Monday, April 7, 2008

BOOK: Family Dog

My friend Scott gave me this book one night as we were lamenting the state of the world over a bottle of merlot. He has three very well behaved chesapeak bay retreivers who remind me of cartoon characters. Their personalities are distinctly different, and recently when Scott went away I spent some quality time with his dogs. Or I should say, two of three of his dogs. It was about fifty below outside and the third, a female who hates women (much like Scott himself) wouldn't come out of her kennel. Not without Scott. The other two, both males; they loved me, they loved on me, they loved around me, and one night, they even accompanied me into the bathroom to watch me pee in what might have been one of the most entertaining experiences of my life. To say that these dogs are well trained would be a mild understatement. Scott's dogs are his children and his family and while they are spoiled rotten, they are also tough as nails and well behaved. Naturally, Scott does not hesitate to criticize the paltry dog training skills of those of us lucky enough to call ourselves his friends, and he is always willing to offer help and suggestions as we struggle to control our mutts...whether we like it or not.

Scott's well behaved purebreds are a sharp contrast to my dogs. I have two. One is a mutt with a bit of napoleon's complex; half black lab, half australian shepherd. She can jump six feet in the air from all fours, is a vindictive pooper (read: piss her off and she'll poo), she listens when it's convenient and if she gets too excited she'll tinkle on the floor. She is also loyal to a fault, the best spooner on the planet and easily the smartest dog I've been around in my life. The other is a few fries shy of a HappyMeal golden retreiver. He is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful goldens I've seen in my life, and yet perhaps also one of the dumbest.

Scott loves to rib me about my lack of dog training skills. When my golden was a puppy the dog catcher kept getting called to my house while I was at work. He would burrow his way out of my fence, through my fence, or over my fence, around my fence, and these office ladies who worked nearby would coax him over to the fence to pet him, and then he'd try to leave with them, get stuck and then they'd call the doggie police to "rescue" him. I'd relay these stories to Scott over beers at night and he would point and make fun of me. After offering some futile tidbits of advice I think Scott got sick of listening to these stories so he gifted me a shock collar to try and get my 80 pound puppy in line. I was adamant against the shock collar at first, but faced with the bitchy walking lunch hour ladies who kept calling the doggie police and the possiblity of losing my dog, I acquiesed. Another beer, and I reported back: the shock collar didn't work. Scott laughed his butt off, told me I didn't turn it up high enough.

I cranked it. The dog barely noticed the thing around his neck, didn't even jump.
Another beer, and I reported back: it still didn't work. Again, Scott laughed his butt off at me.
Then he told me my dog was hopeless and ordered us both another round.

So now it's about five years later and he's apparently regained some hope in me. I should also note that Scott and me, we evolved too--we switched to wine. A couple months ago we are discussing my vindictive pooper dog, and he jumps up from his big leather chair and whips open his kitchen cupboard (read: bachelor) and throws me this book. Read this, he says.

So throughout the course of the next few days, I make my way through the thing, and I become more depressed with each passing chapter. I recognize these behaviors that my dogs most definitely do not possess and I also recognize how long it must have taken Scott to cultivate these behaviors in his own little family of four legged lovers. And now, finally finished, I am pleased to report that I have forever lost hope in myself. I am an awful dog trainer mom. My dogs will always be little clones that I am trying to create into miniature human beings in my likeness and because I love on them the way that I do, they will forever be naughty. Pass the merlot.

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