For awhile now my teenage daughter has been dating this very nice boy, who adores her and vice versa. But she complained that they were always arguing, in fact they broke up 10 times in 9 months – always for the same reason. Each time he promised to argue less and each time she took him back with new hopeful expectations. And each time the arguing crept back in until my daughter just finally said ENOUGH! (it was rather loudly proclaimed after this last round). I know that girl well enough that when she says she’s done, you better believe it and you would be wise to back away and drop the subject. After 10 months, her boyfriend hadn’t seemed to learn anything about her as he just assumed they were getting back together and that she wasn’t really that upset. She asked me what it was with guys – when would he learn? Why did he keep pushing? Why wouldn’t he just do what he said he would? Why did he….why would he….why couldn’t he….?

I seem to ask these same questions of my corgi, Biskit. He’s not quite two yet – sweet, companionable, protective. He went through the puppy-teething stage but seems to cling to the idea that shoes left on the floor are fair game. He also has a pervish fascination with stealing panties out of the laundry but at least he doesn’t eat those. Shoes however, are apparently his comfort food – new ones, old ones, heels, sandals, tennies – he doesn’t discriminate – he loves them all. When I discover victimized footwear all I have to do is look at the dog and he knows he’s in trouble, running to hide in his kennel. Spanking him results in howls and squeals the likes of which would make you think he’s being attacked by his wolfish cousins. Trainers will tell you corgies do not like pain and will avoid it at all costs – apparently my pup missed that genetic memo.  He may be dying in that moment but we keep repeating the cycle, so I find myself asking… when will he learn? Why does he keep doing this? Why can’t he just chew his toys and not my shoes? Why did he….why would he….why couldn’t he….?

It would be easy to answer all of this by saying ‘well they’re guys and that’s just how they are’. But underneath all this angst is also the recurring theme that she and I are somehow perpetuating the cycle. Are either of them doing any of this to purposely frustrate us? The boyfriend maybe, but not the dog. While the boy did some of that stuff just to get a rise out of my daughter, he has ultimately seen that when pushed too far, the girl takes a very long time to forgive. Me on the other hand, I have to forgive the dog, even when I know it will happen again.  Those big brown eyes and that cuddler attitude – oh yeah, he’s a momma’s boy. I like to think he’s learning, albeit SLOWLY – he’ll go for weeks and never even sniff at a shoe. I also have to remember that leaving temptations out for him may result in another funeral for a favored pair of pumps. If the kids can’t pick up their shoes, I can’t punish the dog for being, well…a dog.  I also tell my daughter she can’t blame the boy for being, well… a teenage guy. He’s young and she isn’t exactly the most patient girl in the world.

So, do any of us ever learn? Some lessons are picked up faster than others, but ultimately I think once you push through the disappointment, repetition, time-outs, and lots of cuddling to say “I’m sorry”,  the answer is yes.