Sunday, June 28, 2009
I will never understand my dog, Dammit (no, that's his name not an expletive). I have no doubt that he is a brilliant animal. I think he's smarter than many people I know... and that's the problem. Oh, he understands every command given to him. He chooses to ignore them. Only when I am furious does he actually do what I say. He's a very gentle dog, but don't let his mild-mannered demeanor lull you into a false sense of security. No, he is always plotting... scheming. You can almost hear the wheels turning in his head.
Obedience school started out smoothly enough at first. He learned his commands and was the star of the class. The instructor, Katie, was constantly praising him. In class he followed every command without hesitation. When we were at home it was a totally different story. When Katie told him to sit, he sat. When she told Dammit to lie down, he did. At home when I told him to sit, he would walk away. When I would tell him to lie down, he would... well, do whatever the hell he wanted.
The first session of obedience school passed without incident and he had everyone fooled, except for me. I knew the truth. An owner knows their pet better than anyone. I used to laugh at people who humanize their pets by saying things like, "he's so smart, he's almost human," or, "I think he understands every word I say. Sometimes I think he's about to talk." Yep, I thought Dammit was about to talk once. It turned out to be the most astounding belch ever released from a mammal. In fact, I fail to see how any of God's creatures could make such a sound without imploding. But I do now think that he is smarter than many people I know.
Round two. The first day of the second session of obedience school Katie was thrilled to see Dammit, and Dammit seemed thrilled to see her. It seems during the month or so break between the classes Dammit had been doing some thinking. He understood the commands and understood her methods. He also understood that every time he performed for Katie he would get a treat out of the little blue pouch she wore on her hip. Here's a little side note; dogs are NOT totally colorblind. They simply don't see the range of colors that humans see. Dogs tend to see more blues than anything else from what I have read. Dammit had to wait until the time was right. The first day of class passed without any major incidents other than the fact that every time she spoke he felt like he had something more important to say. I spent the majority of the class holding his mouth shut.
By now I hope you are seeing the appropriateness of his name. Sit, Dammit! Get down, Dammit! Shut up, Dammit!
During the second class Katie let her guard down for a split second. The stars were aligned just right. Katie bent to pick up some doggy toys from a basket, I was talking to the lady next to me about her dog and everything felt right with the world. It was time to make his move. The little blue pouch with the treats was there for the taking. He analyzed the situation for a quick second, then made his move. As if struck by an electric cattle prod, Dammit leaped forward, pulling the leash from my hands, grabbed the little blue pouch from Katie's hip and without missing a step continued to charge through the pet store. The chase was afoot.
Now let me explain; this was one of those big-box pet stores that rivals the size of many grocery stores. Translation: plenty of isles to run through and keep the chase alive. A split second after his daring theft we were in hot pursuit of the bandit. He made quick turns down isles with his paws slipping on the slick linoleum floor. Darting down each isle sending shoppers and their well behaved pets scurrying for safety. Occasionally stopping to make sure we were still behind him, he would dart off again. Through the fish aquariums, past the cat cages, around the giant cage of birds, out the front door and into the parking lot. He stopped in the middle of the parking lot to look back at us, myself along with almost every store employee. I could see the look of satisfaction in his eyes. We broke up into three groups. The first group of store employees went around to the right and up the next row of cars. The second group went around to the left. I led the third group right up the middle, moving ever so slowly towards Dammit. I was speaking as calmly as I could while holding out the largest barbecue basted bone the store had. I thought we were making progress. He seemed to be responding to the bribe. Just as I was within reach of him he faked to the left and shot back to the right and around us making a bee line directly back to the pet store.
When we entered the pet store we found Dammit sitting in the training area. The little blue pouch was set on the floor by the instructors table completely unharmed. He had not taken even one treat from the pouch. He sat there like nothing had ever happened. It was clear that the was never interested in the contents of the pouch. It was the thrill of the chase.
I thought we were going to be escorted out for sure. Katie stood in the middle of the training circle, obviously exhausted, and announced that the class was dismissed. "I'll see you all next week. Don't forget to practice what we learned today. Um, well, just practice what we learned last week." Dammit seemed to gloat during the entire ride home. He had won this round.
The next week was no more successful. The command the dogs was to learn was "Drop It." Katie passed around pig ears to all of the dogs. Each owner would grab the pig ear and command the dog to "drop it." At this command, like well trained furry soldiers, they all followed their orders. All except for Dammit. I gave the command while holding the pig ear. He refused to release it from his jaws. I repeated the command. Still nothing. Katie praised the other dogs and their owners, then turned her attention to us. "Matt, you're doing it all wrong." I released my grip on the pig ear and said, "If you think you can do better, be my guest." Katie calmly took the pig ear in her hand while Dammit help his death grip on the other end. "Drop it." Nothing. Again, "Drop it." Still Nothing. Katie, becoming a little louder repeated the command. At this Dammit rose to his feet and began to pull away. Now it was a game of tug. Katie, probably weighing 100 pounds if she had a pocket full of rocks, began pulling back and yelling, "Drop it, Dammit! Drop it!" I wasn't sure whether she was cursing at the dog or actually using his name. in hindsight I'm pretty sure it was profanity. After a hard fought struggle Katie admitted defeat by releasing the pig ears and saying, "Alright, just keep the damn thing." At this Dammit dropped the pig ear and with a swift flick of his paw, kicked it across the floor. Again, he had no interest in the treat, only in the battle.
As we were leaving the pet store the manager approached me and offered to give me a full refund for the training class in exchange for me agreeing to never bring Dammit back. With the eyes of all of the other dogs and their owners on us I agreed. As we left the store and the automatic doors closed behind us I'm sure I could hear the cheer and applause of everyone inside. Finally the beast is gone!
Dammit continues to be a daily challenge. Just when I think he has thought of it all, he finds another way to leave me dumbfounded and many times outraged. Don't get me wrong. I love my dog and he loves me, but it is certainly a love/hate relationship if ever there was one.