The Story of Jake, Blaze & the Mailman
Recently I met my friend, Jake, at the park. He had told me on the phone that he’d adopted a dog from the shelter some months ago, and now Blaze was lying quietly at his feet.
“He isn’t much to look at. I guess you could call him scraggy.” Jake said. “And, as you can see, he isn’t very big. He’s even smaller looking because of those scrawny hind quarters. But Blaze is a very loyal dog” he said.
“His looks don’t bother me,” Jake said, “ but I was upset, at first, with the way he was behaving and behaving only toward one person in particular; the mailman. He didn’t bother anyone else, only the mailman”.
Jake then went on to tell me how every time the postman would show up Blaze would get deeply agitated and start barking. It got to the point where Jake would have to put on Blaze’s collar and leash and take him to the bedroom.
“It must have been something that happened when the dog was young before I got him from the shelter,” Jake reasoned.
“Maybe he was mistreated like being kicked by a postman earlier in his life. I knew I had to do something about the problem because things were getting bad.”
“Then I had an idea.”
Jake then went on to tell how he corrected the problem.
Jake Fixes Things
“Blaze was a sucker for Tootsie Rolls, whenever he got one, it put him in dog heaven. So I told the postman that I would put a bunch of Blaze’s favorite candy in the mail box and when he delivered the mail all he had to do was to take one piece, unwrap it, open the door and throw it into the house.”
Jake continued. “It didn’t take Blaze long to stop barking and he even started to anticipate when the mail was to be delivered and would go and sit by the door. He’s even eating the Tootsie Roll out of the mailman’s hand.”
“But it all didn’t go smoothly.” Jake said.
“Blaze once nipped the mailman on his right index finger. But even the mailman thought that was mistake ‘cause the mailman told me that Blaze was going more for the Tootsie Roll than for his knuckle.”
“They get along much better now and the mailman gives him a sweet only every now and then. Sure Blaze barks once in a while when the postman comes, but his heart really isn’t in it.” He said.
“It seems he now barks out of habit or out of respect for what he used to do.”
Why It Worked
The story of Jake, Blaze and the Mailman points to some often misunderstood ways to solve personal, emotional and behavioral problems which confront us daily. Jake did three things and did them well.
He first looked beyond the individuals involved namely Blaze and the mailman for solutions to the problem.
He focused on the relationship between the two as a major source of the problem.
Then he corrected that relationship by making it pleasant so both could enjoy it.
Often when attempting to solve a problem, correcting the cause of that problem is more difficult than meets the eye. That which may have caused the problem is no longer present so the cause cannot be addressed. If indeed Blaze was kicked by the mailman when Blaze was younger, that individual mailman is no longer involved in the problem but another one is and he isn’t kicking Blaze, so correcting the original kicking of Blaze can’t be solved. Solving such a problem requires a shift in focus.
Instead of just looking to the individuals and their traits, one must look beyond to the relationship in which the individuals are interacting. Jake did just that. He reasoned that the problem existed within the current relationship between the mailman and Blaze. Jake reasoned that Blaze saw no reason for having a relationship with the mailman because for some unknown reason Blaze saw the encounter as unpleasant so, he did what he could do to drive the mailman away
Jake corrected the relationship positively: He “tootsie rolled” it, as he would say. He made the relationship a more gratifying one. Blaze now saw the mailman as someone who brought him pleasure. The mailman saw his encounters with Blaze as less terrorizing and, therefore, less punishing.
Often, if you first deal directly with the affected relationship and correct it, the individuals in the relationship will also be changed. So, it is the relationship that needs to be addressed and corrected.
Relationships are so important in our daily lives that they will be the major focus of future articles on this website. In these articles I will explore each of the types of relationships and their unique contributions to personal, emotional and behavioral problems and their solutions.
Thanks for reading.
©2023. Dr. Thomas A. Houle. All rights reserved.