Friday, August 22, 2008

Good Girl - Part II

It is often said that a dog is a practice child. For certain childless couples at least, I believe it’s true. Cooperatively caring for a dog can be a good indication of whether or not a couple might be able to do the same for a child. Like a child, a dog requires its owners to think of another living being before themselves. There’s certainly plenty of help for parents of both children and dogs in the form of books, DVDs, web sites and the like. I doubt, however, that there are many books that suggest you crate train your children, so perhaps the analogy begins to fall apart there. Still, having recently spent a weekend in Massachusetts with several former teammates and their offspring, such a book might have come in handy. Finally, many parents and dog-owners to be pledge to take equal responsibility for the coming burden but wind giving anything but equal effort.

So it was that, having had my girlfriend unilaterally decide that I would be part owner of a dog, I found myself responsible for both the last walk of the night and the first walk of the morning for our sweet little chocolate lab with the not yet well-developed bladder control. Having read all the right books, we knew about crate training, taking the water away shortly after the evening meal, and walking her soon after play and sleep. What we didn’t know was how to explain the elevator.

Most of us have woken up with a strong, perhaps very strong, need to relieve ourselves at one time or another. The stronger the need, the more troubling the delay, be it a long walk down a hallway, or an exasperating wait for a roommate to vacate the facilities. Well imagine if reaching the facilities required a walk down a hall, a long wait for a strange, windowless room whose doors always open onto a different room, and another long walk down another hallway. Oh, and you’ve only recently been potty-trained. Now you’re getting a picture of what it must have been like for our sweet, little Lab puppy as she tried desperately to hold on long enough to get outside before emptying her bladder.

For a picture of what it was like for me, imagine that it’s a pitch black 5AM in November, you’ve been awakened by a high pitched whining, your last act before going to bed was also a bleary-eyed puppy walk that seems to have happened mere moments ago, and the person who’s responsible for putting you in this predicament is sleeping soundly in a nice cozy bed. And you wonder why I’m single.

Early on it was pretty hopeless. We’d barely make it to the elevator doors before she was squatting. Once we got into the elevator, if she started to squat I’d swoop her up into my arms, and the experience was so surprising that it literally scared the pee right back into her. The downside being that once outside, it usually took a good long while for her to calm down enough to be able to take care of business.

Eventually, the swoop into the air was no longer all that surprising, and I suppose had become almost comforting, so much so that she took to lying in my arms and spraying her urine in a fountainesque stream wherever she happened to be aiming at the time. At first, appalled, I did anything I could think of to stop her. In time, realizing that the hand is not an especially effective mechanism for stopping urine flow, I resigned myself to watching the waterworks.

If anyone reading this happened to reside at 304 E. 20th Street between November of 1994 and February of 1995 you have my apologies. I had every intention of cleaning up when we returned, but somehow the prospect of crawling back into bed was a little too inviting. I’m sure you understand.

In time, she mastered her movements, and we were on to the next level of training.

By any measure, she was a prodigy. At eight weeks she sat on command. By twelve weeks she could sit, lie down, stay, and roll over. Shortly thereafter, she responded to both voice and hand commands, and when she added playing dead to her repertoire, she would do so in response to a silent firing of a finger.

I took her to work with me, where her disposition and intelligence made her a favorite. Our company shipped a lot of packages COD, and every morning the UPS man would bring a cardboard envelope with checks. Our receptionist trained her to carry the UPS envelope to the bookkeeper’s office, where the bookkeeper would take the envelope from her mouth and reward her with a treat. In time, not satisfied with one treat, she would return to the bookkeeper’s office, retrieve the empty UPS envelope from the trash can, slink out of the office quietly, then trot back in with much fanfare and offer the empty envelope to the bookkeeper. Like I said, a prodigy.

Her first tournament was Turkey Bowl ’94, when she was a mere 11 weeks old. We competed under the name Elwood Hound, and won the tourney when, inspired by her presence, I made a layout block and threw the game winning hammer. Her last tournament was Terminus ’99, the only event I ever played with Ring of Fire. Perhaps sensing that this was a one time deal, she made a complete nuisance of herself, slipping her collar and running across several fields mid-point, something she had never done before. In between, she went to many more tournaments, but a couple stand out.

Mother’s Day ’96. She meets Steve Mooney’s pure bred god-knows-what dog and gets into a fight with it. Awesome.

Some random springtime affair where Adam Zagoria, unprepared as usual, secures his dog to my dog’s corkscrew. Having spent the better part of the day being annoyed by Zagoria’s mutt Jasmine, she finally reaches the breaking point and rips off a piece of Jasmine’s ear. Priceless.

A friend of mine once sent his dog to obedience school, and later proudly displayed the certificate he had been awarded for “Longest Down Stay.” What a joke. In the winter of ’97 I took her on a trip to Vermont, and found myself without a place to keep for a snowboarding day trip. I found a doggie day care close by and dropped her off, paying the extra $20 for two outdoor play sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. When I returned to pick her up in the evening they refunded me the $20. Despite their efforts, she had simply refused to go out and play. Leaving her that morning I had told her to stay. She wouldn’t leave until I came and released her.

It was the only time I ever put her in a kennel.

She showed similar devotion some years later, when I competed in a tournament at ECU in Greenville, NC. I arrived at the tournament only to discover that dogs were not allowed at the fields. With no way to secure her in the bed of my 1991 Ford F-150 pickup, I simply told her to stay. And stay she did, all day long.

If only women were as devoted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it was turkey swamp when she "nibbled" on jasmine's ear.

amazing how true it is that pets are like their owners. because damn that dog jasmine was annoying.

how many times WERE you on adam's WSL team?