My spouse spent the last evening training to be an alternate election judge or some other similar bulwark of democracy. I therefore came home a bit early, partook of a brief review of Tuesday's coursework, and set out with our newer dog Beatrice for a hour-long course at
that institution of higher learning called Pappy's Pet Lodge.
I never identify much with folks who consider pets their children. I see pets as loyal friends instead. Yet I had an almost parental pride that Beatrice gained admission to this veritable Harvard of sit and stay. The Lodge had a large carpeted room, devoted to higher education, along with two professors to whom I would trust my pet or from whom I would willingly buy a used car.
We began with a session called "playtime", as it turns out that the canine mind loosens best when faced with chances for play. People differ little in this regard. Bea, rather like one of her owners, tends not to socialize a lot with other dogs. This I completely understood, as the other dogs seemed to be in the main yearling golden retrievers, analogous to the fraternity brothers and sorority sisters that made my own university experience more shall-we-say-independent than it might otherwise have been. It's true that the sparky young Westie had no similar drawbacks, but Bea ignored him, too. She did not ignore the tennis balls, which she fetched for me with abandon.
Another feature that my university should have also instituted was to follow playtime by an outdoors rest break prior to beginning the lessons in earnest. After our return, the lessons began in earnest. First, we had the review. Beatrice showed that although she may indeed be an old dog, she had thoroughly learned the new tricks of "sit" and "heel". Each successful repetition earned her a small dog treat called a "Bitz", which she devoured as if each were a fine chocolate. I have not (yet) sampled the Bitz, so I cannot advise if her devotion is justified, or just one of those odd things, like devotion to a puzzling faddish manga.
Then we moved on to the new lessons. Here, I confess that Bea suffered a lapse. While the golden retrievers instantly "got" the commend "down", as it is taught by making them descend to the ground for a treat, Bea failed to catch on to assume the "down" position
as she is close enough to the ground to be able to snare a treat without the need for the abject subordination of will which the "down" position requires. The lithe female instructor did a demonstration of how one could assume an instructorial position in which one leg serves a lot like that giant arch in St. Louis, causing the puppy to "tunnel" into down position to grab the treat, but Bea would have none of these shenanigans. I was advised that Bea would get this at home, with more practice. I was relieved that nobody suggested that Beatrice suffered from ADHD, attention deficit disorder or from smoking in the boys room. Apparently, she is just a dog in the same way that Gwen Stefani is just a girl.
Happily, our lesson in "leave it" went much better, as Beatrice learned to resist veritable baggies of treats based on my commaend "leave it!" without hesitation. I saw one of those charming if loutish goldens, by contrast, snatch up a treats baggie and
head for the Ozarks. I imagine I know what it feels like to have a child get her lines right at the school play, when everyone else flubs theirs.
Finally, our night of education was over--and as with all animal training classes, I realized that the real student was me. Perhaps I wish, a bit, that Barbara Woodhouse had shouted "walkies!" in mid-lesson. But I marvel nonetheless at the educational excellence at Pappy's Pet Lodge, and I wonder if I might have gotten a Ph.D. in physics had my own wonderful university featured playtime before all those courses I barely passed about dynamic things I still barely understand.
Bea left her training with her spirits high, and dozens of Bitz in her stomach. We went home and threw the tennis ball, while our other dog, Ted, watched, and got petted.