Regulars readers know: We’re poised on the brink of a new frontier. Bugs is stepping out. He’s the modern-day male equivalent of Alice. He’s through the looking glass. He’s headed out into OutTV. Living the dream.
But first he must pass a tough fear-aversion, virtual-reality exposure therapy regimen. Teresa of Tellington and I are introducing him, by degrees, into situations that ask him to learn to moderate his intense-fear pattern response. This includes gradual but increasingly mounting exposure to highly suggestive sound- and scent-triggers like – well, like anything, really, that may be encountered Out There and not In Here.
Bugs is confronting his fear.
That’s the tone that seems to fit Mr. The Bugs. You know Mr. The Bugs. The one that’s 400 pounds of fury.
It does seem appropriate, however, to add that I, too, must learn – well, I’m trying to learn, anyway – to tolerate my own confusion, frustration, and impatience in the face of, shall we say, a lack of clarity about what’s going on.
Two mornings ago I was on the phone when Bugs started bouncing off the chandeliers, even more than usual.
A Late Triassic Humvee was parked outside.
A regular prehistoric, yet fully baked, reptilian example of the Great Outdoors.
Over the past couple of days, I’d been introducing Bugs to the harness and leash very very very slowly, like putting it on and taking it off, in the house only, leaving it on for five minutes, inducing him to move forward with treats, all like that. But at Mr. Turtle’s appearance, Bugs was in such a frenzy, I thought, well OK fella, let’s have at it. I slapped him into the harness and carried him out the door. (After making sure Mr. Turtle was safely out of range.)
That went OK, surprisingly enough. Bugs was fairly amazed – round-eyed, rapid breath- and heart-rate – but he was still reasonably soft. So I put him down, he salamander’d around a little, and we had an inexpressibly proud moment as he scootched over to feel the real ground under his belly, for the first time in almost two years.
When we got back into the house, I expected him to turn into a cat-puddle and we could get some rest around here. He did, eventually –
Mr. Bugs studies the Bankruptcy Exemptions Manual.
– but first we had to run through all his usual routines. Massacre the feather wand, chase-and-hide, ear-scritching, treats treats treats. It seemed to me like he was saying, “Oh yes. Now I remember who I am. That other wide-eyed guy? Not me! I am The Bugs!”
So yesterday Teresa came over and we upped the ante.
Here is what I had hoped would happen.
Here’s another fun moment.
Mr. Bugs samples the salad greens.
Not all, however, was comme il faut. Mr. Bugs attempts the Crocodile Death-Roll.
But pretty soon Bugs began to get his feet under him.
“This may not be so bad after all.”
Pretty soon, though, Bugs was getting a little friskier than I felt quite comfortable with.
Pretty soon Bugs approached The Jungle To The East.
The Jungle To The East is where The Bolt-Hole is to be found. You remember the Bolt-Hole.
The Bolt-Hole is where Bugs took refuge that one time, when it took Teresa and me four hours to get him out of there.
So here is where we went, then, like immediately. Back Inside.
Back to where Bugs and Bean can recover. Regroup. Lay in more supplies. Accept some appearances on the talk-show circuit. Drum up some more funding. And get ready to undertake – The Next Expedition.