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Lessons to be Learned from a Cone of Shame

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Well, we are not having a very good time here in doggo land.

Not us! But poor Lorca is now wearing a Cone of Shame. 

In the UK they call it a “Buster Collar,” (I guess because it “busts” them of the habit that got them into the collar in the first place.)

Anyway, the poor pooch spent too much time licking his butt and managed to get an infection, so we had a visit to the vet and he ended up wearing the cone. He’ll be stuck in it for ten days. 

He’s surprisingly good-natured about it though! We were dreading that he might be fighting it, or whining, or frantically trying to rip it off. But no—he is taking it in stride and not letting it stop him from doing his usual doggo business.

I’m guessing there’s a lesson to learn from him, or maybe even a few? Let’s tease some out.

1. The first lesson might be Illegitimi non carborundum. This mock Latin phrase translates to Don’t let the bastards get you down. (Pardon my language, but I’m being faithful to the so-called translation.)

This colorful phrase originated during World War II and has been attributed to British army intelligence from early in the war. It was later appropriated by a US Army general as his war motto, and it was further popularized by 1964 US presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. 

It sounds a bit Harry Potteresque, which befits the term’s status as fake Latin, or “Dog Latin.” 

The last word, carborundum, is a term for an abrasive that’s commonly used for industrial grinding. It is not a Latin word, but it resembles Latin, and can be interpreted as "fit to be ground.” (For this reason, the phrase is sometimes translated as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”)

The first word, Illegitimi, presumably means "unlawful" or "outlaw" in Latin, but is translated as "illegitimate" in the sense of "bastard" (like a bastard child), and used here as a generic insult.

The “non” speaks for itself I daresay.

All of this starts to get far removed from what it has to do with the dog, so let me tie things back together by observing how the dog’s casual attitude toward his cone seems to be one of blithe acceptance, and he is not allowing its presence to ruin his fun in any way. 

THAT is a good lesson to take from how he is responding to the treatment. Would that I dealt with my own problems so jovially!  Illegitimi non carborundum!

2. Another lesson one might take from the dog is that Lorca has become more creative about getting his needs met. He has to maneuver differently in order to sniff another dog’s butt or to persuade other pet owners to pet him (his favorite thing). We have been witnessing interesting creativity around how he is rising to the challenge of getting what he wants in spite of this impediment. 

Therefore, a takeaway seems to be that impediments inspire greater creativity—a useful instruction at any time!

3. A third lesson that’s worth bearing in mind here is that sometimes limitations are good for us.

Obviously Lorca is not cognitively aware of the reasons for his medical treatment, but then again neither are humans a lot of the time. All too often, we don’t know why we’re suffering! The Cone of Shame is preventing Lorca from licking parts that are inflamed, and were he to continue unchecked, the infection might be exacerbated to the point that it could threaten his overall health, if not his life! (We would hate to see that happen to him.) 

This cone may be an annoyance, but perhaps it is on par with how we become stronger by struggling to overcome our limitations. For instance, the Tokyo Olympics are underway right now, and stories are pouring forth about athletes who surmounted tremendous challenges in order to compete in their contest. Without overcoming obstacles, would they be the exemplars they are today?

Okay, so a Cone of Shame is hardly in the same league as rebounding from heart attacks and fleeing terrorism—I realize the scale is dramatically different. But the point is the same: whether large or small, some amount of challenge is good for us, even if it may not feel like it at the time. There is always some limitation we can confront and surmount in order to become better humans.

4. Last on this list is probably more about me than about the dog—and that’s around assuming what others are going through. We make up stories about whether or not others are suffering, and the degree to which they are suffering, when in fact they may not be suffering at all! Or—to the contrary—somebody who looks like they have their act together may actually be a wreck but still manages to look unflustered. (We’ve learned that lesson many times, often when a celebrity breaks down or takes their own life—that’s when we learn the truth about how they are not coping.)

So the lesson I’m aiming at here is that Lorca may not be troubled by the collar at all! Chances are he’s had many collars over the course of his long life (he’s 12), and he’s just learned to take them in stride. He still gets his meals and his cuddles and two walks a day amidst beautiful rural countryside, so maybe he isn’t suffering in the least and I shouldn’t assume that he is.

He still looks sad to me in that collar though. I’m not ready to learn this lesson.

What learning would you add to this list? What wisdom would you take from a dog in a cone?

By the way, those workshops I mentioned last week are still in development, and I hope to announce something about them soon.

Until then, ciao for now! From me and Lorca...


-Dr. Vicky Jo

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