Kwali, I heard Mum talking about the Stinging Mantra. What is that? Should I worry?
Oh, dear Kumbi; no; you don't need to worry about that creature. Mum will always defend us against him.
Are you sure, Kwali?
Why shouldn't I be sure? She always has so far.
But what if Mum isn't here when he comes?
Then Dad will protect us.
Kwali, what is the Stinging Mantra anyway?
Well, Kumbi, let me show you what he looks like. Wait a minute - hey, go get me that photo album off the forty-second bookshelf, three stacks up, would you?
Sure, Kwali. Wait a sec. Okay, here you are.
Thanks, Kumbi. Now, let's see; I'll just turn this page, now this one - Here! Here's a photo Dad took on one of his deep-seize expeditions.
The Dreaded Stinging Mantra
Photo by George, edited by Carol
Oh. It doesn't look so scary, really, Kwali; do you think so?
I think so. It doesn't look so scary. Not to us. It doesn't sting us!
Why not? Who does it sting, then?
It stings the dogs who have humans who got stung by them.
How do humans get stung by them?
It's a long story, Kumbi. Literally. Humans think they have to understand us dogs. So they make up stories about us. They get mixed up, because they are really telling stories in their own images, human images. They think we're like humans. They think we care about power.
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It's that stuff that comes out of the mains. You know, the stuff that keeps going out when there's a big storm and the branches fall across the hydro lines.
Oh, you mean, like when the lights go out and the computer stops and Mum comes and lies down with us and we all snuggle up together?
Something like that.
I'm gatting lost. Didn't you just take off on a tangent?
What's a tangent?
A sideline. A ramble. A floating scent that drifts away and hangs on the bushes to one side of the trail.
Hey, pretty good, Kumbi! I follow you. Ready? Go!
Okay, here we go. Beware the Stinging Mantra, though. It might be hanging down from the branches up there.
Are you still worried about it, then? I tell you, it's not going to sting us. Not as long as Mum and Dad are around.
I still don't really know what it is. Would you give me an example? How does it sting?
Well, Kumbi, let's see - oh, I know one! Have you ever heard humans say this: "Dogs always ask, 'Who's in Charge?'" Can you believe that? Hahaha!
You're kidding me, Kwali. I don't believe you. That's silly.
But it's true, I tell you, Kumbi. Lots of humans say that. They believe it, too.
How can they? I don't understand.
Well, I can sort of guess. It's like when you go and bark at Mum to tell her it's our suppertime. Some humans think that's very bad, and they also think we think we're "In Charge" when we do that. They seem to get hung up on dogs are supposed to be seen and not heard, or something like that. Maybe they think it's insubordination.
Oh. My goodness! We're never guilty of insubordination. Couldn't be if we tried. You have to have rank, status, hierbarchy, or something like that, to achieve insubordination. We're all on one floor here; we have only one ceiling, We all breathe the same air. Insubordination? Impossible.
Right, Kumbi. But humans really do have some strange ideas; it's part of their cultures. They have this thing about packs or something like that.
Oh. Pax Nabisco. i get it. Sort of. I think.
You're getting silly, Kumbi; we'd better go to bed and continue this another time.
Fine with me, Kwali. Who's going to tell Mum it's way past bedtime? I will if you like.
Okay, go ahead. I'm going to bed.
Mum! It's way past bedtime! See, Kwali's already gone to bed. Boy, she's fast.
I'm coming, Kumbi; I'm coming! Good night, Kwali. Goodnight, Kumbi.
Kwali, I was reading a book last night that said dogs crave leadership. What is leadership? Is this something I ought to know about?
Kumbi, I've read that too. Heard it, too. Many times. I don't think you can know what Humans mean when they say that. It's part of that power-struggle idea they have. They seem to think we want power. Well, sure, electrical power is good stuff, as long as it's not in collars humans put on dogs. But they get awfully confused. It's like what you were saying about dogs asking, "Who's in Charge?"
I don't get it, Kwali. Where do humans get the idea we dogs are in some kind of power-struggle with them?
Think of it this way, Kumbi. Do you ever pull on the leash when Mum or Dad or someone else is on the other end of one that's attached to you?
