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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.

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 . . .

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Sam, the two-year-old dog, has helped greatly with the puppy while my back has been acting up. Much as I’d like to leave Furgus’ training in First Samuel’s paws, he’s not quite Nana from Disney’s Peter Pan.

My baby’s growing up and needs more training of the human kind. So today Furgus began attending puppy kindergarten. I’m really the one who started puppy kindergarten—which is more about training the humans than the puppies. This time I have great hopes of avoiding some of the mistakes I made with my earlier dogs—errors that made it more exhausting for me or guests to be around them.

Look, if it were that easy for me to be consistent, I’d just read the books and be done with it. No, I do better in a classroom environment where I get to see examples and hear reminders.

Besides, there is no denying that grouping puppies together is pretty high on the cute-ometer. Who can feel grumpy in that setting? Might not bring about world peace, but it works well at lowering stress levels, especially when you get your often ornery rascal into an environment designed for encouraging good behavior.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Everyone’s puppy is adorable. Lazy word choice, I know, but really, it’s so true. In addition to my black tri-color English Springer spaniel, our cozy group includes a silky black German Shepherd, a very spotty liver and white Dalmatian, a fluffy Golden Retriever, a pointy-eared Australian cattle dog, and a little pug. Too bad none of us has much time to focus on the other pups!

My little food hound really, really likes the whole treat/training concept. Next time I better wear clothes with pockets so both my hands don’t smell quite so delicious.

Plus, thanks to Furgus’ growing up running around on a ranch with both his litter-mates and adult dogs, he is very social. He loves nothing better than being part of an active pack. Since he still has one more round of shots to go, he hasn’t been out much with other dogs besides our Sam and Abel.

Once it came time for free play time, it was easy to see which dogs had playmates at home. My guy, the shepherd, and the Golden were a busy threesome, happy to wrestle around with others just their size.

When I opened the door and returned the carrier to our house floor, Sam met me with his oh-so how-could-you-leave-me-behind eyes. After Furgus ran outside to do his business, he plopped onto the rug and fell into a silent and motionless sleep.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I don’t think Sam cares one iota that he’s far too advanced for kindergarten—all he knows is I left him home while I took away his puppy—his puppy!—and brought Furgus home too tired to play and smelling of all the other “kids” in the class.

That’s just the price he’s going to have to pay for being the older and wiser guy—who might appreciate a better behaved puppy himself.

Besides, there’s no way I’m going to get by with giving treats only to Furgus. Furgus and I will be working on the homework while Sam gets to join in at snack time for doing all the lessons he’s already passed.

Go to the head of the class, Sam—Furgus is following right behind your capable footsteps.

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