Posted by Julia Jean Jackson-Fowler
Old dogs have nothing on cats or the adult brain.
The saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I have a doddering old Yorkshire terrier and, alas, the idiom is true.
However, I have a cat-”Hermie”-and an adult brain (not pictured). I am happy to report that both have overcome their respective aversions to learning new things. This has not been easy. Lessons can be confusing, even painful, and some of us seem destined to learn things the hard way. Just ask Hermie.
In July of 2005, Hermie was arrested for violating the City of Chesterfield’s leash law. He was in the back seat of the police car, when I pulled into the driveway.
An unidentified female neighbor had called police after Hermie jumped up and caught a wild bird – in mid-air – in the woman’s back yard. Unfortunately, the woman was feeding the wild bird as this happened. She was understandably traumatized, because Hermie unabashedly ate his victim on the spot.
Hermie was released to me, but I was ordered to appear in court to answer for the violation.
In the intervening weeks, my husband and I taught Hermie the most difficult lesson of his entire first-of-nine lives: how to stay in the yard. We purchased a shock collar, just like the collars that kept our dogs behind their Invisible Fence.
There are few experiences more bizarre than teaching a cat to negotiate an invisible barrier. It was a painful period for all involved.
Hermie still catches birds in midair, but he is ever mindful of the property’s edge. He has taken to climbing trees.
The analogy breaks down, because my brain has found adult learning tremendously “liberating.” Life and work experiences enhance my lessons, which in turn enhance my life and my work. I enjoy seeing the forest AND the trees.
There is no boundary!