Sure I do. Sometimes. Depends on the situation. Haha; remember that time the day before your cruciate surgery when both of us together dumped Mum on her butt?
Yeah, Kumbi, I remember that. We didn't really mean to; it was just that we hadn't been out for a bit, and the grass was so wet - Mum wouldn't have fallen if her boots hadn't slipped on the loose wet grass lying on top of the grass that was still growing.
Yeah; we wern't pulling that hard, but we were putting that tension on the leashes that Mum says she likes because she can tell where we are.
Kumbi! She likes it when we're following her, behind her, not so much when we're walking ahead.
Not so, Kwali; she likes a little bit when we're ahead of her; she knows we like it because then we can tell where she is.
Oh. Okay, Kumbi; you're right about that. And we tend to like about the same amount of tension either way. But I think you're getting off-track again, going off on a tangent from your original question, aren't you?
I guess so, Kwali; it's my tendency to follow sense in all directions, wherever the scents fall. The hot air sure does blow those sense around, doesn't it?
Well, yes. I do get confused sometimes. Scents can make perfect sense to us, but I don't know what is going on in those human minds. Some humans try to tell us things and think we're supposed to understand. Like the one I heard asking if it was okay to let her dog know it wasn't okay to bark - by spraying Bitter Apple at her dog.
I saw a human spray its dog in the face one time. It was mostly water, but had a trace of vinegar in it; I could smell it. I thought the human was playing with its dog. After all, the dog was a Lab; it loved chasing water-sprays. I don't know how the vinegar got in there.
So what happened, Kumbi?
Labby froze for a moment, but then it grabbed at the spray-bottle - what a great game! I would have grabbed at it, too. I don't much like water sprayed at me, but I think Labs might like it.
Probably the human was trying to stop the Lab from doing something. Barking, maybe?
Maybe, but Labby just barked more - well, after that first short freeze.
If Mum did that to me, I'd grab the bottle. I don't like water sprayed on me, either.
Me neither. I'd grab it, too. If I could. If not, I'd run away.
Well, Kwali, who *is* in charge?
Whoever is electrified.
Mum isn't, except when she takes the clothes out of the dryer.
She should use Bounce, though I can't stand the smell of it; it makes me choke.
She did that for the first time a few weeks ago. It worked, too! But the stink was amazing; I had to leave. At least, though, she didn't charge me with that static electricity as she has sometimes in the past.
Kumbi, just stay away when Mum unloads the dryer. Or you could ask Blue or Deli, two of September Morn's dogs, to unload the dryer - did you know they do laundry for September?
Yes! Mum said she has photos to put on CoDog. She hsan't done it yet, though. I think she was too busy putting up all those photos of our vets and you and me and even Prancy. Not to mention Stuffed Sheep, who loves her Rocking Horsie because her legs are so short.
Stuffed Sheep riding her Rocking Horsie looks an awful lot like me when I ride you when we're playing, and Rocking Horsie looks quite a lot like you, at least, in the shape of his head, don't you think?
Actually, now tht you mention it, I quite agree.
All right, Kumbi, now, please get to the point. What is your problem this time?
Leadership. What is it? Does it have something to do with who says what to do when?
Something like that; that's what it looks like to me.
Like when Mum says, "Follow!" and we follow her around?
You got it, Kumbi. That's what Leadership is. It's someBody guiding, and someBody following. Like when you and I follow Mum or Dad around, and also, like when Mum or Dad follows us around. We can lead on leads. That's what leads are for. We can lead humans, and humans can lead us.
Oh. But somewhere in there, the Stinging Mantra gets in and stings, and something very strange happens to that definition. I don't want to be stung!
Kumbi, stop worrying so much. It's true dogs do get stung. But humans mean well when they say these things. They just get the points all mixed up, that's all.
I think I'm going nuts. So what is Leadership anyway?
It's guiding, and we can take turns leading and following. The way humans mix it up is, they think it's telling us who is the boss. Or they think we are trying to be the boss. That's how they can miss what we're really asking for.
Oh. You mean like when the water dish is empty, or it's mealtime, and we ask for water, or ask to be fed?
