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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Just over a year ago, I was waiting very impatiently for my new best canine friend to grow big enough to come live with me. Now Furgus, that much bigger puppy, is sleeping on my floor, after a full morning of on-again/off-again activity. He looks grown-up, but he’s still my baby.

The thing is, I think he’s always going to be my baby. This wild, active guy can race around the room, trying to get something started with his canine best friend Sam, then I can pull him onto my lap where he sits as still as if he has no idea he weighs over 50 pounds and is far from being a lapdog. Don’t know if that’s because that’s who he always was going to be or if living with me while I was injured trained him to learn to like slowing down, too.

Nighttime comes and after wrestling with Sam, all of a sudden he’s just done for the night. Well, unless we put him outside—it seems he can never just do his business. No, he has to sound one last alert to all the potential bad guys who might be lurking in the dark. Then he comes in to curl up in the small round bed we got for our dachshund Abel. Every one of our spaniels has been too big for this bed and every one of them has liked going nose to tail in it, even if only for a few minutes, but Furgus most of all.

Back in the beginning of both his time in our house and my injury, he used to wake up when Sherman did and then go into the shower room with him—which was another way to keep him contained for a little while longer. At first he used to come back to whine at the side of the bed, trying to get me—otherwise known as She-Who-Provides-Breakfast—to wake up. Now he doesn’t always even wake up until Sherman is ready to leave for work.

But if he sees me move, he goes into full wiggling spaniel-action. Yes, I do my best to avert my eyes or even keep them under the blanket until I am fully ready to deal with that very excited spaniel. Then it just kills him that I only pet him briefly before waking up slowly in front of the computer screen. He’s learned to back off until I give him the word, but that doesn’t stop him from whining as he lies on the floor, all woebegone. It is so hard to be a Velcro-Spaniel while being ignored!

(c) 2012

Eventually I wake up enough to give him that full attention he craves. If I gave into his puppy dog eyes every time he looked at me, this would really be one spoiled dog. Instead he is just minor-league spoiled, right? I mean this time around we have been training our dogs to wait at doors and stairs and such. That makes living with dogs so much nicer. Even the woman at the dog training center was impressed with how excited he is and yet can calm down—albeit briefly—enough to wait to be allowed to enter the door after me.

However, none of my other dogs ever spent so much lap-time with me. Trade-offs, I guess. Furgus really is a Gumby-Dog—you can just move him wherever you want and he’s absolutely happy to comply. Yet, he’ll get down right away if you say lap-time is over. As much as he seems willful, we don’t have to work too hard to change his behaviors. I think he’s really more enthusiastic about life than thinking he’s in charge—well, with a few reminders anyway.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Furgus and I continue to go to dog dancing classes. Goofy as that may sound, the classes are teaching him to listen to me while he is having fun, using that brain of his, and working off energy. This style of dog-training suits us both well—isn’t it just perfect that someone like me brought home a dog who has wanted to dance with me from his youngest days? His responses to music led me to check out canine freestyle dancing in the first place.

Looking back at my horoscope for the day I picked him up last year made me laugh. I don’t even know what this means but I just want to share that apparently Pluto (you know, the former planet) rules my 5th house of true love and signaled the sun that day. Furgus was my density, I mean, destiny.

Don’t worry, Sherman is my human best friend and true love, but Furgus is this woman’s canine best friend and true love. Let’s face it, true (puppy) love is not as complicated as human love—especially since only one of us can really talk. I’m lucky to be in love with this best friend.

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"Beware of Dog . . . Dancing" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

We liked it, we really liked it! Yes, Furgus and I went to our initial dog dancing class this past Saturday. To tell you the truth, I arrived questioning the whole idea—after all he hasn’t even reached eleven months on this earth.

You see, when we’d last been to the dog training facility, he had been taking Puppy Kindergarten. No matter what he knew at home, he always acted wilder there because everything was just so exciting—people, puppies, treats, smells—yikes! He never even got to graduate or say goodbye to his furry puppy friends, thanks to the vermin brought by our rescue dog Sam. That makes Furgus a puppy school dropout who has only been homeschooled (streetschooled?) since then.

Our current instructor said he didn’t need to have been through a formal obedience class to participate. Still, I knew he had too much energy and got too excited about school, so before we even arrived for class, I made sure to take him on my post-physical therapy one-mile run and one-mile walk.

