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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Teacher's Pet

Last night was Ellie's first night at Puppy Kindergarten. No, I'm not smoking the pakalolo. Yes, you read that correctly. I've enrolled Ellie in Puppy Kindergarten. It's an obedience course for puppies sponsored by our city parks and recreation department. I just wanted to do things differently this time. I figured I'd SQUEEEEEZE it in between every other little micro-managed thing in my life. Yeah, I'm an idiot. Or at the very least; a glutton for punishment.

We were pretty lazy with Shanny. She was just around for us to love and for her to love us. For all her sweet traits, she unfortunately had her faults. She'd bark incessantly when the doorbell rang (I still miss that bark), she jumped up on company, and sometimes, she'd be temperamental and nip at people. The last part was a source of concern and often caused us to have to put her in a back bedroom when we'd have certain guests. On top of all of this, for some reason, no matter how hard he tried to win her over, she really disliked Averie's boyfriend. The guy works at a butcher shop for pity's sake. You would think she'd worship him, but no.

To our regret, we did her a great disservice because we did not socialize her very well. We just loved her and thought that's all that was necessary. Granted, when she came into our world, the kids were 9, 11, and 13 and THEY took every second of attention I could give. Therefore, I just didn't think about training a dog other than keeping it from peeing all over my house. That accomplished, all that was left was to love. And love we did.

I vowed this time around that I would do this "right". Whatever "right" may be. Like an expectant parent, I have read every puppy book I could get my hands on, I have watched videos, I have tried really hard to be consistant and diligent. Truthfully, it hasn't been much different than raising kids; lots of love and positive affirmation, consistency, and follow-through. Besides, when all the whining and begging was going on while trying to convince Charlie how much we needed a new dog, I might have mentioned that I promised to be responsible for training. Me and my mouth. So, last night, Ellie and I were off to school.

We were told in our registration forms what equipment would be needed; a training collar, a 6' leash, and some patience. Oh, and the puppy's shot records. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but shot records mean those papers that say what shots your dog has received. NOT, I repeat NOT their AKC Pedigree papers. I was in for a bit of a shock to find that I was the only one who presented shot records ONLY. After all, that's all I had. Ellie was not only the youngest puppy there at 12 weeks, she was also the only mutt. I was suddenly starting to feel a little out of place. Ellie of course, could care less. She had all the same stuff they had; a nose to sniff other butts, a butt to be sniffed by other noses. She didn't seem to feel out of sorts in any way. This was obviously my problem.

I shifted from foot to foot, answering questions like, "Ohhhhh, a chow puppy! She IS full Chow isn't she? Where did you buy her?" and "Does she take after the bitch or the sire?" and "Was she very expensive?" and "Do you plan to breed her?" Imagine the surprise on their faces when I told them that she's not pedigree, has no papers, we rescued her from the shelter, and we think she looks just like her Chow mom, but dad was just a traveling salesman that we have no clue about. For all we know, this sweet little fluffy thing could turn into a rather large pony-sized creature that will eat us out of house and home. Just a little mutt that we don't want jumping on company, nipping at Averie's boyfriend, and barking incessantly at the doorbell. And it would be a nice bonus if she knew how to sit and stay on command and could walk on a leash without tripping me and giving the neighbors a good laugh.

Class begins and I promise you that I'm not exaggerating when I say that Ellie is absolutely the smartest puppy in class. She caught on to the sit/stay within the first 15 minutes and actually watched intently as all of her other classmates jumped and bounced and sniffed and were very much puppies. I laughed to myself as I saw one owner after another trying, without much success, to get their baby Miniature Schnauzers, Australian Shepherd, Teacup Chihuahuas, Beagles, Alaskan Malamutes, and King Charles Spaniels to simply calm down and stay. It was all quite fascinating. One very well-put-together Newport Beach lady even had one of those little treat pouches like the dog show people use and tried to bribe her Shepherd pup to obey. It only served to have him figure out quickly that she had food with her and he wouldn't stop jumping on her. Finally exasperated, she took the pouch off and threw it in her car. That was probably my favorite moment of the evening because she'd been bragging earlier about how her dog comes from "champion lineage". Uh, lady, a puppy's a puppy's a puppy. You got food, that's all they're gonna think about.

Every 15 minutes, the instructor would say "Everyone in the middle for a Puppy Party!!" and everyone would bring their puppies into the center of a circle to let them socialize. Ellie would stand there and patiently let herself be sniffed and nudged and at one point, she simply found it all so boring and silly that she lay down and took a nap. Every once in awhile, she'd look up at me as if to say; "Are we done here? Cuz I'd really like to go home. I have bones to chew." With that, the instructor dismissed the class, giving us "homework" to prepare for next week.

I picked Ellie up and as we started to walk away, the instructor came over, patted Ellie on the head and said..."Now THERE'S a smart pup! What a good girl!" I beamed. Of course. I was dreading this class, but now that Ellie's shown me it's gonna be a dogwalk (forgive me) for us, well, these next few weeks just might be a whole lot of fun.


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