If you want an example of self-defeating behavior, you need look no farther than our dog, Tosca.

Anyone walking by our house in Barnstable Village will probably see her slumped on the driveway. She’s waiting, hoping against hope that someone will come along and throw her a stick. Tosca lives to chase sticks the way Ted Williams lived to hit.

Every once in a while, we take pity on her and find a stick to throw. Tosca’s ecstatic. She quivers like an arrow, poised for release.  There’s the toss! She’s after it like a streak! She brings it back and stands before us, alight with excitement. And then…the game stops. Because Tosca WILL   NOT   GIVE   UP   THE   STICK.

In our mind, we’re still playing fetch, but in her mind, the game has changed to keep-away. She’d love nothing better than for us to chase her all over the yard, lunging for the stick while she friskily evades us. It’s a game she excels at, and we don’t have a chance. We’re not going there.

After a few moments spent trying to get her to drop the stick, we usually turn in disgust and go back in the house. She’s eleven years old. She must know by now how the scene is going to end.

If you’re a dog-training kind of person, you’re probably tsk tsking now about our failure in this situation. Clearly we haven’t established the kind of authority that would enable us to have a satisfying play-relationship with our dog. I plead guilty. It’s frustrating for all parties, and as dog-owners we’re to blame.

But still, you’d think an intelligent creature like Tosca would learn that her habitual response thwarts her getting her heart’s desire, time after time.  And that all she needs for the fun and games to continue is to let go of the stick.

I guess we’re all like that sometimes.