Though I brought him in the crate, he still knew where we were when we turned into the parking lot. After several rounds together around the parking lot, I took a deep breath and walked (well, tried to walk) him to the foot/paw sterilizing station outside the door. Just try to spray four moving targets . . . at least I got my two feet done well.

Yes, my dog was that dog—the one who put his paws on the desk, the one who pulled at his leash, the one who whined non-stop, etc. Once again in my life, I felt like the mother of the child everyone considered “bad” for having too much energy. (Sorry to my son Jackson, but it’s true! Parents of low-energy children often consider high-energy children to have been poorly-parented, at best—and the child also to be morally bereft, at worst.)

It seemed as if Furgus were just too young for the class. I kept us separated from all social interactions, human and canine, so I could focus on trying to calm my charge. It didn’t matter—he continued with the monkey sounds even as the instructor brought us together to tell us how things worked. Once again, it felt just like at soccer practices in the early years with my son who couldn’t listen when the coach began practices by talking—just to be clear, though, my son never made monkey noises.

Fortunately, the instructor was wiser than some of our first soccer coaches. When time came to demonstrate the first move, she looked at him and said to me, “Your dog looks ready to go. I’ll start with him.”

Once Furgus got to work learning, he calmed down. It was all about the doing—and the treats!—for him. In fact, he learned quickly and now I felt proud. (Again, another comparison with my son—I swear I don’t think of Jackson as a puppy, but he was puppy-like in enthusiasm many times in his life!)

Really, the only problems we had in class from then on seemed to stem from my inability to slow down and/or get treats moving in the proper direction with the proper timing. Yes, back to that “handler error” pointed out to me when I was training my Chelsea over twenty years ago—I’m still not sure if I am as smart as an English Springer Spaniel when it comes to training moves and consistency!

Oh, he still seemed to think we were working on adding singing to the dancing, but at least he focused on the tasks at hand.

Now we are practicing at home for our next class session. The tricky part is that although I couldn’t convince either Sherman or Jackson to bring Sam to class—they seem to think dancing with dogs is dorky!—Sam is quite interested in dog dancing. Takes a lot of coordination between all of us to work with the dogs separately.

Yes, Sam apparently has begun dog dancing homeschooling lessons because he’s not at all interested in remaining a spectator to our sport—unless I can convince one of the guys to join the class for his sake.

This morning I got the dogs to turn in tandem using commands only and no treats on the very first try. We did it several more times—they really do know what to do.

Out of our way, folks. We’re working on getting to appear on Letterman for a “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment. Guess I’ll just send the guys a postcard from New York City when we arrive . . .

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Do you want proof I’m certifiably nuts? I just signed up Furgus (and me!) for a dog dancing class. Hey, we do this around the house anyway. Plus he’s one smart fellow—and it’s probably a good way to burn off some of his extra energy and reduce a few of his home-based hijinks.

I received one of those Internet forwards that showed me trained dogs doing a bunch of twirling and leaping on command. While I watched that, I thought, “My dogs could do that.” So I brought out the treats and started working them on an upright twirl—after all, frequent Puppy Smackdowns build a pretty strong core section. Furgus got the concept within a few minutes. Sam is still a little confused about the whole thing, but he can get it from time to time.

I can’t really train two dogs to dance at the same time, yet I’m not sure I’m going to get either of the guys in my family to step up to teach Sam to two-step or anything else like that. More’s the pity because these are the most graceful English Springer Spaniels we’ve ever had. However, Sherman is looking into doing a more traditional training class for Sam, which could lead to them training together for agility, something Sam should be really good at doing.

Of course, Furgus could stand to be in an environment where he gets some focused training on following me—which is why I was in the process of signing him up for training. But then I discovered he would be able to take dance class first and be learning to follow me better there—after all Sherman can tell you I always want to lead in dancing!

Besides, Furgus loves attention, both from people and other dogs. My previous “wild child” dog, Chelsea, really liked the applause in training, becoming a much better-behaved dog when it was “show time” than any of us expected.

With Furgus’ handsome good looks and apparent expectations that life will be both exciting and go well for him, why wouldn’t he be the guy who likes to celebrate on the dance floor? Especially if there are treats involved . . .

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