I have to admit my dog is a puppy school dropout. Though not through any fault of his own, Furgus didn’t get to finish with his class due to minor health issues. I was about to sign him up for obedience classes in January when I discovered he could take dance classes without them—let’s see, which sounds more enjoyable?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

As for his obedience education, I’ve been learning both informally in his dance classes and formally as part of Team Keva. Keva is my mother-in-law’s six-month-old Irish Water Spaniel who has a whole entourage working with her.

When my brother-in-law, Michael, was planning to get a puppy for himself last year, my mother-in-law, Pat, decided to get one also. No doubt she’d forgotten how challenging puppies can be, especially now that she is well into her eighth decade. (Let’s just say that I have had a hard time keeping up with my pup in this the tail-end of my fourth decade—just yesterday I discovered our recycling all over the yard after Furgus had been sampling the various papers and plastic containers. What? You think he still might need obedience class?) Nonetheless, Keva and her brother Norbert arrived around Thanksgiving and they’ve spent much of their days together while sleeping nights in their respective homes.

Sometimes it takes a village to train a puppy—or at least several relatives and friends. From the beginning of Keva’s days in Colorado, she has gone into the family business offices of Allwell Rents to play with Norbert. Bringing the puppies into work really is kind of like bringing them into a china shop since the Allwell showroom boasts tables set with tablecloths, dishes, and glassware.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert, Norbert & Keva

Because of that, Anne and Beth at Allwell have been training the puppies all along on indoor behavior—sort of a white gloves and party manners for dogs, right? Still, Anne and Beth really are supposed to be managing a business, not just training puppies. So Michael signed up Norbert for one obedience class session and Keva for another. (Trust me, I have twins and I know why teachers didn’t want them in the same classroom for years either!)

However, since early training classes these days are rather physical, as I remember from our puppy school days last year, someone else needed to take Keva to class. That’s when my son Jackson got added to Team Keva as the main handler and I got added as the note-taker/chauffeur.

Every Tuesday, for eight weeks, Jackson and I drove Pat and Keva to school. We had hoped that though Jackson officially took Keva through the moves, that once Jackson and Keva were done sitting on the floor, Pat would also be able to go out to work with them. That did not happen after the first session! With fourteen dogs, around twenty handlers, and three trainers, chaos ruled, even as the dogs were learning how to behave in a more disciplined fashion. The classroom noise was deafening—even I could barely hear well enough to take notes.

So Pat and I sat on the bench. Often Michael also arrived to watch since his dog’s trainer taught using different exercises. Then I’d type-up notes, sending over a copy for the people at work as well as a larger one for Pat. Jackson would work with his grandmother to work with the dog and Michael, Anne, and Beth would reinforce the training methods.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

But it wasn’t. Keva is an incredibly bright puppy who isn’t overly willful.

Last night the dogs and their handlers completed the course by competing in the final exercises. For the obedience portion, all of the participants circled up and walked around to the sound of music. Whenever the music stopped, the trainers barked a command. All participants who completed the move properly remained and began walking again as soon as the music returned. Miss Smarty-Pants Keva and Jackson lasted until the end, finishing second only because Keva completed the final command slower than the other dog did. She did everything as asked.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Now, I’m sure everyone else on Team Keva is glad that Jackson got to be the handler. Not only did Keva get to rollover, but also Jackson had to rollover (on the floor) while keeping Keva in a sitting position. His rollover was nearly as quick as the one Keva had done earlier!

Pat’s refrigerator now sports Keva’s red ribbon as testament to how well the puppy learned, even with a whole village training her. Good girl, Keva! Good job, Team Keva!

Now, back to working with my own puppy school dropout . . .