Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Test results.

For those of you consumed by the question Yes, but how is Quinn’s dog doing?, he sends his regards and wants you to know that he’s very happy. This beastie, found running down the street nine months ago, is the best dog I’ve ever had.

[The dog we had when I was growing up was better, what with being the dog I had growing up and all, but since she belonged to my parents and not me, my current dog squeaks by on a technicality.]

We finished Canine Good Citizenship training, and then we took our test. I’m not developing boundary issues with the dog; it was truly our test. Sure, he had to sit and not throw tantrums when left with a stranger for three minutes, but I had to leave the room and cross my fingers really hard for those three minutes. I had to create a new walking pace, just below a sprint, which made him appear to be in a heel position all the time. He had to be checked to for cleanliness, but did he feel the sting of being told his ears were filthy? No, he did not; he smiled and thumped his tailed pleasantly as a Canine Good Citizenship Judge lectured me for several minutes on the topic of Ear Cleaning. To hear this judge, I was feeding the dog things I found under park benches and setting his tail on fire for fun. When she tired herself out on the subject of my failures as a dog-parent, I whispered “So, we failed…?”

She answered grudgingly, “No, they are within the acceptable limits. But they really should be cleaner.”

Sweeping generalization: Some people are animal people because they lack any interpersonal skills whatsoever.

We got to Test Seven: Meeting a Strange Dog. Since the first day, I had known this was his and, by extension my, Achilles dewclaw. The dog cannot simply let another dog exist unmolested within smelling distance. They must be befriended, or eaten, or played with, or terrified into urination. Therefore, we trained, albeit in a desultory way. We walked only when we assumed we wouldn’t meet other dogs, so that any dog-meets had the casual spontaneity of a G-8 summit. If we did see a dog on our walk, we’d hide in a driveway behind trash cans until the threat passed. We arranged to have a rehearsal of the test with an Australian Shepherd, because the rumor was that the test dog was an Australian Shepherd.

We were very, very geeky.

Test Seven came, and we and our irredeemably dirty ears got in a “Sit” position. The judge went into the other room and walked back in with an Australian Shepherd at her side. She walked up to me and we shook hands, the dogs on the outside of each one of us. My sweet boy, sensing my nerves, had been bouncy and borderline sassy for the previous six tests, but somehow managed to calm himself for the meet n'greet. The judge and I shook hands and he stared off into space. I breathed out. The judge turned to leave and we – who had been in a perfect “Sit” – stood up to look more closely at the dog that was now leaving.

We failed. And we still had to do the final two tests, on the off chance that if we wanted to retake the test at some point in the future we’d get credit for those parts we did pass. On everything else, we were flawless. The judge released us, our teacher hugged us compassionately, and we were back in the car. I called Consort, home with Daughter awaiting the results, as I had determined we might be distracted by family members.


“We aren’t Good Citizens,” I said glumly and to my acute embarrassment, felt myself choking up. Quinn, get some perspective. We weren’t refugees in Darfur; our house wasn’t in foreclosure; I was getting emotional over our inability to not sniff another dog’s butt? But the fact remained, we might have failed, but I dropped the ball. Had I carved out a little more time for training, he might have kept his head about him for another ten seconds. Ten seconds! Argh!

I composed myself as Consort told Daughter who sniffed a bit in disappointment herself. Consort got back on the phone.

“I’m sorry he didn’t pass,” Consort began kindly, “but if you don’t mind my saying, I’m kind of glad. Had he passed, you wanted to take him to visit children at hospitals, and I never did understand where you thought you would find the time to do it.”

“There’s that,” I mumbled, opening the bag of Gummy Bears I had bought myself as a post-test reward.

“You would have crammed it in to your schedule and you would have gotten tense and frantic-“

I was grateful he didn’t say “More tense and more frantic.”

“And you would have taken even less time for yourself.”

I chewed and shrugged. Since Consort couldn’t hear shrugging, I swallowed and said grudgingly, “Maybe it’s for the best.”

“Oh, definitely,” Consort said, “We have a much better-behaved dog than before. He may not be a Canine Good Citizen, but he’s our good dog.”

I looked over at the dog curled up in the passenger seat, the celebratory rawhide gripped between his front paws. The post-test exhaustion was such that he was worrying the chew-toy in his sleep. I patted his bottom. He was our very good dog.

“We’ll see you in a few minutes,” I said, preparing to drive us home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So now every essay of yours I read seems laden with titles for your book. For instance, "Meeting a Strange Dog" as the main title, with a market-grabbing subhead like "The Daily Life Tests of a Former Child Star."

