August 25, 2014

My Dog Doesn't Know She Can Go Upstairs

I know, I know... but she looks so smart, right?

Like any healthy relationship, my dad and I have a five-year standing disagreement in which we both refuse to accept any opinion other than our own. We are both adamant about our side, and completely ignore any evidence to the contrary. It's an argument that has caused a deep divide in our family, even more so than when my aunt married a Yankees' fan.

And that disagreement is whether or not our dog is the stupidest dog that exists.

Now, I'm not saying Jazz is the next Lassie or anything. I've seen her bark at one too many walls for me to believe she's got that kind of brainpower. But the stupidest dog in the world? I mean, she seems to have a pretty solid handle on the fact that her tail is indeed attached to her butt; I think that puts her in the top 50% right there.

But my dad will not be swayed. One piece of evidence that he continually brings up is that Jazz has yet to figure out that she is physically capable of going upstairs.

Now, you need a little background here: for the first four years of her life, there has been a baby gate to stop her from going upstairs. My parents put it there after they realized that Jazz missed the "Homeward Bound" lesson in domestic pet class. Instead of seeing our old, fat cat as a playful pal, Jazz sees her as an elusive game of prey. Jazz's deepest desire in life, other than cheddar cheese, is finding and presumably killing Ruby, our somewhat evil, old, fat cat.

The thing is, my parents took down the baby gate last year because, well, it was a pain in the ass. But Jazz evidently has not registered that without the gate, she is now able to walk up the stairs. Instead, she still sits longingly at the bottom, growling as Ruby meows smugly from the top step.

And it's not that Jazz doesn't understand how to use steps. She's mastered our deck stairs, and at various speeds (depending on the state of squirrel in our backyard). No, she is just so used to not being able to use the upstairs that it's never crossed her mind to try.

So at first, I kind of saw my dad's point. If she just put her mind to it, after all, she'd have Ruby's neck in no time. But then I realized: deeming Jazz the stupidest dog ever because she doesn't realize her own capabilities is not only unfair, but hyporcritcal... because we do the exact same thing.

For example, when I started running in college, I was absolutely sure I could never run a 5K under 18:30 because in high school, that was absolutely true. I didn't have enough experience and I physically could not run that fast.

What I didn't realize though was that after a year of college training, I was more than capable of that time. But it didn't matter because I was never up with that lead pack. I spent three years hanging back, convinced that the superior humans who ran those times in their superior spandex race shorts were meant to be admired only from afar.

Until one race of my senior season, something weird happened: I stayed with them. I mean, why the hell not, right? Their spandex didn't look any more magical than mine; maybe I could hang around for a while.

And I did hang around. I hung around all season, running 18:30, 18:10, and even breaking 18 minutes all together.

Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't train hard that season. I was in the best shape of my life. But I truly think the biggest reason for my success that year was my mindset: for some reason, I just decided I could do it. And then I did.

Sometimes, the only thing you need to do to succeed is decide you can.

But it took me three years to realize that, three years that I could have possibly been doing the same thing if I had any idea I was able to. So to judge Jazz for not thinking she can walk up the stairs to her furry, declawed prize?

Well, if that makes her the stupidest dog ever, you might as well call me Fido.