Thursday, June 30, 2011

Class Clown

Yesterday was our third rally class and I was waffling about going. Not only was I planning on taking Parker to his boarding kennel that afternoon, but I had an early flight out for a two week vacation the next day (I’m typing this in an airport), and had changed Emmy’s boarding plans to accompany Parker. She had originally been scheduled to board with Tilly at the vet’s office, as usual, but we lost Tilly this past weekend and that kind of changed our plans. Emmy has never been kenneled alone and she had no reason to board at the vet’s other than to keep Tilly company. So going to rally class meant driving both dogs and all their bedding to class and from there to the kennel, an hour away. That’s a lot of stress for both the dogs and me.

But my friend Ellen said she’d go to class to cheer us on and ride with me to the kennel to help with all the shit I was taking for the dogs, so we went.

I hit my first snag before I’d gone a mile from the house -- road work kept me waiting for seven minutes. Then, just a couple of miles later, there was an accident on the road. So I was about fifteen minutes late for class and even more stressed. The rest of the class had already done their walk throughs and were taking their dogs onto the course. Ellen held both dogs for me and I shadowed another handler as she took her dog through the course. There were a few new signs, but nothing that involved any new training.

When it was our turn, Parker, who had been sitting quietly with Ellen, released his inner clown. He went through most of the course with his nose in my pocket. That would be the pocket with the treats which I had forgotten to take out to give him. One of the signs involved a down stay. When I said, “Down,” he flopped onto his back and waved his legs around while I circumnavigated him but he maintained the down in spite of how silly he looked. All of his sits were crooked, even his fronts, but at least we didn’t have the dreaded fronts which involved me stepping backward.

There was a short jump -- nothing like the height he did last week, and he approached it with glee, zooming out in front of me after leaping over it. Which looked cute, but isn’t what he’s supposed to do.

The second course involved two signs with pivots, one with a stand, and a “German” turn -- the handler does a 180, turning to the left, while the dog does a 180 to the right, basically going around behind the handler. At first, I just said I’d skip that one, but another student convinced me that it was easy, acted as my dog to walk me through it, and Parker and I practiced doing it off the course and he did fine. Off the course -- on it, not so much.

Here’s what’s weird. I think there’s no doubt that Parker’s having a good time. He “grins” throughout the courses we do, and his tail is high and wagging. But he looks remarkably silly, doesn’t focus on much but treats and clearly isn’t as well trained as just about any of the other dogs. But, while I had him on one of the courses, one of the teachers went up to Ellen and told her that “We need to start working on convincing Dorothy to enter Parker in our upcoming trial in November.” That would be the same teacher who came up to me after class and said I was concentrating far too much on the signs and not enough on Parker. She said he would learn to read the signs himself in good time and for now I should just make sure he’s where he needs to be and does what he needs to do and not worry so much about the signs. I’m not at all sure how I can do that without knowing what the signs are, but I just smiled and agreed and filed the advice away into my “WTF?” file.

The past week was fairly training-lite as most of my energy was focused on a ultimately fruitless attempt to keep Tilly alive and now I’m away for two weeks. Damned dog probably won’t remember his name by the time I get back.

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