Jeeping: Learned Behavior or Innate Instinct?

I recall the first time I took my mother for a ride in my lifted Jeep. This classy young lady is perfectly-aged and has seen an awful lot in her multitude of 80-some-odd years; not only giving birth to five children but sticking around to raise each and every one them too. She’s seen and experienced so much, so hopping into a Jeep for a sunset ride sounded like a perfect notion, even at her age. Nonetheless, it would appear to any onlookers that the task of climbing in or out of my precious Wrangler was far from a natural process, at least for her. In fact, I think she made her dismount from the passenger seat much like you would a bareback horse. You sling both legs over the side, aim your feet towards the earth, pucker slightly and begin a sliding sort of descent to ground. If all goes well, you land on firm terrain or, in this case, your son catches you clumsily, hence breaking your fall.


Come to think of it, the art of climbing up into my Jeep is not the most natural of motions either. I can count on at least two hands the times I have either ripped the seat of my pants, banged my knee cap on the dash panel or temporarily lost my sense of balance while scaling the massive metal structure, scrambling to grasp at the steering wheel as the only hope of taking a tumble. Not to mention the number of times I have snagged a belt loop on the door latch plate on the way back out- every pair of jeans I own bares the mark in one place or the other.

So if Jeeping is not a completely natural way of life for humans, it must be somewhat a learned behavior. Or at the very least, one that takes a considerable amount of time to grow accustomed to.

When it comes to dogs, I really have to wonder if the opposite might be true. We have had the same family dog for the better part of ten years. She is a wonderful mix of several breeds, short and close to the ground (she takes after her grandma). She is openly and utterly incapable of climbing into the Jeep under her own power. Someone would have to not only pick her up to place her in the vehicle, but likely have to administer a sedative to keep her from coming completely unhinged and flinging herself to an untimely death over the nearest door ledge in a frantic attempt to get back out. She literally wants no part of going for a ride in the Jeep. For the record, the Jeep has never been used for trips to the vet for shots or gender reassignment surgery.  She rather dislikes it on a cellular level, despite only having had positive Jeep experiences.


So, after much deliberation, we recently decided to increase the size of our family by one. We located a 5-year old Walker Coon Hound in a local rescue that seemed like the perfect fit. It was only after we had signed all the papers and posed for all the pictures that I was struck by a shocking display of familiarity by our newest adopted child. Our new girl “Rosie” ran around to the back of the Jeep and leaped through the barely- open tailgate. She didn’t even wait for me to lift the rear window! It was though she had ridden in a Jeep before. Our decision to adopt this hound was now firmly founded in my heart and set in concrete that this newfound stepchild was meant to be.


So maybe Rosie had a prior owner that drove a Jeep which makes her familiar with her recommended means of entry. I can buy that. She is by birth a hunter, and a human hunter would likely drive a Jeep or some other four-wheel drive conveyance to get in and back out of the woods. But there is so much more to being a Jeeper than getting in and out physically. In the two weeks we have owned her, I have found that any physical motion that I engage in that evenly vaguely suggests that I am going to the garage, Rosie thinks it’s time for a Jeep ride. When I take her for a walk, she stops by and places her front legs on the Jeeps lofty rear bumper. She paces in circles by the passenger side door in hopes of gaining a coveted front seat position, despite usually being reserved for humans. She even whimpers a bit when I pull her past its perimeter. Kinda like the noise I make when I leave the Jeep behind in the garage at night.


So if riding in a vehicle has become enjoyable to Rosie based on her past experiences, it would stand to reason that she would show similar excitement around our other cars. To the contrary, she seems to hold total disregard for more luxurious modes of transport; ones adorned with leather seats, snazzy NAV systems, and air conditioning. It’s only the Jeep that holds her interest. Maybe it’s the attraction of an interior she knows I can hose out if things go badly. Certainly the wind blowing herr floppy ears and across the nose is a favorite too, but I can’t help but think that maybe her love for Jeeps is more than that. Maybe it’s something she was born with? I guess she takes after her Dad. OlllllllO



Photo Credit: Evan Coolidge







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