Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ben's guide to getting what you want

As a self-respecting Golden Retriever, Ben has his priorities straight. What do you need to be happy in life? Food. It's just that simple. That and yes, some affection but since he has so much of that, he tends to focus the vast majority of his efforts on achieving his primary goal. Through the years, he has honed his technique down to a fine science, one that is applicable to many of life's obstacles.


How on Earth can you expect to get what you want if you don't even know where the object of your intentions is? In this case, that would be me, the person who will eventually feed him his dinner at 6pm or so. Just to be on the safe side, from 4pm on, Ben doesn't let me out of his sight. Although his first line of fire is under my desk, he is ready to travel a yard or two if I happen to change rooms.

Like any seriously minded creature, Ben knows the importance of being prepared. Bring friends if need be, get comfy because this step may take several hours. If at all possible, casually keep in physical contact with your subject, it can't hurt.


As Step One becomes more and more tiresome to your subject, she may get annoyed with you. This doesn't serve your purpose, so immediately switch into a "Who Me? I don't know what you are talking about" type of stance to throw her off the trail. If she persists, hold your breath and stare off into the distance as if you were a statue. Perhaps she will forget you are there and no longer be annoyed.


As the last tactic is very difficult to pull off and should only be attempted by a seasoned professional, there is always the easier choice of unnerving your opponent. Make yourself scarce and after an appropriate pause, as subtly as possible, stare at said subject with one eye peeking out from behind a safe zone. Use your Jedi mind training to focus all of your energy like a laser beam. 

Use whatever materials are at hand. Don't worry she really won't see you, only feel the strength of your will. Warning: if not executed correctly, this step may backfire, leaving your object in a fit of the giggles.


Once you have successfully persuaded the object of the importance of your wishes, move to Step Four. Again, it is important to position yourself in the immediate proximity and do whatever it takes to give your saddest, most pitiful look. Yes, like those clowns in the paintings that are on black velvet. Practice this look in a mirror when you are alone. The idea is to evoke utter pity, one for a beast that has not eaten since morning and might fade away if not immediately attended to. This might just be your step to victory.


If amazingly, you are dealing with someone who has a heart of stone, then it is perfectly acceptable to fight fire with fire. Get mad! Bark if you need to! The slitty eyed "I curse you" glance can be especially effective.


Desperate times call for desperate measures. At this point, you have no other choice. Force the object of your intentions to deal with you. Feel free to plop down by her chair with your back towards her so that you are sitting on her feet. She is trapped and must do your bidding. Either that or, if you are up to it, try a multi-combo move incorporating Step Four by placing your head on her lap and blaze her with the Velvet Painting Eyes. This will work nine times out of ten.


If by some horrible tragedy, none of the previous steps have worked, well then, it is time to pull out all of the stops. This takes reflection and planning. What is the exact expression that will cause her to crack on this precise day? Will the "Slow tail wag in addition to the goofy grin" work? Not always. This is a freestyle, creative move but once you have mastered it and the rest of the steps, then the world is yours! 

Ben and I hope that you have learned from his vast experience. For readers in Provence, he is available as a life coach for a nominal fee.


  1. Ahhh Heather this post is lovely! 'Velvet painting eyes'.
    Ben and Crusoe have a lot in common, its just part of a dogs DNA that they have the power to manipulate us!

  2. Those Goldens have the "sad look" down to a science, don't they? And I thought this was a Lab trademark move ;-) A wonderful post all dog lovers will enjoy reading. On my way back from Portland OR where I spent the weekend solo. Dogs will be prominently featured in Monday's post, bien sûr. ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. I recognise all of these tactics except the one about unnerving the opponent - excellent move - but that must be because Gibson is too young and inexperienced!
    great post Heather

  4. Hello Heather:
    If Ben should ever be in need of a little holiday, then we should love him to come and stay. If he needs any persuading, just inform him that we should have melted at stage one and he would be completely mastering us in no time at all. We recognise that we are weak. We should fall for all of this!!

    This is such a wonderful post. Ben is a star.

