I am not a good dog owner. Let me take that back. I am not a good dog trainer. If I were a dog, I would dearly love to get adopted by me, because I would have a gloriously pampered life of ice cream, head pats, belly scratchings, and baby talk assurances that I am the most bootiful baby in the world, yes I am, yes I am.
I would not, however, be the most obedient, disciplined dog on the block. Or on many surrounding blocks. Possibly on all the blocks of the world.
Here is a book that some friends gave us a few years ago, when we had a dog named Bentley. Rather, here it is after we left it on the coffee table that same night:
I’m framing it. The irony is just too irresistible. Bentley was a chewer, and one Christmas when a friend of ours from Switzerland gave us a box of European truffles, we put it under the tree (not knowing it contained edibles) and came home later to find mint chocolate puddles that our dog had thrown up in every single room in the house. He did not miss a trick. Oh—did I mention that we had just installed carpeting that we’d had custom dyed in pale, periwinkle blue? They say that chocolate kills dog,s but Bentley, Boomer, Molly, Donut, Bon-Bon, Quat, Belle, and Mickey are eight who gulped it down and live to tell the tale. Okay, bark the tale.
Quat was a crotcher. He greeted people the same way he greeted his fellow canines, and all the dog training tricks I tried could not get him to resist this primal urge.
Maybe he was mad that our teenager sons named him Quat. I was campaigning for Freckles or Baxter, but Quat won out because those three hooligans thought it would be funny to say, “Come, Quat.” Like kumquats.
And it is. Once. But, just as I predicted, they would grow up and leave home, and I’d be the fool standing in the street yelling about fruit. Quat also flunked out of Canine College not once, but twice. The owner even asked me if I wanted to keep such an untrainable dog (see? It isn’t just me). Well, of course, I told him—you don’t sell your child just because he flunks chemistry, do you? We love our dumb children as much as the smart ones.
And this is the problem—not loving them, but seeing dogs as children. All I really want to do is play with them and watch them enjoy life, and believe that they are wondrous beyond belief. When I picked Quat up after his training week, the trainer walked me through the leash training and various commands Quat had learned. “I hate this,” I whispered to her. She turned to me. “That’s exactly what he’s counting on,” she said. And he got exactly what he hoped for.
Belle is the Great Dane who ate who-knows-what (not chocolate, thank you) and threw up an entire map of the world, including the boot of Italy and the Aleutian islands, on the carpet in our loft.
It could have been the 8th Wonder of the World, and we should have gotten her on Jay Leno. It was easily as accurate as many a Boy Scout Eagle Project I’ve seen painted on school playgrounds. I even mentioned it in my book, Funeral Potatoes—the Novel. And here’s the other problem with dog training: You cannot teach a dog not to throw up, nor can you teach one not to shed, nor to clean mud off its feet. These things simply happen, and I’ll betcha they happen to the Dog Whisperer, and to any other amazing animal trainer you can find.
Still, I’m a little bit in awe of those animal trainers you see on TV, whose dogs dance with them and jump through hoops, and walk on their hind feet. I wonder if they could take our current dog, Mickey, and teach her a thing or two. Granted, she has a brain the size of a grape, but is she really incorrigible?
I’ll tell you one thing you will never see: A housecat act. Here’s where the playing field is leveled and I am as good as the next cat owner. Nobody ever wins a talent contest with a group of cats they have convinced to do a dang thing—not for a treat, not for a clicker, not for a live mouse.
If a cat has to jump through a hoop for you, he will quickly wander down the street and find a new owner, someone who will understand that he is to be fed and rewarded for doing exactly as he pleases. Someone who treats him the way I treat all my pets. Like they own the place.
You, too, can be pampered and spoiled in Joniopolis, because that’s how I roll. Just subscribe to this blog and you will be entertained multiple times a week. Tell your friends!