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Opie goes to obedience school - A personal journey conclusion, sort of

December 27, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

When someone has all the promise in the world, all the talent, all the goods, and then throws it to the wind, it is always a time of sadness. All one can do is shake his head at what might have been.

The bouvier des Flandres named Opie was primed to excel as we walked into his graduation day competition at Peaceable Paws. He had come a million miles since his first class, when he was so hyper and out of his mind with unreasonable excitement that he went full TV weather girl and had to have visual barriers placed around his person so as to put the brakes on overstimulation.

Since that time, he had adjusted, learned to associate with other dogs and stopped spinning crazily around the classroom like a finless missile, for the most part. He's even learned a few things along the way. More than a few. Enough that I went in foolishly thinking that he had a puncher's chance to win these doggie Olympics.

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And he choked, like a choking dog - except in this case, he really is a choking dog. So much talent, and he only wound up with shameful bronze. Opie is the Michelle Kwan of the dog world.

As admitted last time, I confess to being part of the problem. For example, the handler is encouraged to gain the dog's attention by making "kissy noises." I am completely confident in manhood, but I'll tell you this: It will be a cold day in hell when I start making "kissy noises" or anything resembling "kissy noises" to an animal in front of a room full of people.

Anyway, Opie dug himself a hole right off the bat in a competition called "puppy pushups," which frankly only is slightly to the north of "kissy noises" in terms of dignity. To complete a puppy pushup, the dog must sit on command, then go down on command. Then sit, then down and so on. Most pushups wins.

Opie responds to "sit" and "down." The problem is that when the dog stands up in between, it is viewed as a disqualification and the count begins anew. Well, keeping the BDF earthbound for more than a few seconds at a time is an art that has not been accomplished to date. If the rules had been: Sit, down, jump 4 feet off the ground, sit, down, jump 4 feet off the ground, we would have been golden.

As it was, Opie only strung together three pushups, and if we'd had a French judge, he probably wouldn't have been awarded those. Meanwhile, the beautiful border collie and eventual gold medalist Roxanne was doing 17. Even Beth's English bulldog Hannah - a dog that is built much like an aircraft carrier, although not as nimble - was able to nail five.

The pattern for the evening had been set. I could have stomached losing to Roxanne, but losing to Hannah ...

Hannah is like your own teenager. At home, he's surly, grumpy, foul-mouthed and nonresponsive, but get him out in public and he's the picture of charm and articulation and everyone says, "Oh, what a wonderful kid you have, he must be a joy to have around," and you think to yourself, "Humph."

Hannah Banana is like this. Basically moribund at home, you get her in front of an audience and she turns into Katie Freaking Couric. For her, there was the glory of second place, which she celebrated by promptly going home and falling asleep.

Opie did have some bright spots. But any though of a comeback was quashed when it came time to walk on a leash. Here's what a leash is to Opie: A toy given to a good dog to provide the entertainment of chewing it in half.

I have other issues as well. For example, during the competition, you got a point (called a bonus bone) if your dog went outside for a poo. I thought I'd have that one in the bag, so to speak - I had followed Opie around all evening trying to distract him so he wouldn't leave his bonus bone steaming in our backyard. But two seconds before we got in the truck, he hunched, with me there screaming, "No, no, NOOOO!"

Symbolic of the whole evening, as it turned out. But he did graduate and he received his diploma. Sort of like the scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," Beth said. So that means we can move on to Level II, if I have the strength.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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