When will I learn?

Reflecting on various aspects of my life, I have to conclude that I could easily be classified as a slow learner!

It’s not that I have any particular difficulty with learning new things (allowing for age!), but I just forget! Of course short term memory loss is age related, but I firmly believe that I only forget things that are irrelevant anyway so it’s not a problem… but perhaps I should re-think that!

Ray has a bad case of startle response. To the uninitiated, startle him and he will respond. Startling can be as simple as touching him when he is asleep. His response can be as drastic as a bite!

I have had two personal experiences of Ray’s startle response (I clearly did not learn the first time). You would really think that a single experience of having a 75 lbs+ dog, barking and lunging at you, with its mouth open, would make sufficient impact. Not in my case! I had to experience it twice before I got “the message”! I won’t go into the details here because they are covered in my book about him (Who Said I was up for Adoption?” – click book cover in right column for more information).

Yesterday started off a very typical day… until later in the evening. We had finished our dinner in accordance with our standard habits (so Ray was happy).  I went into the kitchen to make us both decaf coffees which was, again, our normal routine, and Ray predictably curled up on his round bed which I have to pass in order to get from the kitchen to where we sit to watch the 6:00pm news!

There was nothing unusual about any of these events, except that as I carried the coffee cups passed Ray’s bed, one of them was tilted slightly and a few drops of coffee hit the hardwood floor. From my perspective, it was a non-event as I just needed to get our floor cloth and clean up the splashes.

I went into the kitchen and came back with a damp floor cloth. The problem now was to see the splashes so that they could be wiped up, and the best idea seemed to be to squat down so that they would reflect the room lights. It worked! I could clearly see the trail of splashes!

Being already in a squat position, the most natural “wipe up the splashes” position was to go onto my hands and knees and wipe up the trail… which actually started before Ray’s bed and continued past it. Everything started off quite well as I just crawled my way along the floor wiping up as I went. I was alongside his bed… and then it happened!

Within a fraction of a second, I heard barking; was aware of Ray lunging; felt something really hard hit my left jaw and ear area, and was knocked against a wall. My initial thought was that he had bitten me, but a quick check of the left side of my face showed no bite marks. In fact there were no marks at all and, apart from an elevated heart rate for a short while, the only outcome was soreness!

Ray just stood looking at me (“What did I just do? When will he learn?”), while I was on the floor leaning against the wall. All ended well, and there are no hard feelings from me, and seemingly none from Ray.

Startle response! I really must remember that one!

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40 thoughts on “When will I learn?

  1. Good there was no injury for either party. Neither Sam or Elsa are particularly as reactive as Ray but there are times when they could be startled when sleeping which tends to make me jump in reaction to their jumping. Luckily I try to ‘announce’ my presence with heavy footsteps or loud sighing rather than trying to sneak past quietly so they know where I am. I’d invariably be the one who would be injured with my luck. 🙂

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    • Hmmmmm… brilliant? I would have to suggest that perhaps you have never had a 76lbs German Shepherd/Rottweiler X angrily leap at you with its mouth open, and with the clear intention of attacking if necessary? In my best “reserved English”, it was a rather disturbing experience! 🙂

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        • Anisha – Any dog approaching you in attack mode should be of concern! I have been threatened by small dogs and they are also disturbing because, regardless of their size, they can do a lot of damage to you. Even 5lbs of hissing and spitting cat should be cause for concern for much the same reason! While labs are typically very easy going dogs, their behavior (just like a child and/or teen’s behavior) can be heavily influenced by their upbringing. Having said that, with patience, professional guidance, lots of love and lots of time, behavior modifications are possible. We are still working on Ray after 3-1/2 years… but he is worth it!
          My book “Who Said I was up for Adoption?” includes so much information about dogs and, if you feel so inclined, I would suggest that you get a copy as it will prepare you for dog ownership in the future. They are far more than the “cute little puppy that needs a home”! Nice chatting with you! 🙂

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    • Hi Prajakta – Yes it could be from his earlier treatment by his owners, or a learned “habit” during the time that he was a stray. It would have been a necessary survival skill given our coyote population! As for feeling guilty? He may have regretted it at the time, but dogs live very much in the moment so I do not expect it bothered him for long! 🙂

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    • I don’t think that it is “normal” for dogs. Just those who had some bad experiences. Ray has displayed aggression many times under different circumstances, but they all appear be fear based… and he is just expressing his desire that “the problem” goes away. There are more details about this in his book. 🙂

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  2. Aww. Poor Colin and poor Ray! No doubt both your hearts were racing after that! These kinds of things remind me of the unfortunate life Ray has had and how he’s so lucky to have such loving humans who understand him now. I’m glad both of you are alright. 🙂

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  3. Wow! Sure glad that there were no bites and no hard feelings.
    I believe we all have things that we are slow to learn, but I would say the quicker you remember about Ray’s startle reflexes the better off you will be. 🙂

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