8:02 AM  
Blogger Dodi said...

You two will always be good citizens to me! (Even with your filthy ears!!)

You are lucky to have found each other.

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Ty and I also failed Canine Good Citizen. While we did well on several tests, we failed three in a spectacular fashion. But he is, and will always remain, my best dog ever. Thank you for sharing all your stories. I am so looking forward to your book!

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Quinn,

I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading your story about your dog. I'm a photographer specializing in dog portraits and I'd love the opportunity to photograph your dog! You can see my work at: (check the dog archives)

Also, I have a 14-year-old pug. He's unable to walk and I was curious if you could use the HipHugger for a dog?

Hope to hear from you!

12:45 AM  
Blogger Chatty said...

I know they say that if you want something done, ask a busy person - but Consort has a point. You DO have a lot on your plate at the moment. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise? As you point out, you have the enjoyment of a fabulous and now extremely well-trained dog AND you could always re-do canine training at a later date - say, after the book is published.
Also, I read the previous comment about a hip-hugger sling for an aging dog - what a great idea! I'm already imagining some really cute fabrics. If I had had your sling for my adored 14-year old Tulip, she would have been able to go out and about with me from time to time, instead of being stuck at home because of her bad hips - and that would have added to her quality of life the last year.

1:57 AM  
Blogger ellen hilburn said...

Both of my dogs are doggy school dropouts (not by choice). Molly, my great Irish Wolfhound-mix, hated the agility class I took her to almost as much as she hated the teacher. I actually hated the teacher more, but I was just a supporting participant. I wasn't the one walking ramps or through long tunnels. Nelly, my beagle-mix, has had ADD (it took me seven years to teach her how to give the paw). She did not fair well in school either. In fact, she's probably the only beagle-mix to not get along with the other "classmates". She's aggressive and would pull my arm out of the socket to get at them. We were asked to leave and did so happily, never looking back.

4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not you, sometimes it just works out that way. I wanted to do the same thing for my dog but turns out his spaz genes cannot be completely erased by training. I worked with two trainers that are some of the best in my area and they gave me very good techniques to use when passing dogs on the street, etc. (basically open a jar of baby food and jam under his nose -- "let the food rain down" she called it), but it hasn't turned him into the calm canine my childhood dog was. Sometimes it just works out that way I guess.

LMAO at your post, btw, especially "had the casual spontaneity of a G-8 summit" -- ha!

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found your blog via Achenblog. Rocky lives next door. He's a year old Australian sheepdog who had a sad beginning which made for a "rocky" road ahead. I don't know if he ever could pass a "good-doggy test"
but throwing down the car keys and some gutteral umph, or something that sounded like that from his trainer, brought him to a screeching halt before he chowed down on my dearly beloved 15-year old Dachshund. The trainer's made thousands turning this dog around...floats the economy, I guess.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Amie said...

The thing about the CGC is that it's lovely and idealistic. Wanna know the last time my dog was required to sit calmly while someone walked up to me with a dog on a leash and shook my hand in real life? Just doesn't happen.

What does happen is some idiots dog approaches me with extremely aggressive body language, I thank God for the millionth time that my pit bull isn't (very) dog aggressive and start yelling that the aforementioned idiot needs to put his dog on a leash before I citronella spray them.

It's fine and dandy if your dog can do it during the test, but if the rest of the world isn't going to behave equally, it means nothing.

Besides that, I know several evaluators that would have passed him for what you described. Just in case you want to try again.

Or you can be happy that your dog has had more training and has more manners than an unfortunately vast number of dogs out there.

Thanks for being a good dog-mom!

5:28 PM  
Blogger rachaelgking said...

Definitely a blessing in disguise- and you both got treats out of it. Well done!

7:23 AM  
Blogger ellen hilburn said...

Spleeness, thanks for the suggestion of baby food/jam. I need to start walking the dogs solo rather than together as they've always been walked. This way, I can carry the jar of baby food or jam and give it a try. My greatest fears are corners. It's a white knuckle approach worrying what canine might be around the corner. There is usually a sense of relieve when there is no other dog or person approaching. But I feel this food jar advice is interesting and I can't wait to try it! Thanks again!

7:45 PM  
Blogger Caroline Davoust said...

I'm very glad to hear that you enjoy a good gummy bear from time to time.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Bex said...

So this is an old post but I just found your blog (and finished your book). Anyways, I just wanted to tell you that I'm quite positive that me and my Springer Spaniel passed only to ensure that we wouldn't re-take the class. I'm POSITIVE about this.

3:14 PM  

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