  5. A blond with puppy eyes - he had me at first eyelash bat.

  6. Dear Ben,
    As I am only 15 months old, I can see I have a lot to learn from a master like you! I definitely have the utter cuteness and nudging down, but will have to work on the anger and unnerving technique.

    Yours in awe,

  7. Very, very manipulative and sneaky, that Ben! Lucy has her techniques, but they are not as varied as Ben's - Lucy may want a consultation. Thanks for reminding me that his baby seal look ("utter cuteness") is my favorite pic of all time and I must make it my iphone screen saver! A wonderful post, Sister!

  8. Also, there's always Sweetie's approach: Hungry? Hop up on the counter and eat whatever you can get your paws on!

  9. Utterly charming, and reminds me so strongly of a dear friend I am already hunting for the left-over chicken.

  10. Ooohhhh love this post!!! Ben is amazing!!And so cute!! Good story my friend!!
    PS I was back riding on Mango the passed week! A little afraid of course but it was ok!! I keep you updated in the next weeks! And thank you for asking Heather!!

  11. This is so funny. And I definitely giggled right around the time you talked about giggling. You must have had so much fun doing this one!

  12. You mean he has to go through this performance on a daily basis? You must have passed on your old acting skills to him, methinks. He is a star artist. How can one dog have do many expressions in those same adorable eyes? (And I think I have it tough. I just have to deal with a neurotic lorrikeet who will screech if he doesn't get icecream, a crazy cat who will steal asparagus if it isn't offered fast enough and a couple of tame magpies who tap on the kitchen window when they fancy a slice of finest cheddar.)

    Gorgeous post Heather! Hugs to the star! Virginia x

  13. Thanks everyone for your fun responses. I loved putting this post together--although it took a long time to get all of the photos! :) And yes, Ben does go through this all every single day, unless I surprise him by feeding him early when he looks, frankly, relieved. :)

    Have a great Monday!

  14. I had a giant smile on my face whilst reading this. Thank you. Ben is a character and a bit of a charmer too!
    My girlfriend Ange (French) has M. Louis, a spanadore with an identity crisis - he thinks that he is human and insists on sleeping with her. For Ange, M. Louis is her "bebe". Like Ben, M. Louis loves his stuffed toys and regularly lines them up at Ange's feet when he wants something, which is usually food too!
    Bonne semaine

    P.S. You ware a wonderful writer.

  15. I am so I get it! I didn't understand all the moves Dylan dog was showing me I thought he was simply being a whackadoodle. Ben is such a cutie and what a good sport for showing us his techniques. I love this post!

    XX to all of you!

  16. BEN THE DIVINE!Gorgeous bit of information you have shared with us dog owners...........I see he has a collection of stuffed babies too!Good to know he knows how to work you!!They give us such joy these four legged animals.Give him a special treat for modeling in this post!

  17. Oh Ben, you are too much! You should meet Lila, the wire hair fox terrier who belongs from my parents, and who has trained them unbelievably well. You could share a few tricks, because obviously you are masters of technique!
    Heather, this post had me giggling. So funny, and I have to say that tricky Ben is adorable. I'd give in, too!

  18. Elizabeth, yes, I do understand M. Louis' belief that he is human, often I wonder if Ben feels the same especially as he spends more time with us than other dogs. I do firmly draw the line at "bebé" though he is most certainly a cherished member of the family!

    Debra, you made me laugh! Yes, our Goldens have a language, a way of being all of their own, don't they?

    Chere Contessa, yes of course Ben has his woobies. He carries them around wherever he goes, they are his buddies. :)

    Jeanne, isn't Uggie also a wire hair fox terrier? Or am I confusing him with Asta of the Thin Man fame?

  19. I truly recognize Ben's moves because Bella uses all of them and one more I noticed Ben does not...if all else fails, she whimpers. Maybe boys cannot get away with that one. Still Ben is adorable and I also would have to give in to his velvet-painting eyes.
    All the best...Victoria

  20. I am just smiling ear to ear, Heather - we have a Golden Retriever Grand dog who comes for sleepovers who works us over like this for his morning Treat...somehow more critical than his big dinner! I will show him this post so that he will know we are on to him, but love him all the same. And yes, HIS velvet-painting eyes slay me every time!!

