My family and friends know that I have a great fondness for kids, dogs, and other unruly beings. I believe that the connection stems from a shared perspective — a tendency to be aware of things that the “grown-ups” around us don’t always see. Plus, I’m a goofball.

But I also am a badge-wearing member of the Manners Police. Which means, if you’re my nine year-old nephew, that I expect you to eat your broccoli with a fork, not your fingers. And if you’re a dog I’m walking, I expect you to heel. (Though I’ll carry a bag of cheese bits in my pocket to help you see it my way.)

I’ve been walking a 65-pound puppy for the last week. And today we had a meeting of the minds — I only lost his attention once, when some little kids went by on bikes. This perhaps makes me happier than it should, but there you have it. Patience, consistency, and chunks of Cracker Barrel do pay off!

(*I was once told, by a person who was seven at the time and cross with me because I had told her we had to leave the beach, that the reason I was still single in my 30s that I was “too mean to marry.” I think it would make a nice bumper sticker, don’t you?)