New dog owner, beware. You
gaze into those adorable puppy eyes at the breeder’s, thinking, I can mould
this animal into the next Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, or at least, a paler version
of Balto. You’re remembering the black and white footage of a muscular dog
trailing a burning boxcar, dragging out a half-dead hobo.
After my illuminating experiences – humiliations, really, during three
obedience courses, I accept this fact: my dog would instead frisk the hobo
for food and take off the moment he heard sirens. What is our dog’s
name? Not Max, Rex, Mauler or any other alpha-ish, testosterone-charged
moniker. No. “Kirby.” Friendly. Unthreatening. Our hairy vacuum sweeper.
Our last obedience class
was like a high school yearbook. The Golden Retrievers were the Most
Popular, the Doberman the star jock, the Rottweiler, the future junior
My dog was voted Most
Likely to Pee.
Kirby was an insurgent,
the crafty troublemaker who got kids to toilet paper the principal’s office.
Duped by his cute face, I couldn’t see the biker tattoos under the fur.
Confined to a fallout
shelter of a room, the trainer snapped at us to get our dogs in line. Sit.
Down. Stay! With my arm extended like a traffic cop, Kirby peered back at
me, ears perked. Dogs and owners observed in stunned silence. The trainer
held her breath. We, the chronic disrupters, were finally in sync. Kirby was
a shining example of canine compliance. I felt a blue ribbon coming on, one
marked “Most Improved.”
Then Kirby’s eyes shifted
to the door.
He got up. Two dogs also
bolted, tails swishing. The trainer was red-faced and yes – barking. Another
pooch joined the inmate revolt, leaving evidence of his excitement.
Behind me, I heard a spray bottle burst of cleanser and paper towels being
ripped. I went to retrieve my
wayward pup, feeling the
collective glare from owners, seeing how tightly their fists clenched the
leashes. Direct eye contact would have incited a riot.
Still, the trainer did not
ask us to leave. She gritted her teeth, silently cursed and shook her head
almost constantly, but we were not asked to leave. She praised the Sunday
Schoolers to shame us. “You’d a make great therapy dog,” she cooed to a
Bernese Mountain hulk.
“And my dog will drive you
into therapy, huh?” I wanted to crack.
Teddy Roosevelt had an
Airedale. So did John Wayne. They preferred the independent thinker. They
At the doggie high school
reunion, they’d know. Kirby wouldn’t have become a CEO or Florence
Nightingale. He’d be a lobbyist, a comedy sketch writer or a bookie.
And as I pet his furry
head, that’s just fine by me.