Sunday, December 02, 2007

Taking Cues

It's funny now we (and our Labs) take cues from each other. Take Pinot, for example.

This morning brought our first snow of the season -- a wet, icy snow that will turn to all freezing rain before the day is out.

When Pinot went out into the snow for the first time, she wasn't quite sure what to do with the cold white mush seeping between her toes. Good? bad? indiffent? It smelled funny, too.

She didn't know how to react, so she watched the big kids. Our gang, of course, loves the snow. Remember, Baxter is our blizzard boy, and he seems to have set the pace for the rest.

All Pinot had to do was observe the others dogs' reactions (for all of about three seconds), and she knew: snow is fun!

There was no stopping her then (well unless she paused now and then to sit and watch the world go by, just like her Uncle Baxter). She starts off this video playing with a frozen clump of grass (that's what she tosses and chases), then moves on to wrassling with Kenya. Just take a look (also notice how Blizzard Boy Baxter sits on the hill in the background the entire time Kenya and Pinot are playing -- the cold doesn't bother him a bit):

It's the same with things indoors.

Elsie enjoys the wood stove; it's her favorite place to park during the winter. Pinot wasn't sure what to make of it at first. In this next picture, I can almost hear Elsie encouraging her: You see, Pinot, fire is a good thing if you don't get too close, lick it, or try to pick it up. It's great to just watch and get warm by:

So Pinot, taking her cue from Elsie, learns to relax and enjoy the woodstove's warmth, particularly when coming in from the cold (not to mention that Mamma Elsie makes a pretty good pillow).

Another example: Baxter likes the swoop chair. And if the swoop chair is okay for Baxter, then it must be okay for Pinot:

At 12 weeks old, Pinot is rapidly learning and growing, taking in new things everyday. And she's deciding what's right or wrong, good or bad, or safe or unsafe by how she sees others reacting.

That includes us, of course. She identifies friends (or foes) by how we react. The same goes for good behaviors and bad, desired behaviors and undesired ones. Even things like sounds (firecrackers, thunder, low-flying planes, four-wheelers): she looks to us and the other dogs to gauge her responses.

Cues can be good things; as long as they're accurate. We wouldn't want Ridge's reactions to thunder and fireworks, for example, to influence Pinot's responses to them. We wouldn't want his fears to become hers. Especially since thunder and fireworks are nothing to worry about.

Yup, Pinot is taking cues, for sure. That's how she's learning. And, for the most part, the cues she receives are right, true, and accurate.

But it makes me wonder: when I'm unsure or when I'm learning, where do I look for my cues? Are the cues I receive accurate or are they influenced by negative past events? And if my perceptions differ from the cues I receive, when should I trust myself instead of the cues?

It's good to think about this stuff now and then. Especially with the holidays (and all of its ingrained reactions) coming.

In the meantime, I'll watch Pinot. Maybe I'll even take some cues from her! Who said old dogs can't learn new tricks?!

'Til next time,


JuliaR said...

I loved the one of Pinot using Elsie as a pillow. Ahroo!

Your video link appears to be broken in some way. Just anxious to watch!

And your life lessons are lovely and true. Thanks.

Joan said...


I've checked the video here on both my desktop (a PC) and my laptop (a Mac), and the video link works in both places.

Try it again today...maybe it was a Blogger glitch.

Anyone else having trouble?