There must be a million websites, books, articles, and pamphlets about training dogs and cats and various pets… yet, the humans are the ones who need to be trained! Puppies may pee on your bed, but a puppy has never started a war. Nor do I don’t know any horses who have kidnapped children or set fire to anyone’s home.
To learn more about training humans, I took a trip to the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, NJ. I met with a few dogs and cats who have faced some real ugly mugged humans, and asked what their advice would be to young pets training their humans. I got some very useful responses. Listen closely, you might learn a thing or two.
I entered the green door because entering through a window seemed inconvenient and messy. I didn’t want to disturb the spiders who had just sat down for breakfast.
Once I got inside, the secretary immediately directed me towards the stairs. She said that’s where I’d find the “Cattery”. They had way too many kittens! Apparently, some seriously untrained humans didn’t know to get their pets neutered/spayed. Considering that many vets and mobile vans will do the surgery for fairly cheap and sometimes free, this just sounds lazy to me. But let’s see what the cats have to say about that.
The first cat I met was this little one:
Clearly, she doesn’t mess around. She is a strict reinforcer of the rules. I learned from her that you must train your human with directness, and you can’t be too gentle with them. A harsh tone may be required. She explained that you have to catch your human when he/she is very comfortable and sleepy. Once they are settled in and having a good time petting your fur, you leap on their head, and stick your butt in their face. This will remind the human that you’re either in need of being fixed, or a sign of appreciation for having you fixed. If this doesn’t work, steal their socks. Never harm your human, but sometimes other types of punishment are necessary.
When I then heard some clattering around, I realized that there were two sibling kittens down below who were chanting in unison, “If you don’t need us, at least you can feed us!”
The two kittens, Dory and her sibling (who wishes to remain anonymous) refused to say much more than this chant. The cat in the next cage over explained that these two had been abandoned at the shelter after months of barely being cared for in their previous home. “Quite frankly, I think they just snapped. Big catnip users, but I didn’t tell you that.”
Here the two take a break from chanting so they can receive a few scratches. They still love human interaction, but are much less trusting of humans.
As I passed them a second time, I heard one whisper, “Sure, if I jump on her lap, she better pet me… that’s just my way of showing her my power. She can’t resist me.”
Before leaving the Cattery, my last stop was to greet Draco. He doesn’t talk much anymore, nor does he do much training. However, in his youth, he would often travel the streets teaching other kittens how to train their humans. He was a celebrity in the concrete jungle. These days, he prefers to sit in his cage and watch kittens and his old comrades be brought in and out. It is said that Draco once loved humans and felt every single one could be trained and turned good.
I’ll never know what these amber eyes have seen, nor what smells that pink nose has smelled. But without a doubt, Draco has seen some of the worse types of humans. Legend has it that he once was homed by a very grumpy husband who had no interest in cats. Draco was able to soften this man’s heart and sit beside him during basketball games. This changed when he had to surrender Draco due to his wife’s pregnancy. When Draco saw that his beloved human man would not admit his sadness upon leaving him behind at the shelter, Draco was forever hardened. He has not given up on finding a home, but he isn’t the same cat he once was.
As I left the room, Draco’s eyes didn’t move, they stared forward; never letting go of the memory of the man who once loved him and betrayed him.
I was then anxious to go visit the dogs! Dogs are typically a softer, more forgiving type. I expected joy, forgiveness, and infinite optimism. However, what I found instead was desperation and unease.
Entering the dog room, everyone wanted to be heard. Every dog felt they had tips and advice on training that would solve all the human problems of the world.
I didn’t know where to begin. That is, until I saw Bunny. It is not common to come across a Pharaoh Hound, particularly at the shelter. As you can see in the lower left corner of this picture, I discreetly took a photo of this beautiful friend. I quickly learned that approaching dogs in cages will lead to much barking, some growling, and noisy tails thumping against metal.
Bunny had no comments, though, he just wanted me to leave him be. That is, unless I was going to walk, feed, or home him. Being that I could not provide any of these things, I went on to the next speaker.
Seides is another resident of the Humane Society. She’s a self-labeled artist who believes in changing the world through music. She has a very different approach from the other dogs.
Seides is a 4 year old lab/pit mix. She was brought in after being tied up in front of the shelter with her brother Beamer. Nowadays she paces back and forth in her cage and sings. She has a story to tell and she wants the world to hear it.
After hearing many sad tales like Seides’, I was quite relieved to finally talk with two fellas for whom life has been equally tough, but they keep a smile on and pep in their step. They are Nilsito and Richard.
Nilsito was excited when I came over to talk to him. He was engaged and anxious to meet me. At 9 years old, he is 60 lbs. He’s a heavyweight champ full of muscle and a big heart! Just as I thought he was going to share some wisdom, he chose instead to do this:
Some dogs just never grow up!
Richard, on the other hand, at only 2 years old, was much more at ease. He seemed comfortable discussing the difficult issues with me. I got a feeling from Richard that he was an old soul who had seen and been through enough to have something to offer.
It turned out, I was right. Richard taught me a lot, even just by looking into his eyes. He told me about his puppy days, about his life on the streets, and how lacking a home taught him more about humans than one would expect. He feels humans are much like stray animals, but they’ve been given weapons and power. This leads them to do things that they think will protect themselves and their loved ones from being vulnerable. He explained that humans want love from dogs and cats, but don’t think about the bigger picture, the consequences, and all the requirements…. He was happy being stray, but a part of him will always seek a lifelong human companion. Its in the blood of every dog, he postulates, even the ones who growl. They’re also just trying to protect themselves in a scary world. However, with proper human training, each and every dog can find themselves in the perfect home.Never give up, he told me, never.
This response left me so stirred, that I felt it was a good time to leave. It was hard saying goodbye to all these incredible dogs and cats, but I had my own foster kittens to take home! I left the shelter with three month old kittens who had been abandoned on a boat! The pirate kittens are now safely in my home and await permanent homes. They are adventurous, lively, and very healthy. When I asked for any suggestions when it came to training humans, in unison they squeaked, “LOVE.”
For kittens, they sure are smart!
All the dogs and cats in this post are available for adoption at the Liberty Humane Society in New Jersey. Please read about them and how to adopt/foster at: http://www.libertyhumane.org/ They are also always in need of volunteers!
Find out more about these lovely dogs at: DOGS
Learn more about these gorgeous cats at: CATS