Most mornings I’m up between 5:00 – 5:30. This allows me time to spend in quiet meditation and devotional reading. But before I nestle down with my devotional books, our cat, Kris, needs attention. I make sure his food and water dishes are full and the litter box is sifted. On my way back to the recliner, he plops onto the dining room floor for me to give him a thorough petting: head, chin, back, and belly. Somewhere around 6:30, after I’ve had some quiet time, I take Evelyn’s service dog, Kianna, for her walk.
However, there are some mornings, especially in the summertime, when I have no reason to get up at that time and look forward to an extra hour or so of sleep. What I’m learning is that pets have no tolerance for schedule changes. The consistent schedule of activities has acted as “training” for them. Kris expects me to pet him shortly after I rise. Kianna is ready to go for her walk around 6:30. And heaven help me if I try to linger in the linens.
At some point over the past week, Kris has taken it upon himself to be my unofficial alarm clock. If he finds me still snoozing after 5:30 he meanders into the bedroom and starts meowing. There’s something about the pitch of his “meow” that instantly awakens me.
It has presented me with a quandary. To my mind, if I actually get up when he “calls” me, he’ll learn that his little system works. All he has to do is “meow” a couple of times, and Daddy will get up. That’s not the lesson I want him to learn. In fact I have intentionally stayed in bed, faking sleep, in the hope that it will discourage my feline friend. Of course, Kris knows nothing about how that’s supposed to work. All he knows is that it’s time for food and “pets,” and I’m not up to do them. So he continues his repetitive meowing. Not that I could actually have gotten any additional rest anyway, but with the noise, staying awake is a guarantee.
This morning (June 30) the situation became doubly worse. Kris wandered into the bedroom, meowing like crazy. As though to emphasize that I was being paged, Kianna (who sleeps in the bed with Evelyn and me) decided that Daddy needed a good licking, and so started applying “tongue-to-arm resuscitation.” This was all around 5:30! I had hoped to get another hour of sleep.
I managed to stay motionless — and quite wide awake, even though my eyes were closed — for all of the next ten minutes. By then it became crystal clear that more sleep was not in my future for this morning, and so I was up by 5:40.
It’s not all that hard to train animals to do stuff. Even Kris — a CAT, mind you — has been trained by daughter Karlyn to close the cabinet door after we get his bag of treats out. Kianna’s been trained to perform many helpful activities to assist Evelyn with her hearing. Those are all well and good.
But — how do you *un-* train an animal?