As soon as Jordan got into the training room, she immediately let us down.
Under the watchful eye of a trainer we hadn’t met before, first she lurched toward a skinny, nervous Alsatian mix, then toward a spaniel, then toward a table (she was on a roll at that point and didn’t want to waste a moment). We were a little embarrassed, but we were saved by Buddy.
Buddy was on a different level.
Buddy had springs on his feet and a bark that was set to “Constant and Loud”. He would not be calmed. He barked and bounced, bounced and barked, at anything and anyone. Buddy’s owner, a guy maybe in his 50s, was stoic, good-humored, but nearing the end of his tether. Nothing he nor the trainer did would calm Buddy down so he could take part in the lesson.
They tried taking Buddy away from the group, calming him, and bringing him back. They tried putting up a blind around Buddy so he couldn’t see other dogs. They tried bribery with treats. They tried.
But Buddy was just so excited about everything. He refused to allow his enthusiasm to be dimmed.
And no one judged, because so many of us have been there – and, to an extent, are still there. After all, we are in a dog-obedience class. If they were well-behaved, they wouldn’t be here.
Buddy’s human had been in that role, he said, for two weeks. Before that, Buddy had been a yard dog, permanently living in someone’s yard, with little-to-no training or socialization. The road back to full pet-hood was going to be long, loud, and bruising, and the guy already looked forlorn. The trainer was cool; she’s seen it all before, I guess. She canceled his appointment, made sure he got his money back for the lesson they never quite had. She set up solo lessons for Buddy, at least at first, so they could work on the basics before re-introducing him to the exciting world of groups of dogs.
She told him to go home, pour a glass of wine, chill. It was going to be OK.
It was genuinely touching.
During all of that, our little monster was perfect. Relatively. The bar for how we judged her behavior had moved. Sure, she still occasionally dashed off like she’d been shot out of a cannon toward another dog, but mostly she was focused. Focused on our faces, our voices, our instructions…but mostly on the little orange clicker we held in one hand and the small, hard half-treat we held between our fingers as we worked.
Sit. Click. Treat.
Stay. Click. Treat.
Leave it. Click. Treat.
She did it. She was trainable.
And the whirling dervish she returned to as she left the class? That was just Jordan. It was what she did. But maybe not for much longer.