Food Conditioning

When I walk in the mornings or afternoons, I take a couple of dog biscuits with me to bribe Mandy, one of my canine neighbors, to let me pass safely.

Really, I just like the way she bounces towards me, drool flying from her jowls, as fast as she can and sits waiting for her bone.

I also reward Charlie, my habitual companion, for crossing the road safely with me and not chasing trucks…she still chases trucks, self-control is such a very hard skill.

She prances when we reach the other side of the main road in one piece, nudging my pocket, sniffing at my hands, getting in my way.

I’m not the only one who ventures out laden with treats.

I saw the UPS driver hop down from his truck with a jerky bite for Charlie.

The Prime Amazon deliverers usually carry some tasty morsel when they come onto Footlights.  Only we don’t usually have a dog lying in wait.

Of course, dogs don’t just love me for my charm and good looks, all animals who have ever lived in our house love me because I know the passcode…


My cats see me heading to the laundry/cat room and an inner trigger, Pavlov’s reflex, goes off; they race me mewing and trilling, getting under my feet, colliding with one another and butting heads.

“You have food…”  I say but they sit by their bowls anyway while I load the washer or fill the dryer.

They mill at soft food time, reaching up to help, winding themselves around my ankles, anxious, while Callie sits as close to the dish-up point as she can get,


Soft food time

My bird-keeping son and his wife train their flyers with food…positive re-enforcement they call it.  You’ll agree it works if you’ve ever seen one of their shows.

Over the weekend I had managed to slip off my property without any doggy escorts and was enjoying my solitary walk past the bull field that now has young steers with fluffy coats and limpid eyes grazing solemnly in it.

I saw them in a cluster…I suppose you’d say a herd…around the empty stock tank.  They looked up, a blob of black against the green and sandy landscape.


Standing around the empty pond

I walked to the fence to get a better shot with my iPhone and they started towards me,

jostling for the right to lead the pack…or rather, herd…


Making their way towards me

As they drew closer I could see their breath coming from their mouths and drool running from their shiny black nostrils.

I looked at the barbed wire between me and a few thousand pounds of beef-en-hoof  and calculated how long it would take for them to plough through it if the notion occurred to them…

not long…

I started walking back along the perimeter of the field and they began to run alongside me.


Running alongside the fence

Had there not been a fence they would have got under my feet like the cats do, or stopped in my path like Charlie does, or simply flattened me in the stampede.

It’s not only dogs and cats who equate me with food…these hunks of prime rib were convinced I had a hay bale or sack of grain hidden up my sleeve.  They would have been very disappointed with the few measly milk-bones in my pocket.

From small black cat to large black steer, from golden lab to red-tailed hawk…food is the great motivator.

Oh and let’s not forget, in the words of my maternal grandmother,

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

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