Friday, April 17, 2009

Marley and Me and Family Guy
Not to get all Marley and Me-ish, but my dog Willie and I have recently finished our first shot at obedience training. Willie is a very high-spirited young dog, so I wasn't quite sure how this was going to work.

It turned out he was either great at things (the name game, getting in a down position, running pell-mell across the training room when I called him) or just really not interested (everything else). The first thing you learn at such training is that it's all based on food rewards. About 45 minutes into the hour-long sessions, Willie's attention span would be shot, and he'd be so full of treats that they had no appeal whatsoever to him, and I'd start to be feeling a little nauseous myself from walking around with pockets full of chopped up hot dogs and dehydrated liver. My main goal was to keep both of us from throwing up before we left the class.

At obedience training graduation, we were to have our dogs do a trick. I set my goal for this low, unlike some better-trained pups that I am aware of. We would do a "gimme five," a "gimme ten," and hit the graduation parties. We worked on it for a couple of weeks. Willie caught on fast, and seemed to remember it from one time to the next. I hadn't felt so good about a final exam in a while.

When it was time for our performance, Willie and I marched to the middle of the room, his tail wagging excitably at the attention of all of his classmates. You start out both "gimme five" and "gimme ten" from a sitting position. Which is a position that Willie would not get into at that particular moment. He was aware that I had treats, and he went through his whole repertoire of treat-earning moves. Except for "gimme five" and "gimme ten." He did this in a charming manner, though, so he still got a nice round of applause as we left the spotlight, with me mumbling about how great he did this when he was at home in our kitchen. The instructors found it in their hearts to let us both graduate, though.

Of course, as soon as we got home he gave me five AND ten until we both collapsed on the couch in exhaustion. We're on home study now, and we're working on some new tricks. I've made him watch this video time after time, so he truly will understand the magic of a high five. Eventually, I'll be in the Cleveland role, and Willie will be Peter.

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