough people there might be one or two out in the world who would say that I am a dog, metaphorically speaking. And specifically speaking, a female dog. See where I'm going with that?) Where were we? 

Oh right. I'm not a dog. So I can only speculate about Snacks's reasons for not venturing down the basement steps. Maybe it's the fact that they're dark and steep. Maybe Snacks, like me, can still hear the sickening thumps followed by ear-splitting screams of kids who've tripped down the steps while chasing the cat, who, for obvious reasons, does not wish to be cuddled within an inch of her life. Maybe he knows something I don't about the definitely-not-haunted-creepy-doll living down there.

See. I told you she's not haunted.
Whatever the reason, whenever members of the family are in the basement, Snacks can generally be found sitting at the top of the stairs, his front two paws balanced on the first step. His giant ears flopped forward in curiosity (or terror ... those ears hold many mysteries).


Snacks in his standard top-of-the-stair stance.
But you know what happens next. (Because nobody ever writes the story about the dog who never overcomes his fear of the scary basement steps. While there's an obvious obstacle to overcome, there's really no rising tension. No conflict. No denouement. Instead of conquering his aversion to the basement steps, he simply deepens the dent he's dug out for himself in the sofa in between barking at the mailman and waiting for meals). 


Snacks' sofa dent.
What happens next is that Snacks stands at the edge of the abyss and climbs into it in pursuit of heretofore unknown wonders.

What enticed him was the beckoning of Lily, Jovie and their friend and his hope that there might be crackers or Pirates Booty or some other type of tasty treat in store.

The wonders he would discover were cat food and litter boxes.

In fact, the treasures buried in the bowels of our home were so fantastical, Snacks made multiple forays in search of the apparently delicious, brown morsels.

(Side note: I would not let Snacks lick your face anytime soon).


That's kitty litter on his nose. 
Sure, he's tentative. He's not racing down the steps like Shaun White on fresh powder (is that still a relevant simile? I'm not very sportsy). He's no mountain goat. But he's gaining confidence with each trip down. No doubt lured by the possibility that Peanut Butter has made a fresh deposit.

It's all very new and exciting. For him at least. For me it opens up a whole new door of logistics. Do we put the baby gate back up? Feed the cat on top of the dryer again? fence off the litter boxes somehow? You can understand why I'm not so thrilled about Snacks' new-found bravery.

Still, I'm kind of proud of him. For almost seven years this dog would only stare down the steps. And then all the sudden today he takes the first through 11th steps to adventure. It's inspirational.

I mean, relatively. 

If an anxious, set-in-his-ways, obsessive beagle mix can overcome a fear he's held on to for all his life, well then there's hope for the rest of us. Right? 

It's never too late to take the first step into the unknown.

Who knows what treasures you might sniff out and dig up.

Some people have Ernest Shackleton. Others have Amelia Earhart or Neil Armstrong. This year, while mustering up the courage and optimism to tackle the new year, my role model is my dog. 


Bravery is exhausting.
(Note single piece of kitty litter on his nose.)
To reiterate, don't let him lick you.

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