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Butterfly’s Step Training


 

For Butterfly’s Gotcha day, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to celebrate. She has been with us for a year now and the difference in her is extraordinary. She barks, and begs for snacks, and runs like the wind, and disobeys me, like a real dog. She almost never goes blank anymore the way she used to do. She loves her sister, she follows me everywhere, and she looks forward to her goodnight kiss from Grandma.

My first thought was to buy her a new pink leash, to replace the one she had drenched in pee and mud, but that was more of a present for me. Then I wanted to get her a special ID tag, one that doesn’t just announce her inoculation status. Her most recent tag from the doctor is actually blue, which is not her color.

            I like to be thorough and waste printer paper and toner when I do research, so I printed out ten or fifteen options for Mom to look at from her seat on the couch. There were tags in the vague shape of a butterfly. There were brass and plastic and steel tags. There were flowers and dogs and fire hydrants and bones, and quite a lot of tags devoted to sports teams. But the one I liked best was round and pink, with a colorful butterfly painted on the front, and her info etched into the back. I found a red one with a silver heart for Cricket, so she wouldn’t feel left out.

Cricket, my red girl

Cricket, my red girl

Butterfly's butterfly

Butterfly’s butterfly

            But I still didn’t feel like her present was a real present for HER. I always want birthday presents that will change my life and I wanted the same for Butterfly. And I thought about the doggy steps I’d seen all year in catalogs and at the pet store. For a year now, I’d been air lifting Butterfly onto the bed whenever she barked for uppies, and air lifting her down when she demanded to see her sister. But she’s become very insistent that this air lift be available every few minutes, and in the middle of the night. There’s a pain in my upper back that I blame entirely on her.

            I’d been putting off the doggy steps for most of the year, because Mom, whose father was a consumer advocate, on the board of Consumer Reports, believes that shopping takes time, months, really, of comparing, contrasting, forgetting, and starting over again. No more of that. I did my printing-out-options routine, wasting a very satisfactory amount of multi-purpose paper, and decided on a set of steps and ordered them right away, before the comparing, contrasting and forgetting could set in.

            It turned out that Mom was more excited than I was when the doggy steps finally arrived. I carried the box up to the apartment and went to bed, at one o’clock in the afternoon, as I often do. I could hear a lot of banging and crashing noises, par for the course with some of Mom’s do-it-yourself projects, so, nothing to worry about. And then the steps appeared, all snapped together, and hollow, and ready to place at the side of the bed. We tried a few different positions for the steps, to see where they’d be most stable, and least likely to trip me in the middle of the night.

            But the girls were not excited about their new furniture. When I picked up Cricket and tried to put her on the top step, she scrambled out of my arms and jumped to the floor and squeezed herself under my bed.

Can you see Cricket under there?

Can you see Cricket under there?

            Butterfly was less frightened, especially when I spread pieces of chicken treat across the steps. I placed her on the top step, and gave her a treat. We did that ten times. Then I placed her on the middle step and she climbed onto the bed and got a treat. We did that another ten times. We did sessions like this twice a day, until Butterfly could climb up all of the steps to the bed herself. She still refused to put her paws on the first step by herself, though. She sat and trembled on the floor and tried to run away.

Froggy tried the steps first

Froggy tried the steps first

Butterfly can fly!

Butterfly can fly!

Cricket refused to be seen even touching the steps. She came over, when she thought no one was looking, and twisted herself into knots to get at the leftover treats, without putting two paws at a time on any given step. She developed some quite beautiful ballet moves this way, and seemed to be teaching herself how to get whiplash from a standstill.

Cricket is cleaning up

Cricket is cleaning up

Cricket's dance moves

Cricket’s dance moves

            Butterfly took to hoovering up a row of chicken treats in one gulp, to prevent Cricket from getting to them. I worried this would lead to choking, but so far she has managed to keep herself alive.

            Butterfly has gotten to the point where she will run into my room, and flatten herself on the floor so that I can pick her up and place her on the steps, but she won’t put a paw up on the steps by herself. I may have to find more valuable treats for the next step of this adventure.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

80 responses »

  1. We have doggy steps to the bed too! Sometimes the new ones get it, and sometimes they sit on the floor waiting to be picked up lol

    Reply
    • Butterfly will run into my room, check the steps for treats, then stand at the front of the bed and bark at me. I’m sure there’s some essential step in this process that I’ve been missing, but I have no idea what it is.

