I recently enrolled my dog in beginner training classes, and so far it’s been a…taxing process. When we’re at home, he’s a model puppy; he’ll complete any command you throw at him as long as you’ve got a slice of apple in your pocket and don’t mind a sloppy thank-you kiss right on the mouth. But throw another dog into the mix and all bets are off. So you can imagine, in a class filled with other dogs, the process is rather exhausting.
Initially I spent a lot of time being angry with my dog, who I convinced myself was getting back at me for that one time I tricked him into the bathtub with a week-old turkey burger. And then I realized that maybe what the situation needed, rather than blame, was empathy.
We all go through training during different stages of our lives. Most of us eventually got through potty training. Most of us were trained to sit and stay during classes in school. Some of us even spent college training our bodies to drink up to eight pomegranate margaritas without puking.
My most recent and ongoing battle has been training as a military spouse. Much like my dog before his classes began, I was living my life under a set of my own rules; upon marrying into the military, I had to learn a new set of rules, and how to function properly under them. And, in this light, it’s much easier to see how my dog can be confused by something that seems very simple to me (like “stop trying to hump that schnauzer; it’s impolite, and you’re neutered”).
So in an act of empathy, I’ve come up with 6 ways that training a military spouse is the same as training a dog. Results may vary.
1. The importance of “no.”
Because you’re both going to be hearing it a lot when you want something–like the raw chicken thawing on the counter, or for impromptu staff duty on Saturday to be canceled because you already bought concert tickets.
2. The early stages are filled with accidents.
For one of you it’s peeing on the carpet; for the other it’s accidentally going to the commissary on pay day. After a few times, you’ll learn that the consequences are not worth making this mistake again.
3. Overeating will not solve all your problems.
It will only lead to middle-of-the-night vomiting. Which you will have to clean up (or eat).
4. Proficiency in a new language.
Sit! Stay! PCS. Post Exchange. Leave it! Take it! TDY. Kevlar. No jumping! No more ice cream that’s your second pint this week.
5. Learning to go against your instincts.
A dog spots a glorious mound of unidentified animal poop, and he thinks, “Yes. Looks so good. Want to eat. Want to investigate. Smells yum. Must roll around to get wonderful smell over all fur. I will smell so yum forever.” But, despite the dog’s instinct to revel in the unidentified animal poop, he must learn that his owners do not share his love of animal poop, and they will pry it angrily from his mouth and/or forcibly remove it from his fur with a terrifying bath.
When a military wife doesn’t hear from her deployed husband for a week and a half, her instinct is to blindly panic while rifling through the news headlines for hints of every worst case scenario. But she will learn very quickly that following these instincts, while understandable, will raise no solutions–only her blood pressure.
6. Patience is a virtue.
At the end of the day/deployment, when we are lucky, he will come home. And it will be extremely exciting.