Cholula is so close to the bark on command I’ve been trying to get her to do for a year and a half. I keep thinking my next post on this will surely, surely be the video of the bark I’ve been working towards. But instead it seems Cholula and I are on one of those journeys where each step covers half the ground that is left, on and on into infinity.
Kevin Behan said recently, while trying to teach another dog to speak on command who kept glancing away from him, avoiding his look, “What we want is always the hardest thing, the path of highest resistance.”
With whatever combination of my ineptitude and Cholula’s avoidance-heavy temperament, bringing her along that path of highest resistance is indeed the hardest thing for her. But I don’t blame her. How many paths of highest resistance do I avoid in my daily life, in order to keep life running smoothly and easily, but at the cost of not working on the things that really matter? We are in this together, Cholu and I.
So, Cholula, tied to a tree in my back yard on a leash with a flat collar; me in front of her, plenty of dog kibble in my fanny pack, worn backwards so I can easily get it with my hand:
Me: “Speak!” (I draw myself tall, hand holding the food at my heart and jiggling. I pounce lightly towards her.)
Cholula: Snaps her teeth so hard they click, without letting any air out.
Cholula: Bows, shakes her head, sneezes.
Me: “Speak!” (jiggling the food harder. I used to feed every sneeze; now, at least once she is warmed up, I stretch it out, wait for the noise.)
Cholula: Sneezes harder.
Me: “Louder. Give me the noise. Speak.”
Cholula: Meets my stare, her ears flattening, and holds it (something she wouldn’t do for a long time).
Me: I open my eyes wider. “Speak!”
Cholula: Holds my stare, then turns her head away from me, as if to gather her energy (it may still be a kind of avoidance but it no longer feels like that; it is a deliberate, slow move of her neck, and once she is no longer staring at me, I can see her inhale), glances back to my eyes, and makes a quiet but distinct, quite deep, “HHHHHaaaaah” in the back of her throat.
That I feed.