      Reply
  2. That was such a sweet story. I loved it!

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  3. Our fur kids like change even less than we humans! Great story and so well told – I especially liked the bit about getting whiplash from a standstill! Please keep us posted as to the eventual outcome. Can Butterfly conquer the steps? Does she want to? Will Cricket get all available treats? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Reply
  4. I bought steps for the Man about a year ago. He does not use them as often as he did at the start, mainly because he seems to spend half the day sleeping. Unlike Butterfly, the Man is getting on in years – he is 13.

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  5. “Hoovering up” haha. So true!

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  6. Sometimes it takes a while to “get it” but when we do, we’ve got it.

    Reply
  7. I *heart* Butterfly and this story!!! ❤ ❤
    Awesome gift idea, well done, beautiful animals for sure…you are so sweet! Love it!!!

    Reply
  8. Cricket and Butterfly are too cute 😉 The tags you got them are lovely. I always enjoy reading about their stories and adventures 🙂

    Reply
  9. The things we do for our pets. It sounds like you have two wonderful dogs, and handle them very well. Tomorrow we pick up the newest addition to our family, a 6mo chihuahua mix. You can just see the trouble in his eyes. Hope we are up to the task. Looks like I could learn a lot from you.

    Reply
  10. What a wonderful story! So evocatively written, and with great pictures. Methinks I might need steps too, as I have a 45 lb. puppy that I have to lift in and out of the car. 🙂

    Reply
  11. This made me smile (and made me think how similar dogs are to toddlers). Do you think they’ll get the hang of it in the middle of the night when they really want to be up on the bed with you?

    Reply
  12. This is hilarious. I bought Bailey a set of steps a few months ago. He absolutely hated them and refused to use them. No amount of tricks or treats convinced him otherwise. You are such a great dog mama. The girls are so lucky to have you. 🙂

    Reply
    • Cricket feels the same way as Bailey about these steps. She insists on walking around to the other side of the bed and asking for uppies, except when she knows there are treats on the steps, then she will, of course, eat them.

      Reply
  13. Our border collie Bilbo faced his own challenge recently. He was chasing his ball around the pool and fell in. It gave us all a bit of a fright but he expertly dog paddled to the side and mostly got himself out. We’re not entirely sure he disapproved of the experience either. He looked like he wanted to get back in.

    Reply
    • I used to have a doberman growing up and an above ground pool in the backyard. That dog HATED doing the doggy paddle. She did not look like a scary dog at all when i had to lift her up out of the water and “save” her.

      Reply
  14. What a good idea and solution. Hope your back improves!

    Reply
    • She’s still waking me up in the middle of the night to be let down to get water. This time, she licked my foot to wake me up. Here’s hoping the step learning process kicks in any day now.

      Reply
  15. Can you spell SPOILED ROTTEN?!! You are worse than me. On second thought there is a bath mat in the front of the boat, to keep Little Bear from slipping.
    O.K. it’s a tie.

    Reply
  16. Awwww, this is adorable. We got our little dachsie from a dog rescue. He’d been an abused and malnourished doggie, and now he’s happy and fat. As far as doggie steps, forget it…my parents sleep on a mattress on the ground so that little Duchek can have easy access to his bed.

    Reply
  17. Happy belated Gotcha day Butterfly 🙂 🙂 hugs Fozziemum xx

    Reply
  18. Your dogs are just amazingly beautiful! I had a Lhasa apso once and he was a spitfire! Your girls look nice and warm, cuddly and cute. Your stories are much loved and inspirational. 🙂

    Reply
  19. I wish my pups would use the steps. We have a high bed and a tile floor; over time it’s not good for their long poodle legs! I even put an ottoman next to the bed… They rarely use that too, except for my little Yorkie, where it’s the only way up or down. 😉

    Reply
  20. We just LOVE her new pink butterfly collar…soooo sweet and perfect!!!! Those steps looks wonderful…We are gonna look into them!!!! Blessings and a lovely new year to your and yours!!!! Hugs

    Reply
  21. Happy New Year, Rachel, Butterfly and Cricket!!!

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  22. Happy New Year from all of us to you and all your family!