Yes; something like that. You notice, now that I'm either crated, penned or tethered, to make sure I don't tear up my newly-repaired knee, I have to ask Mum to take me out when I need to go out. Mum says she really likes it when I ask; it makes it easy for her to know when to take me out. Then she lets me go wherever I want on the leash, and I lead, and she follows. Mostly, anyway. Except when you start running off after Mister Mousie, and I want to run after Mister Mousie too. Then Mum picks me up and carries me inside. I wish you'd stop running after Mister Mousie. I really miss running after him.
Oh, sorry, Kwali. I just can't help it. After all, I'm a Terrier; it's my job to run after Mister Mousie, and catch him, if I can. Oh, brainstorm! Are you saying humans mean who takes care of who, when and how, is what humans mean by "Leadership"?
Yes, Kumbi; that does seem to be what they mean. As I was saying before humans use some words in very strange ways. They like to make them mean all kinds of things, whatever seems to be most convenient at the time.
But if they do that, how can they understand us? How can they know what we are talking about when we talk?
Often they don't. We can try as hard as we want, and still humans won't understand. Except Mum and Dad, of course, and luckily, there are other humans who do, too. Lots of them! Isn't that lucky?
Then how come so many still talk about "Who's in charge" as though that makes any sense to dogs? When what we're really asking is, "Will you feed me? Will you bring me water? Will you take me out? And if you don't, who will?"
It's the way they grew up, Kumbi. That kind of growing-up is pretty powerful stuff. Very hard to change what you thought you learned as a puppy. You know, Kumbi, even Mum and Dad don't always understand us perfectly, even when we can see they're trying to.
Yeah; you're right, Kwali. But Mum and Dad watch a lot, and they try to understand what we're asking for. Lots of the time, they get it right, and when they don't, they can see we're still asking, and they try again, till they get it.
True. And that, dear Kumbi, is why we won't get stung. Mum and Dad aren't stung. They're not afraid to ask us what we want. Why not? Oh, because we behave like perfect little Angels when our needs are met.
Kwali and Kumbi, how you do go on! You must take after me. Yes, I guess you do. I do try to meet your needs. And you don't abuse the privilege, either; after all, once your needs are met, you settle easily. I love to see you so contented. Now thanks for letting me have the keyboard again.
Kwali, what is NILIF?
Nothing In Life Is Free.
I don't get it. What does that mean?
It's a human way of saying a dog is supposed to earn everything. It's really meant to teach humans, not dogs. So it doesn't matter if it means anything to dogs or not.
Oh. Wait a minute, Kwali. Are you saying human dog-trainers use it to teach humans, not dogs?
Yes, Kumbi; that's why humans use that phrase.
But Kwali, there's something skewed there, isn't there? If dogs don't understand "Nothing in LIfe is Free," why are humans asked to use it on dogs?
Kumbi, some humans don't like to think they could ever make a mistake. So if there's a mistake, it's always the dog who is somehow at fault. So if a dog is being the natural dog it is, say, jumping up on people to greet them, then the human is supposed to make the dog Sit, instead. The idea is that the dog should "earn" the greeting from the human, by working for it, something like humans working for money.
Are humans so afraid of making mistakes? About us dogs, for instance?
Some humans are afraid ever to admit ever making any kind of mistake. And that's often true when they make mistakes with us dogs. It's so much easier just to say the dog is a bad dog, or that the dog is a problem somehow. Many humans seem greatly comforted when they think it's the dog who has, or is, the problem.
Kwali, do you mean these humans who are afraid not to be perfect can manage okay if they can blame us for their difficulties?
Yes. That's pretty much what I mean.
Well, then, what's the problem? Let them blame us; it doesn't make any difference to us, does it? We don't know what they're talking about or thinking anyway, so it doesn't matter to us.
Kumbi, haven't you seen humans tense up with us? Haven't you watched humans look at you with disapproval, so you know they're thinking, "Now there's a bad dog for you." Like when you grab a pebble and run into the house and jump up on the bed with it. Then Mum goes and gets you a kibble, and exchanges it for the pebble. You know what a blaming-human thinks of that, don't you?
