Who else is old enough to remember the Burger King jingle about having it your way?
I’m sure Jana’s never heard it, but she’s completely on board with the idea. Jana is very particular about how she wants things done.
The other day, we set out for our usual morning walk. Except that she did not want to walk a block up Petaluma Blvd. to the crosswalk. Or a block the other way to the light and crosswalk. Nope. She wanted to cross on the corner of our street and head right to the little park a block in on the other side of the street. I could not convince her to walk to the crosswalk.
When she digs her heels in, nothing I can do will budge her. And I am not about to drag 61 pounds of elderly golden retriever down the street.
So we did it her way. She got to the park, rolled in the grass, smiled broadly, sniffed and rolled some more. Happy Jana. Then we went on our usual route to the big park.
On a Saturday morning, early, there’s not much traffic on Petaluma Blvd. so it doesn’t matter if we cross at our corner or at a crosswalk. On a weekday morning, I wouldn’t chance it. Other than traffic, does it really matter which way we go? Of course not. But to Jana, being able to express a preference and make a choice, even a trivial one, matters.
To Cali, too. When we play ball, if I take the “wrong” ball from the basket, she won’t return it to me. She’ll run over, sniff it, then give me a reproachful look. That’s not my ball. I’ve learned. I pick two balls from the basket, any two, and let her choose. Then she plays happily with her ball.
Some afternoons, if Jana seems tired, I let her choose between a walk (I offer the leash) and her favorite toy (I also offer Squirrel Dude). Contrary to my expectation, she does not always choose Squirrel Dude, who comes with a bellyful of Charlee Bear treats. She often wants a walk. She always appreciates having the choice.
The choices are not monumental. It’s probably similar to letting your two-year-old child choose between two T-shirts when getting dressed. I’m not letting the dogs take over (I keep telling myself that, but even I don’t really believe it …); I’m just letting them have some control over their environment. There’s so much that I can’t give them a choice about that I am always happy to find things that they can decide for themselves.