Archive for September, 2011

I’m a Twelve

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by Donna 5 Comments

As a kid, Wayne’s brothers owned dogs; he never had one. About a year after we married, he confessed he wanted a puppy for his next birthday.

“What kind of dog do you want, honey?”

He didn’t ask for just any dog, though—my sweetheart wanted a Doberman. As resident expert of all suitable pets, I had serious doubts about his request. I’ve owned cats, horses, hamsters, turtles, and birds. I’ve also owned two high strung collies—and for a short time, their litters of 14 puppies each—one manic Irish setter, a loud-mouthed beagle, and a sweet cocker spaniel. I’ve walked, fed, brushed, shampooed, and trained dogs. I’ve let them sleep on my bed, taught them to walk on a leash, do tricks, and for the most part, behave in public. I love dogs, but I’ve never had a breed which scared me to death. Justified or not, Dobermans have a certain reputation. “Honey, I’m not sure that’s a good choice for a first dog.”

Wayne’s stubborn German heritage pops out every now and again. “Maybe so, but that’s the kind of dog I want.”

Being a sensible woman who avoids confrontation over the trivial things in life, I capitulated. Not, however, before I added my own stipulation, “Okay, we’ll get you a Doberman puppy if you promise to enroll in obedience school and learn how to train it.”

Smiling, Wayne nodded.

“I’ve already been to obedience school but you need to understand what it takes to have a trained dog. I won’t have a dog that frightens me or is a threat to anyone else. Agreed?”

His nod sealed a done deal and a great long term solution.

A few weeks later, I presented a black and tan female Dobie to Wayne on his birthday. Envisioning a new running partner, he named her after the first Greek marathoner, Spiridon. We called her Spirit.

We only had to endure the short term until Spirit was old enough to benefit from training. Fortunately, she stayed out doors most of the time, so the chewing, digging, and barking weren’t much of an issue unless she escaped the yard. Which, of course, she learned to do once she discovered the great fun of jumping into our creek and swimming around the end of the fence…

Many apologies to the neighbors later, Spirit and her master celebrated her ten-month birthday as they enrolled in the Tuesday night sessions of obedience school. Although I had complete confidence in the instructor and my husband, I went along. I had to see this. Admittedly, the first class went well—puppy playtime, putting on the leash, everybody starting off on the right foot. At the end of the hour, the instructor called out, “Okay, everyone. Practice what we worked on tonight. See you next week.”

As Wayne practiced during the week, Spirit enjoyed the attention, and I relaxed for six days.

At dinner Monday evening, Wayne’s face told me something was amiss. Sure enough, he’d agreed to teach a Dale Carnegie class. We needed the money and the schedule was set in stone. He’d be teaching on Tuesday nights.

Still frightened of Spirit’s potential aggressive side, I found myself at obedience school walking a very resistant canine in the pouring rain the next night. Those lucky souls with complacent, obedient dogs walked in relative quiet, murmuring praises to their pooches, smiling at one another. Between Spirit’s lunging at the leash to reinstate puppy playtime, walking anywhere but beside me, and totally obstinate attitude, I lurched and staggered about the field timidly asserting my will.

Bookies would place her as odds on favorite. As the class ended, the instructor looked straight at me, “Okay, everyone. Practice. See you next week.”

After work Wednesday, I stepped into yesterday’s shorts, pulled on a fresh t-shirt, put a training collar and leash on Spirit, and drove to the high school for a half hour of dog training. Before I could even park the car, the dog went ballistic. Growling and barking, she lunged at the windshield, apparently intent on devouring a group of men standing near the track. Horrified, I finally settled her. My face burned as I walked past the now wide-eyed and wary bystanders and headed toward the far side of the track. If I’d had a gun I don’t know if I’d have shot my husband or the dog.

The audience grew as Spirit and I walked the track for the next half-hour testing one another’s right to dominate. My command, “Spirit, heel” should A. gain my dog’s attention, B. direct her to calmly walk beside me, and C. let her know she needed to stop when I did, sit, and look up at me to see what her next command might be. Each time I corrected her meandering with a jerk on her leash, she let out a loud pitiful yelp. I noted a few of the guys nodding in approval. Demonstrating to everyone I was the boss, I refused to let sympathy enter the picture.

By round ten, Spirit had quit pulling toward the sidelines, but remained standing each time I stopped walking. When I reminded her to sit with another leash jerk, she sank on her haunches and refused to look at me. The sideline crew was snickering out loud by now. I still meant business. Three more times I commanded her, “Spirit, heel.” We walked. We stopped. We both remained standing.

I was ready to call it a draw for a day, but decided to try one more time. Staying close to my right leg, she heeled perfectly, stopped when I did, sat down, and raised her head to watch me. Eureka!

“Good girl Spirit,” I praised, leaning down to pat her chest.

I saw a flash of pink behind my knee. It was fabric of some sort. It didn’t register as anything familiar until I reached around my leg to pull on it. Out from the back of my shorts came yesterday’s pink underwear which apparently had been draped down my leg the entire time I paraded the track.

Now as I said at the beginning of this story, I’m a twelve. That’s not a superlative to “She’s a Ten.” It’s also a sad fact that the twelve doesn’t refer to my dress size. It’s a panty size. Stuffing those things in my pocket was like trying to hide a king-sized sheet in there. Pocket bulging, face flaming hot, the trainer and her dog shot to her car while their audience laughed until they collapsed against one another. Some of them are probably still laughing.

Don’t think of this as a blog, but more of a slower, slightly more formal slog which might instill your desire to respond. I welcome and thank you for your thoughts, comments, or suggestions.