learning about learning

I feel like I’ve learned a startlingly large number of Life Lessons from the pets in our house.

I have two cats, Pico and Sisi. My parents have two dogs (and two sulcata tortoises, but I don’t interact with them enough yet to have learned much from!)- Hunter, and Trinity.

One of the bigger ones I’ve learned from my cats- has to do with play.

There is an Art to playing with cats, I feel like.

When they start to get bored, or distracted- I take that as challenge.

As an indication that I’m not being creative/observant enough.

I’ve noticed that they get bored with the same movements- no matter how interested they were at first.

I’ve noticed that they seem less interested in having caught a toy, than they do in trying to catch it.

I’ve noticed that they seem less interested if I make it too difficult to chase the toy, for them to keep track of the movements, or too easy.

This is a good example of what I’m referring to when I use the term ‘People Factor’ in my writing.

The PF, in my mind- is the way that individual people differ from other individual people, within species.

So- the speed of motion that is too fast to remain engaging is different between my two cats; Pico is older and more experienced at hunting things than my kitten Sisi is.

If I want to play with both at the same time, I must try to find ways to keep both engaged, despite differing ability levels- and this is not an easy thing to do. But it is possible – when interacting with people of any species.

With our dogs- I noticed something today while going on a run with them and my dad.

They are not ‘bad’ dogs- but neither are they well-trained.

They pull on their leashes- and I’ve been trying to convince my parents to get harnesses for them since I moved back here in January.

My first New Thought today (new for me, I mean!) was that harnesses might be thought of in terms of Harm Reduction.

I’ve tried training them better- but there’s not enough consistency to keep it lasting, since I have been unable to find methods that both my parents and I will use, always- to reduce confusion for the pups in how they ‘should’ be acting.

Just for people who do not have pets- I’ve found that given the barriers in communication when there is no common spoken language; there must be consistency in actions, or I feel like our furry friends will just chalk up things that are confusing as merely being quirks of ‘those strange two legged people’.

So, if it is not practical to train them to not pull, using consistency and positive reinforcement- using a harness is like when places have implemented things like needle exchanges for IV drug users.

If you can’t stop the bad behavior right away – it makes the most sense to me to try to mitigate the harmful effects of such.

The other thought I had came from thinking about why it doesn’t help to just- keep tugging when dogs pull like that.

I tried to imagine how our dogs might perceive those tugs.

Our dogs, they get really sad when they think they’ve been ‘Bad’.

They want our approval, our love- and they get so sad when they think they might have lost it.

So I feel like it’s unlikely they even recognize my parents yanking on their leashes as a ‘command’ at all- as an indication that they should change their behavior.

I feel pretty strongly that if they interpreted it as such, they would then stop pulling.

But they don’t.

Perhaps we, as humans- make learning less likely to happen, when we continue trying to teach the exact same way, after the first few times it doesn’t work.

I feel like our dogs have probably just decided this is a normal thing humans do when going for walks, and have accepted it as being worth being able to go for walks with us!

Lessons: knowledge is not a thing to be Attained. It is a thing to be chased, to be sought- always.

We, like cats- revel in the chase.

Make that chase too easy, or difficult, and we get… distracted. Lose interest.

And, perhaps the most significant, for me-

Is the lesson that when something isn’t having the results we would like it to have-

we have got to start trying something new, instead of simply trying that same thing,



I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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