FINE DINING

It’s May, which means intoxicating scents and sounds. Which means that Aussie needs more training with a remote collar.

“Stop buzzing me! I’m only chasing that chipmunk!”

“When I see you lunge like that, Aussie, I don’t know if you’re rushing down to the creek below or starting a marathon. But you were a good girl and came back when I called you, so I’m giving you this.”

“Chicken? Not dog treats? Yum!”

“Aussie, every time you start running after some scent or animal and come back when I buzz, I’m going to reward you according to the level of difficulty. Since this was difficult, you’re getting chicken. It’s called Fine Dining.”

“Fine Dining, Boss?”

“That’s what your trainer calls it. When you’re being obedient, you get a treat. But when you come back in the face of a major temptation, you get chicken, which is Fine Dining.”

“Boss, watch me rush to the puddle, see? And here I come back. Fine Dining, please!”

“I don’t know, Aussie, that’s not quite it.”

“Okay, watch me pretend to rush after Harry, give him a bite in the butt, and when you call me I come back. Fine Dining!”

“Maybe this qualifies. After all, you do love to give Harry a bite in the butt.”

“I should get Fine Dining all the time. Lately we’ve been going on these short walks, and every minute it’s something else: Aussie, come! Aussie, far enough! Aussie, uh uh uh! Aussie, let’s go! Aussie this, Aussie that! I can’t stand going on walks with you anymore. I’m a grown dog and a great hunter.”

“That’s the problem, Auss. You’re conditioned, see? Your conditioning is to run after every scent in the world. Then you run and run, and don’t get back till midnight! Fine Dining is part of the effort to decondition you.”

“I just jumped up on my hind legs against that tree after the squirrel. You buzzed and I came back, deconditioned. Fine Dining!”

“Aussie, you’re not being serious.”

“Why should I resist my conditioning? My conditioning is me!”

“No, Aussie. Being a hunter is just one aspect, it’s not all of you. And I’m not asking you to resist your conditioning, I’m just asking you to soften around it, to—”

“I know, I know, let it go. I hate that phrase. There’s nothing wrong with my conditioning.”

“There’s nothing wrong with hunting per se, but there’s plenty wrong with running for miles and not coming home. Besides, Aussie, if you can let go of your conditioning—”

“I hate that phrase!”

“—then you’re free to respond to each moment. You’re free to act more spontaneously in the world rather than according to fixed patterns. Don’t you want to be free, Aussie?”

“No, I want to run. I just ran after Harry who was chasing crows, and I came back when you called. Fine Dining!”

“Just a dog treat this time, Aussie.”

“Only dumb dogs chase crows.”

“Maybe chasing crows is Harry’s conditioning, Aussie.”

“Oh, yeah? Does he look like a bird dog to you? Here he comes.”

Harry: “Hey  Boss, how come Aussie’s getting white chicken meat and I’m getting dog treats?”

Boss: “It’s called Fine Dining, Harry.”

Harry: “So why does she get to dine so finely?”

Boss: “Because Aussie’s being deconditioned. She’s in training not to run away.”

Harry: “I don’t run away.”

Boss: “True, but you never ran away to begin with.”

Harry: “Let me see if I understand this. Aussie won’t do what you ask her to do, so in order to get her to do that she gets Fine Dining. I do what you want from the get-go, and I don’t get Fine Dining. Is that it?”

Boss: “I’m afraid so, Harry.”

Harry: “There is no justice in this world! Where are you running to, Aussie?”

Aussie: “I’m only pretending to run, Harry, see? She buzzes me and I come back. Fine Dining!”

Harry: “This deconditioning is the biggest racket I’ve ever seen. I have a question for you, Boss. You know how every morning you sit in that chair silently by the window till I crash through the door to remind you to feed us?”

Boss (sighs): “You don’t need to remind me. You’re so punctual, Harry, I don’t bother setting an alarm.”

Harry: “Don’t you sit to decondition?”

Boss: “Why, Harry, as a matter of fact, you’re right. The thought patterns slow down, the mind settles. Things become more transparent and clearer.”

Harry: “How long have you been doing this, Boss?”

Boss: “At least 35 years, Harry.”

Harry: “And in all that time you never tried chicken?”