Embarrassing stories from our mascot’s past.
Poor Rupert. I guess having embarrassing stories told about your “childhood” is one of the hazards of being raised by a journalist. Believe it or not, I try not to talk about my poor dog in every issue. But Pat Miller’s article about dealing with submissive urination totally brought me back to my first, very challenging year with Rupie – who used to leak like a sieve if you gave him so much as a hard look.
Rupert piddled when we called him, dribbled when we walked in the door, and peed on every friend I used to have! And despite the theories forwarded by everyone I knew, he had never been beaten or abused; he was just a super-sensitive little guy. Voices could make him pee his pants – loud, high, deep, excited, or disappointed voices. Gestures such as waving or pointing could cause him to spring a leak, even if they weren’t directed toward him.
In fact, we had to take Rupe’s sensitivity into account whenever he was within earshot. Once, when my boyfriend and I were arguing about something – not loudly, but with some tension – Rupert went missing. I found him an hour later hiding silently in the bathtub. I might never have found him if hadn’t noticed the shower curtain trembling as I used the toilet.
After reading Miller’s article for this issue, I now realize that my boyfriend and I probably initially triggered Rupert’s inborn submissive urination – by letting out a shout when he did something wrong in the house – and before long, it was as classically conditioned as Pavlov’s dogs. (Miller explains how this happens quite thoroughly.) But as it turns out, we did end up solving the problem in a manner that is not philosophically unlike Pat’s. By the time he was a year old, his leaks were mostly sealed.
First, we never corrected him with our voices or anything else when he did something wrong, we just ignored it. We let him outside to pee before we would even look at him. And I told friends to ignore him in the house, and to hunker down and look the other way, petting him in an absentminded way if he greeted them outside.
This was not the advice of a trainer, but the suggestions of a famed animal communicator, Penelope Smith. When Rupert was about six months old, I consulted with Smith and asked her to ask Rupert what about his piddling. She responded that Rupert was just as upset about all the peeing incidents as we were, and that what was most upsetting for him was that he knew he was letting us down, but he couldn’t help it.
When asked what we should do to help him get control of himself, Smith quoted Rupert as saying, “He said to ask everyone to leave him alone; he says it doesn’t happen when he’s by himself!”
-by Nancy Kerns