There is a ritual in my home. It is constant as the tides, intricate as the shifting of winds, as majestic and mysterious as Chris Hemsworth’s hair. It is the process of my dog Bear getting on the couch.
It begins with the The Look. Sarah McLachan would weep to see Bear in the throes of cushion depravation. He rests his chin on the sofa and casts the Gaze of Supplication towards me. I respond, “C’mon up, buddy.” He considers, then turns to my husband, seated next to me. Bear’s body language suggests he will need written authorization from all parties currently occupying the couch.
It is important to stop here and note that Bear is – and has always been – allowed on the sofa. At no point in his life has he gotten in trouble for getting onto our furniture. Regardless, he watches my husband anxiously for a sign of acceptance. Once that is attained, he lifts his chin, hesitates, then puts it back down. Thus begins The Encouraging.
The Encouraging starts with one of us slapping the sofa cushion and saying, “Up!” Bear is unconvinced. We tuck our feet, move cushions, and clear off any item that Bear may see as obstructing his way up. His eyes accuse our callous indifference to his plight. He remains on the floor. Then comes the freestyle phase. We pat the cushion while chanting “BEAR BEAR BEAR BEAR” in unison, mixing in an occasional “Up!” and slap to Bear’s rump. The key here is enthusiasm. When perfectly executed, the chanting and pounding of cushions steadily increases in volume and tempo until at the crescendo Bear’s ears prick forward, he sweeps his tail in the Wag of Acceptance, and leaps up to his rightful place.
However, Bear also enjoys a variation of our ritual called the False Start. When The Encouraging has reached fever pitch and the sofa is quaking from the fury of our blows, his ears prick forward. He shifts his weight forward. His muscles tense. And he walks off, sits down and scratches his ear. This constitutes a reset, and the ritual begins anew.
With or without the variation, it all ends with Bear sprawled across the couch, taking up more space than me and my husband combined, cheeks puffing and making little puppy woofs while he dreams of apprehending squirrels.
Routines and rituals fill our lives. Some are mindless. Some are harmful. Some are holy. Some are necessary structure, like brushing your teeth. And some are just there to make you smile every day. It’s helpful to occasionally think about our patterns, so we can strengthen the good, change the bad, and appreciate the absurdities that bring us joy.