How do rituals become established? I’m not speaking of those involved with worship or membership in an organization but the peculiar customs and habits that become part of life for a family or a group of friends. I think mostly it comes from a pleasant experience although sometimes it can be an unpleasant one, I suppose, but mostly we do something we enjoy and very quickly want to do it again—and again—and again!
I’ll use as an example a custom that I am responsible for starting fairly early in 2004. As I explained,
I was left with Sadie, a black female Lab-Setter cross who had been my husband’s dog after he and my dog Butch departed this world the same day. Early the next year I acquired Rico, a mostly black blue merle male Australian Shepherd or “Aussie.”
After I got past the first few months of eating very little and sporadically since it was not fun to eat alone, I started fixing my lunch to consist of a tortilla topped with grated cheese and heated in the microwave until the cheese melted. Then I would fold it in half and cut it into wedges. It was hard to get the cheese right up to the edge so I began to cut off the outer half inch or so. Not being fond of waste, I started breaking this into small nibbles and they became Rico and Sadie’s lunch. How many times did I do this before they were there as soon as I sat down, four bright eyes fixed on my face? Less than a week, I would wager.
Time passed and Sadie went to join her master and canine buddy. Then Belle, another Aussie, came to join Rico and me. Of course he already knew the drill and she picked it up almost at once. Belle was never a slow learner when it came to food. Sadly Belle and Rico started to have periodic fights. She was not aggressive but if attacked, even in play, would literally fight to the death. After they chewed each other up badly enough to need serious vet care the second time. I advertised and re-homed him. It broke my heart but Belle had an autoimmune disorder and I knew it would be hard to find a new owner who would give her the care she needed so Rico, though holding the most seniority, had to go.
Of course Belle continued to share my lunch. Unless I was not home, we had the same dish almost every day. The habit followed when we left Whetstone—just outside of
City—to live for nine months in Hurley, NM near .
It went right along when I moved to Silver City Colorado
in March, 2009. There, the two resident dogs, Beebee, a female Blue Heeler or
Australian Cattle Dog/Corgi mix and Kaycee, purebred Blue Heeler very quickly
caught on. The cheese crisp lunches were a favorite with them as well.
|Belle aka Belle Starr or Missy B|
In the fall of 2011, we moved from
Springs to . Guess what—the lunch pattern kept
right on. In June of 2012 we were adopted by a little red Dachshund/ Spaniel
cross we formally named Riley Rojo. Rojito
very soon came to be called Little Red Dog most of the time and he knows that
name well now. In October of 2012 Miss Belle crossed the rainbow bridge and in
December, Ginger, a red and white Border Collie/Aussie cross, came to join the
Yes, the little guy and Ginger caught on in a flash. This past fall, Riata, another Blue Heeler and a young abandoned female, joined the family. Now she too knows all about the quasi-quesadilla that is supposed to be served at lunch, usually close to the noon hour. If I am not in the kitchen making proper preparations by about twelve fifteen, one or more of them will let me know. It starts with small whines or grunts, flopping down at my feet with an audible “whoof” and if I am slow to respond escalates to pacing and louder grumbles. Soon all five of them are there, “talking” to me.
We now have the red dogs and the blue dogs—the reds are mine and they know the red dog room refers to the bedroom where they and I sleep. It is sometimes their time out room and also a haven when there is thunder or other alarming sounds. The other bedroom, Charlie’s, is the blue dog room and they all know it well, too. Red dogs do not go into the blue dog room and the blues do not go into the red dog room. Otherwise they all roam the house freely.
|Rojito aka Little Red Dog|
I cannot begin to imagine how many middle sized tortillas we have covered with how many bags of grated cheese in those twelve years! I usually get the “fiesta” blend at Wal-mart. It is fine-shredded, melts nicely and I like the taste. Obviously the dogs do to. For weight control and eating healthy reasons I now often have either a fruit smoothie or a tuna or salmon salad for “my” lunch so the dogs get a bit more of the cheese crisp on those days. They do not complain. Instead of the narrow crispy and lightly cheesed rims, they get a good inch and sometimes three of the six wedges if not even more.
Thus was born a ritual. In another parallel and similar ritual, we have watermelon for supper nearly every night. My late husband much preferred cantaloupe to watermelon and I had rarely bought them in years. The summer of 2004 after he was gone, I started buying the small “personal” sized ones and would have a slice many days for a mid afternoon snack as a break from whatever project I was involved in. Rico and Sadie would gnaw on a bit of the rind or lick the juice off the plate. Pretty soon I got soft hearted and would give them a bite or two.
Again this evolved down through the progression of canines and the first summer I was in
we often had a bit for supper desert or salad substitute and fed a few bites to
each dog. By the time we moved down to New
Mexico, it had become a custom and we got
disapproving and disappointed looks if none was forthcoming. Now there is a
small watermelon or two in the fridge almost all the time and a bowl of bite
sized chunks sits on the supper table. Many times the humans in the pack do not
eat more than a bite or two if that, but the dogs have to have their watermelon! Luckily it is good for them,
probably more so than the flour and cheese.
Thus it goes: events become a habit, habit becomes a ritual and once that is established, deviate from it at your peril. I expect to have lunch with my friends for a long time yet and if I am the first to leave, I expect Charlie will continue at least part of it. The fur kids will insist. Bless their loyal, loving and habit-forming little souls, they will definitely insist. It’s in their dog-human contract!
Looking at the photos, I realize I have gone from black dogs through a blue-merle with copper points to red dogs! They are all photogenic but then most dogs are!