When my younger son was a toddler, his idea of nirvana was to camp out at a construction site. To make the time rewarding for me, I studied the workers, making guesses about who was in charge, who was a skilled member of the team, and who was a day laborer, hired to supplement the force on a one-off basis. Since we returned to the same site several times, I had ample time to test my theories.
In our home, I suspect, Pettigrew has similarly observed and assessed us, deciding which member of the family is most likely to meet his different wants and desires.
My husband: If Pettigrew believes we are dawdling over dinner, the conversation going on a bit too long, he silently signals my husband. It may seem that, like a maître d’ at a fine restaurant, he merely wants to keep the flow moving, but I know that Pettigrew has become impatient for the food scraps my husband will share with him once the plates make it into the kitchen.
My younger son: Although clearly able to sit and wait patiently for meals and treats, Pettigrew only demonstrates this level of self-control for our younger son. With the rest of us, Pettigrew knows more often than not, we will fail to enforce the rules. However, Pettigrew draws the line at obeying our son when he wants to claim some of the prime sofa real estate. Through strategic stretching of his tail Pettigrew, a medium-sized dog, manages to claim the entire space and will not budge for anyone but me.
My older son: When he sits down at the piano, Pettigrew perks up. Ready to lend his voice in song if my son plays jazz or blues. Other genres are, apparently, outside of Pettigrew’s repertoire. I love these companionable duets. In the video clip, below, Pettigrew joins the song at 1 minute and 5 seconds. You can skip to the duet or listen to the whole clip of my son jamming an improv blues tune.
Me: Pettigrew counts on me to decipher what’s wrong. When he stands, body tense, in a kitchen full of family, he knows that I will notice his failure to relax and will run through the Pettigrew Hierarchy of Needs: food, water, walk, petting. And, if petting is the missing element, he will lure me out of my chair and on to the floor so that he can receive a full-body rubdown.
Our next door neighbors: They will meet Pettigrew at the fence whenever they are out in the back yard to share some much appreciated pats.
Grandmom: She is, unbeknownst to the rest of us, in possession of a pair of tasty hands. Pettigrew is sure to lick them thoroughly whenever she visits.
Pop Pop: Always brings a treat, but Pettigrew knows by now never to lick his hands.
Having lined up the right people to fulfill his wants, Pettigrew has crafted an enjoyable life. And what does he give us in return? His eager thanks, and, of course, his love.
2 thoughts on “He’s Got Your Number…Mine Too”
I love the Pettigrew Hierarchy of Needs. And I love the contrast in Mom and Dad’s responses to having their hands licked. I remember a grad school professor telling us that kids know their parents far better than parents know their kids, because it is in the kid’s interest to be able to read the parent and the parent doesn’t change over time, whereas the kid is changing all the time. It must be the same with dogs, too.
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So interesting about what your grad school professor shared! Although, I do like to think that I continue to change and evolve, at least somewhat, but certainly not with the speed kids do. I came up with the list of needs, but, giving credit where credit is due, Shmuel suggested calling it the Hierarchy of Needs. It’s your background in psych that’s talking with that one!