By Linda Grupp Boutin
So a few weeks later, I took Seraph on a car ride to the parking lot at Grossmont Mall. Such a beautiful San Diego night could not have been imagined. Balmy, 75 degrees, with a light breeze, I had no idea what to expect. Sam, a former SDPD dog trainer, gave us a demonstration of all he could teach a dog to do. His big German Shepherd showed off his knowledge of German commands, his daughter's little, white Heinz 57 replicated the big dog's moves in miniature version. Sam kept emphasizing that all this training could be accomplished in just 15 dedicated minutes per day. "And if you can't give your dog at least 15 minutes per day, then you should not even have one!" Hhummpphh, never thought about it that way. Why does school always have to involve a guilt trip?
After the demo, he requested that we return the following week with a training collar and 6 foot long leather leash. Okay, now I had to raise the money for supplies as well as the fee to attend the class! Meantime, Seraph has been trying her best to get into trouble and distract me from what Sam had been saying. He eyed his new students (was that the dogs or the people?), looking at our rag tag line of whimpering, whining, willful pups.
There was a sedate German Shepherd or two, a pair of Golden Retrievers (also not behaving), an antsy poodle, making a total of 20 or so people with their pets. Absolutely no one but me had a red & white, curly tailed, barkless basenji straining at the end of her leash trying to get who knows where...I felt a bit out of place. When Sam walked up to me and said, "A basenji, huh, in obedience class? This should be interesting." He turned on his heel and walked to the next pair of students. This did not give me a feeling of confidence.
Meantime, while we waited for the first class we needed to begin walking our dogs for 15 minutes per day. We were to keep the animal on our left side at all times, keeping the leash loosely in our left hand for corrections, holding the far end of the leash in our right hand. Our dogs were to hold their heads up with no sniffing of the ground. When they did try to sniff, we were to say firmly, "Seraph, no sniff," give a small correction and get them back in the proper position with head up high.
I had invested quite a lot of our food money for the month into this "dog school," so I tried to take the whole matter seriously. I rose at 5:30 to make it to work by 7 a.m. every work day. Then after work I ran home to make dinner, study and get ready for my community college class at 7 p.m. Returned home at 10 and fell into bed to catch enough sleep to make it through the next day. Between working full time and going to school full time at night, my schedule overflowed. Sam might have thought 15 minutes per day should come easily, but for me I had to squeeze other activities to fit this in.
But my success with this dog and marital happiness depended on me completing this commitment. So when I arrived home from work and released Seraph and Ginger from their kennels, the first order of business was to figure out how to put the crazy training collar on, line the Little Angel up on my left side, and march around the yard for 15 minutes trying desperately to keep this little sight and scent hound on a loose leash by my side with no sniffing...our landlords who lived at the top of the hill above our little house must have been laughing out loud watching the proceedings below.
(to be continued)