Gatsby and I Attend Obedience School

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I mentioned last week that I have started graduate school to obtain a certificate in archival management from the University of North Texas. I have also been enrolled in another type of school. Graduation is next Friday, then the next session begins. The six-week dog obedience course that Gatsby and I have been enrolled in has made huge changes in both of our behaviors.

Gatsby is the latest member of our family. He is nearly 11 months old, a cavapoo, which is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a poodle. These are normally high-dollar dogs, and Gatsby is a beautiful dog with the absolute sweetest face. But he has a troubled past, not of his doing. He is a rescue pup out of a puppy mill in Oklahoma. We adopted him from Texas Star Rescue here in Longview, a wonderful organization doing the Lord’s work.

He spent most of his life cooped up in a tiny crate, making him very timid and lacking the skills to simply be a dog, let alone an obedient one. He did not really know how to run when we got him a little over two months ago. But a few times outside playing chase with Mollie, our Maltese queen, and Gatsby quickly caught on. Since he is about twice her size, Gatsby can now outrun her, though Mollie still has some moves that fool him. It is a joy to watch.

Still, Gatsby and I had some work to do. He spent most of his time inside hiding under a table that holds the plants during winter in the sunroom. When outside, he hid behind the rosebushes in a hole he dug. Both dogs are crated at night. In the morning, he had to be pulled out of his crate to go outside to do his business.

Gatsby and I enrolled in Jamie Fenton’s dog training class at PetSmart. Training a dog in large part means training the owner. Jamie deservedly draws universal praise for her dedication. Someday soon, I want to conduct a more in-depth interview with her because she has an interesting past and is doing great work in this community and area.

Gatsby’s classmates included a Great Dane, a corgi, German Shepherd, and a couple of mixed breeds. He was by far the smallest dog in the room. Jamie started the first class by taking each dog around to sniff all the other dog’s rear ends, holding the dog between her legs so it could not escape. Sounds weird, I know. But it “tells” each dog that the other dogs are not enemies. Sure enough, it worked. In the half-dozen classes we attended, there was never an aggression issue.

I had already tried putting Gatsby on a leash, which was an abject failure. He refused to walk. I had to carry him into the training room at PetSmart. When we went out into the aisles to practice walking on a leash, I was dragging Gatsby by his rear end, scooting along the tile. Jamie quickly replied when I asked what to do, as I dragged him while customers looked at me as if I were some type of dog torturer.

“Keep dragging him. He will figure out and start walking,” she said.

Sure enough, he did. Now we go on 3-mile walks a couple of times a week. Gatsby heels like a champ.

Gatsby clearly had a mean male in his past, because he took quickly to my Beautiful Mystery Companion and daughter Abbie. But I am in charge of training him, which I enjoy. Gatsby sits on command, fetches a ball — sort of. He gets it close to me. Best of all, he comes running inside at breakneck speed when I call him.

He loves to lie on the couch and watch television with us and Mollie, the two cats sprawled out nearby. He is learning to become a dog with manners, though he is far from perfect. That is why we are heading back for the second round of lessons in a few weeks.

Gatsby is already pretty darned great, but there is always room for improvement — for both him and me.

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