    Love, love this post!

  21. Ah yes, it would seem that Ben is not alone! These dogs must Twitter or something... :) And no Victoria, Ben is way to much of a guy to WHIMPER for goodness sake! And Linda? Words obviously out that at your house all is permitted for the "grands"!

  22. Hahaha! Oh I know these tactics all too well. Except I have a kitty instead. She has a severe case of "cupboard love" & will physically rub against the cupboard where her food is kept. She tries so many ridiculous tactics with me. I have to laugh.

    ~ Clare x

  23. You've nailed it down - what a brilliant and beautifully illustrated post. I smiled all along. Thanks!

  24. OK Clare, that is too funny and would make me give in too!

    Merci Nathalie, making someone smile is a great feeling. :)

  25. Superb, Heather. I'm in love with Ben.

    My girls have no subtle moves in their repertoire. They do keep an eye on me at all times which often requires moving from room to room. When their internal clock tells them meal time is approaching they walk over and either stand in front of me or sit in front of me and give me "the look" -- eyes in the eyes. It can be unnerving, but most effective.


  26. So good to hear from you Tish. Be grateful that your girls aren't the hefty manipulators that Ben is! Or perhaps it is just a guy thing. Hmm...

  27. Sounds so familiar. We have three dogs. They seem to plot together to express the urgency of he dinner hour. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the description.

    1. Oh my THREE dogs? I can only imagine the scheming that goes on!! Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your blog!

  28. SETTING: a little east of rainy seattle, friday night yoga teacher party. chocolate wine was served. I'm taking my new hearing aids out for a spin ... parties have been wretched all these years, faking it. I fiddle with my remote control, hmm, background noise down, voices up, check check.

    MARY: Lost in Arles ... do you know her personally?
    TLC: Do I ever. Way back when, the 1980s, big hair, brunches on Sunday. How do you know Lost in Arles?
    MARY: Well, I went to read your blog and found her blog and now I'm hooked.
    TLC: On my blog?

    MARY: On the Lost in Arles blog, it is my bright little spot. And Ben! who doesn't love Ben?
    LISA: Who is Ben?
    MARY: This dog, oh, he looks around the corner. It's the great blog I found, Lost in Arles.
    (someother person): Oh, I've heard about that. Is that the one with the photographers and the dog?
    MARY: Yes! And then her boyfriend just got published in National Geographic ...


    So it is true, you are all now internationall renowned!

    1. Trace, you and I were so close that my Mom wondered if we were a couple! But big hair...I don't think so! Unless you count the Flock of Seagulls swoop over my eye. Although our hair has changed your generosity of spirit and this is the proof of it. You knew how thrilled I would be to read this and I am!! Bisous, friend. Merci.

  29. This is a most familiar experience. Love this post so much I just emailed it to my husband, who will also love it, as our Skye (bull terrier) has many of these moves and a couple of others, as well (like wedging her body between the cook and the counter - attempts at chopping are challenging, to say the least.) He's beautiful, your Ben. What would we do without them?

    1. Look at that face! I wouldn't be able to resist anything at all!! And I would be lost without Ben. I know that I won't have him forever and so appreciate him to the utmost every day!

  30. Adorable Ben pictures. I notice he has toys nearby. My Goldens won't play with toys, only with each other. Don't know why they aren't interested in toys; they do love their rawhide bones, however. My Kris (male) is a bit overweight because he loves food so much. Valerie (female) is not so greedy, and she's very polite and neat with her eating. Not so Kris; he's a quite messy eater. What would we do without our sweet, sweet animals to entertain us?

  31. #weadoreBen

    just saying.....

    velvet painting eyes and all.


    _tg xx

  32. Ah he would win you over hook line and sinker in person tg! He is a charmer!

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