Friday, March 12, 2010

Year of the Dog VIII: Fairness

With multiple dogs, it's impossible to feed one -- or give one a treat -- without (in our case) the other two demanding equal treatment. Of course, a dog has no idea of fairness. Otherwise, none of them would take the opportunity to snatch a wavering cookie out of the pre-toddler granddaughter's hand.

But I found myself thinking about "fairness" this morning after letting two of them out into the backyard for a potty break. I sent the other one into the front yard. I gave him his treat first, then I moved to the back door, let the other two in, and gave them their treat. Doc, the male dog who'd been out front, gave me a look. Hey, you forgettin' something here ... ?

Yes, I know. His look was projection on my part. A dog essentially lives in the moment, and he no doubt had no memory of the treat he'd received a couple of minutes previously.

All the same, I felt guilt, and so I gave him another biscuit.

Funnily enough, the problem of "fairness" isn't nearly as difficult with children. When our boys were little, we used the old stand-by: one divides; the other chooses first. And that worked for almost every time other than the serious instances when it was really needed: Christmas, birthdays, etc.

I suppose if a dog lives in the moment it doesn't have any ability to reason that another dog might have had the opportunity to have received an extra treat because it went out at a different time and place.

The issue then is mine, and it shouldn't influence my ability to continue as the treat-giver, and thus the pack-leader.

It is a funny little neurotic hiccup, I suppose, mostly related to the projection of aspects of human nature to the beasts with which I share so much time. I do fancy myself not quite as entrapped as my wife, though. When dispersing treats, she explains to the dogs why -- or why not -- they are getting one.

"No pee, no cookie .... "

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