    Reply
  23. Dogs love to be enticed with sounds that appeal to their doggie ears. Here’s an idea to encourage Butterfly up those steps…

    In Japanese a butterfly is a “cho cho”. Dogs somehow seem to love that sound when repeated softly. I don’t know why but it’s true. “Cho cho, cho cho, cho cho”….try it with a treat and see if that gives her the courage to make the move up the stairs.

    I bet it does!

    Reply
  24. I am lucky enough to be a good jumper-upper, so I don’t need steps to get onto the bed 🙂
    But I love those collars so I am now dropping hints!

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  25. Happy New Year Rachel! I loved this posting as it really does a wonderful job of pointing out the eccentricities of our canine companions! I truly value your ability to take events or issues which we canine people see everyday and present them in a new and often more understandable light. I was also particularly interested in your steps as my Mal Anana is already showing signs of arthritis at just three of age (poor baby had to undergo two TPLO surgeries, one for each knee, within a year’s time and her amazing surgeon later showed me the beginnings of arthritis in her leg joints which he’d observed during the surgeries…) and I know she’s going to have issues climbing into my bed down the road. At 124 pounds she’s a bit large to lift and she doesn’t like to be carried anyway. I do have her and her pal Qanuk on joint supplements but they can only do so much. That set of steps sure looks to be sturdy and big enough for Anana to use. I suspect I might even get a set for her to use outdoors so she can get into the back seat of my Escape as she does love to ride with her head out the windows…

    Reply
  26. We almost went with doggie steps for Jack but having a chaise at the foot of the bed made it a non issue because he jumps from the chaise onto the bed. These little doggies pose some interesting dilemmas for us mommies lol

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  27. I am glad you posted this, I had wondered how dogs take to steps like these. It seems Butterfly might use them after a time but do you think Cricket will ever use them? I had thought of buying some for Chancy to use so he can get on them to see out the window. He jumps in a chair and props his front paws on the chair arm to look out the window now. I really want to move the chair that he uses to another place in the room but I do not want to take away his ability to see out the window. If you make progress with getting those little sweeties to use the steps I hope you will post all you did to make it happen. Hugs and nose kisses

    Reply
  28. Loved this post Rachel! It reminded me of training my three dogs to use the doggie door. Treats are what worked here…keep it up…I’m sure their stubbornness will subside! Fingers crossed for you 🙂

    Reply
  29. I never knew you could get doggy steps! Being a long-legged beastie, Millie has no trouble jumping on and off the bed, but I will remember this wonderful idea when she gets older and needs a little help.

    Reply
    • They have all kinds of doggy steps. The ones we found supposedly hold up to 150 pounds. I’m considering a whole set up, like a doggy version of a cat jungle gym, maybe we can find tunnels and turning wheels. I mean, we don’t really need human furniture, or walking space, do we?

      Reply
  30. Cute story and photos. I never knew little dogs could be so entertaining until I recently acquired one.

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  31. Such cuties!!!! 🙂 Me and my boyfriend are planning to get a puppy, so now I spend my days reading blogs on dogs 🙂

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  32. Absolutely loved the escapades of the steps with Cricket. Empathized completely with how you described all the steps in trying to have her climb by herself. It’s like I would talk about my pets – 3 cats. Every little morsel of description can’t be untold – they are so precious to me. If you like cats as well as dogs, I invite you and all to take a look at my blog for my cats: http://www.pussycats3.wordpress.com Thanks.

    Reply
  33. You’re so patient! I hope she conquers that bottom step soon!

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  34. Thanks for liking wordsisters. Love your post.

    Reply
  35. eddybettyshreddy

    I enjoy your writing humor. I read your feral cat story yesterday and left a long reply but for some reason my comment never took. It was a great story, the old cat in the first picture was certainly a typical sad state stray. the big grey was (muchacho) ha, great name, looks just like one of mine and I love the fact there is a stray cat house, so nice to care for strays. we have many also, its very sad and easy to end up with LOTS!!!

    Reply
    • If I had more money and space, I’d be in danger of becoming an animal hoarder. Choosing just one at a time is too difficult. It would be like going to a candy store and just taking home a single flavor of jelly beans.

      Reply
  36. Thank you for this, Rachel! This is what I need to do w/ our amputee black lab; here’s hoping!!

    Reply

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