Yeah; haha! The onlooking human thinks, "Now there's a spoiled dog." That human has no idea of the game. Suggest to that human I earned the kibble - not only that, but I initiated the action, too! - started the game myself - and the human will be running away in terror and probably calling me a Dominant Dog at the same time! Me, the ultra-gentle, very submissive-looking (but not actually submissive) dog.
Right, Kumbi; I think you got it. So many humans are terrified of dog-initiated actions. People who train with a clicker might be less afraid of it than some other humans, thank goodness.
Well, Kwali, if NILIF is a good thing, then I'm doing right when I bring in a pebble - I earn that kibble Mum gives me.
Kumbi, you forgot something there. You're supposed to do something the human says to do, not something you invented yourself, if you're to "earn" whatever it is you want.
So you mean, we're always supposed to speak Human language, but Humans aren't asked to speak dog language, nor even try to?
I think in effect, when humans tell other humans to use NILIF, that's what's going on. Do you think humans really believe dogs understand "Nothing In Life Is Free"?
Why not, Kwali? They seem to expect us to understand all kinds of weird things. For instance, if I bark a lot, and some human then sprays me with water - let's make this bad, and add a bit of vinegar, or lemon juice, to the water, just to make sure my eyes or mouth get really uncomfortable, or that they actually hurt - I'm supposed to understand that relates to my having been barking?
Kumbi, I know it's surprising, but humans really do often think we make that kind of association. They have no idea that some threatening action, or some actually punishing action on their part acts first on our emotions. So all we can do is get scared or feel threatened. Maybe they think their spraying worked because it takes us so by surprise that we freeze in our tracks.
Yeah, Kwali; I see what you mean. But back to NILIF - do you think it does any good - for the humans, anyway?
Sure it does some good. It substitutes for the rituals that let us dogs know how humans are scheduling their care of us. It makes humans pay attention to what we are doing. It makes them ask us to participate in the ritual that predicts the routine.
Oh! Oh my gosh! I see what you mean! So NILIF is probably a good thing for dog-trainers to teach other humans!
Yes. It probably is. I could wish humans could be a bit more realistic about the whole thing, say, by making even a gesture at learning our language, instead of making up their own to force us to do all the adapting, but all in all, it's not a bad idea. If there are left-over difficulties with it, those come about because of what the whole idea of NILIF means to humans. That is, it suggests that somehow dogs who don't earn their ways in human fashion are at least misbehaving dogs. We can't escape all the fallout from ideas like NILIF. But it's good if humans come to recognize the value of ritual to go with routine - ceremonious ritual, at that - the best kind of ritual. In the end, then, I suppose we can't complain.
Well, I could be a bit of a perfectionist, like Mum (she's totally terrible about that, you know), and wish then, that humans would look at us as the natural dogs we are, and work more directly with us. They could use our calming signals, for instance; heaven knows, though Mum's imitations are pretty undoglike; they still work; I can understand them, and so can you. So why can't humans begin there instead?
Kumbi - they're not geared to do that. Well, a few are, but not many. Many think they haven't a hope of understanding Dog or DogNess at all. But they could, if they would just look and watch. Heaven knows, we work to teach them, don't we?
Well, we do. Mum and Dad do fairly well, as humans go, anyway. I know a few other humans who do, too. Remember when Turid and Carolyn visited here? Wow; was that a blast! They talked to us with calming signals and grins and laughs and sometimes a few treats, and we surely had a great party!
We did, didn't we! Mum and Dad still talk about it, too. Anyway, Kumbi, if the idea of NILIF works for some humans, I'm not going to complain.
Okay. I won't complain either.
Kwali, what is Dominance?
I don't know, Kumbi.
You don't know?
You know everything. Why don't you know that?
I don't know. Do you know what it is?
No, or I wouldn't ask. I don't play games unless I'm playing games.
Well, right; I know that about you, Kumbi. Same goes for me.
Okay. Sorry I asked.
Ask any time, Kumbi; I'm glad to answer what I can when I can.
Tnanks, Kwali. Okay; I'll do that.
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