A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Housebreaking Stryker the dog was a breeze, until Frost the cat got in on the act

If you’re a pet owner, you probably know housebreaking a dog is much like potty training a child. Just as some dogs are easier to housebreak than others, some children are easier to potty train. Regardless, it’s a necessary evil along the path of childhood and puppy-dom.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

Housebreaking Stryker was a breeze. Although I have no proof, I suspect one of the things that made house training easy was the set of puppy training bells a friend gave me.

For those who aren’t familiar, puppy bells consist of one of more bells—in our case, four bells—attached to a thin strip of heavy duty nylon, with a loop at the top for hanging on a door knob. Although the bells come with directions for use, we hung them on the door and left Stryker to do all the work. And smart dogs can readily make the astute observation that bell ringing means outside, which means potty, which means treat.

In less than a day, Stryker was housebroken. Not a bad day’s work for a few bells attached to a piece of material.

In the beginning, I would drop everything and come running every time I heard the bells. Although I doubted any puppy needed to go out every 93 seconds, I wasn’t willing to take my chances and risk a pee puddle (or worse) in the floor.

After a while, we settled in to a routine, though. Stryker rang the bells and I opened the door in a reasonable amount of time. If I failed to do so—or if it was a real emergency—he’d ring the bells again.

Such was our pattern those first few years, until one day the bells took on a different sound.

At first, it was a softer, less abrasive ring. Instead of an isolated ring-a-ding, ding—one paw and done, if you will—the bells kept ringing as if they were attached to a speed bag. It took all of a second and a half for me to lose my patience.

“Strkyer, stoppp!”

Stryker didn’t stop, though, and the noise continued. So off I went to investigate the four alarm fiasco in the next room—and in quite a huff I might add. Which is when I realized the bell ringer wasn’t Stryker.

It was Frost. The cat.

I don’t mind telling you that cats have the capacity to be one of the most annoying creatures on the face of the earth. That’s right. I said it. They don’t listen, they go places they don’t belong, and they meow incessantly when the mood strikes them.

Isn’t it funny but not ha-ha how Frost can teach himself to ring a set of bells when he wants to go outside, yet he can’t grasp that the counter is off-limits after being removed from said counter more than a thousand times. Isn’t it curious that this cat can make the connection between ringing a bell and going out, but feigns cluelessness when he gets in trouble for clawing at a chair.

But I digress.

I wonder. Was Frost’s newfound talent just a fluke or had Stryker and Frost conspired? Had they gotten together every time Colton and I weren’t around? Had Frost taken one lesson or a series of lessons? Did Stryker charge for his bell-ringing expertise?

Moreover, did Frost realize that abusing the bell-ringing system would lead me to remove the bells entirely, leaving Stryker to fend for himself? Has he no shame?

Allow me to answer. No he hasn’t.

Since removing the bells, Frost has discovered that pawing at the metal blinds on the door creates even more racket, and is far more annoying than those bells ever thought about being.

Unlike removing the bells, removing the blinds won’t be so easy—a reality I’m sure Frost is aware of. Cats are like that. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of his plan all along.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment