#9 – Training Raud, Part Three

So now it’s Huckleberry’s turn to do a little training out front of the house while Franny and Hamish watch from the living room picture window.

“Huckleberry, sit,” I say.

“Okay, like this?” he says and sits.

“That’s perfect, pal.” I offer him a treat but he ignores it.

“Are you sure you brought my ball?” he asks.

“Yes, I brought your ball.”

“But I don’t see it.”

“It’s in my pocket.”

“Are you sure? Your pockets have holes in them.”

He’s right. I learned the hard way not to leave treats in my shorts pockets and then leave the shorts in the laundry basket within reach of the dogs.

“Are you sure you didn’t leave it in the house because if you left it inside I bet Hamish is having loads of fun playing with it.” He looks longingly toward the house. “I wish I was playing with my ball right now instead of doing whatever this is that we’re doing. What are we doing anyway? Why are we hanging out in the driveway like a couple of panhandlers? Did you forget your sign? Oh, boy, I know what your sign should say, Will Work for Balls.”

I smile and say, “You’re learning impulse control.”

He tilts his head to the side. “Impulse control? That’s silly. What I really need to learn is ball control. Are you sure you brought my ball because I still can’t see it.”

He’s now got me wondering even though I can feel it in my back pocket. I reach around and take his orange ball from my pocket. At the sight of it, he breaks his sit, springs into the air with all four paws lifting off the ground like the space shuttle, and starts barking at me to throw it.

“Oh look, Raud, there’s a ball in your hand. Where’d that come from? That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Throw it, Raud. Throw the ball.”

#8 – Training Raud, Part Two

It’s now Franny’s turn to train out front of the house while Huckleberry and Hamish watch us from the living room picture window.

I clear my throat, hoping for better results than I had with Hamish. “Franny, sit.”

She sits.

I give her a little round treat the size of an oyster cracker, just three calories. I’m always counting calories for Franny or else she’d be twice the size she should be. Or more, She’s a Lab.

She inhales the treat without chewing, then stares at me. “What? Only one treat? That was like the smallest treat I’ve every seen. Where’d you get those? The doll house store? Besides, that was the best sit I’ve ever done, worthy of an Olympic score of ten across the board, and you reward me with one tiny treat. It’s worth at least three but probably more if I had higher self-esteem.”

“I’ll give you another if you stay sitting for a minute.” I start the stopwatch hanging from my treat pouch.

She shakes her head like her ears itch. “A whole minute? But that squirrel over in that tree is giving me the stink eye and he needs to be taken down a few notches. Do you know what happens if you don’t keep those squirrels in check?”

“Actually, no. What happens?”

Her eyes get really big, showing lots of white. “Squirrels will grow and grow until they’re the size of walruses and then they’ll take over the world. It’ll be you sitting here begging for your squirrel overlord to toss you a treat. And guess what that treat is going to be. A freaking sunflower seed.”

“And where will dogs be once the squirrels take over?” I ask.

“We’re going to evacuate to the moon. It’s made of real cheese, you know.”

I look at the stopwatch and say, “There, it’s been a minute. Have another treat.”

She gobbles it down.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” I say. “Do you want to try for three minutes?”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” she says and bolts toward the tree where the squirrel is.

“Franny, what are you doing?” I ask, following her.

“Saving the world.”

#7 – Training Raud, Part One

Hamish and I are out in front of the house having a training session to freshen up the basics while Franny and Huckleberry watch us from the living room picture window.

“Hamish, sit,” I say.

“Why are you being so bossy, Raud?” he asks.

“I’m not. We’re training, so sit.”

“Why? My legs aren’t tired. If yours are, you should sit.”

“Why don’t you show me how.”

He slowly shakes his head. “I’m not falling for that.”

I hold up a treat so he can see it. “If you sit, I’ll give you this yummy cheesy cracker.”

He tilts his head at me, but not in that cute, quizzical manner, but more like the dog equivalent of a person putting their hands on their hips. “I’m no fool, Raud. That’s not a cracker, that’s recycled cardboard with a vague cheese-like flavor reminiscent of yellow sidewalk chalk.”

I look closer at the treat, take a tiny bite, and have to agree with him.

“See?” he says.

“Okay, so how do I get you to sit?” I ask.

“You can start by saying please.”

“Please sit.”

He tilts his head to the other side, a smile on his face. He’s gained the upper hand and knows it. “And I want real cheese, the same cheese you put on your grilled sandwiches.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, I want real crackers, saltines, the big square ones, not those puny oyster crackers you put in the soup you won’t share.”

“And then you’ll sit?”

“We’ll see.”

#6 – Boundaries

I’m sitting in a shady part of the backyard, spacing out at nothing in particular and not even trying to think up something to write, when Hamish comes over and quietly curls up next to my chair.

“You look sad, Raud,” he says, looking up at me.

“I got into a fight last night and I hate getting into fights.”

Hamish jumps up and calls to the others. “ Get over here. Raud got into a fight.”

Franny and Huckleberry run over. “Is he bit?” Huckleberry asks.

“We’ll clean it for you, Raud,” Franny says, sniffing my legs for injuries.

“Calm down, you guys. I’m not bit,” I say.

Hamish smiles and nods his head. “So you won the fight. That’s good.”

I shake my head. “Nobody won anything because it wasn’t that sort of fight. I should’ve said argument.”

Huckleberry looks over at Hamish, but says to me, “Someone took your stick, eh?”

I now notice Hamish has a stick I saw Huckleberry with earlier. “Actually, when I think about it, the argument was really about personal boundaries,” I say.

The dogs tilt their heads at one another and then at me. “What are personal boundaries?” they ask.

“Some of my friends and I hold very strong opinions on certain topics that are polar opposites, so I make a point of steering clear of these topics so that we can remain friends, but last night a friend and I stumbled into one of these topics and it didn’t end well.”

Huckleberry tilts his head at Franny, and since she’s the oldest, he asks her, “Can you explain what he’s saying? He’s making no sense to me.”

“Well…” she says and pauses to think a moment. “It sounds like he sat too close to his friend’s food bowl when there was still food in it.”

“Oh, that’s not good,” Huckleberry says, glancing at Hamish.

Hamish grins at Huck, then looks up at me. “It’s okay, Raud. Once you learn that lesson you don’t need to learn it again.”

#5 – Itchy

I’m outside in a shady part of the backyard, scratching my head with the eraser end of my pencil as I try again to come up with a short story idea, when Huckleberry trots over with his orange ball and tosses it at my feet.

“What’s up, Raud?” He tilts his head to the side. “You look like you’ve got fleas scratching your head like that. Check the end of your pencil stick to see if you squished any of them buggers.”

I look at him and say, “I don’t have fleas.”

“You sure are scratching your head like you do.”

“No, really, I don’t have fleas,” I say. “I was just trying to–”

“Hey, everyone,” he interrupts, calling to Franny and Hamish, my two other dogs. “Raud has fleas.”

“I don’t have fleas,” I say to the others as they amble over.

Hamish plops onto his butt and starts scratching the back of his head with his right rear legs. “So that’s where I got them from. Are people fleas worse than dog fleas? Because it sure feels like it.”

I shake my head. “I don’t have fleas.”

The dogs look at one another and chuckle. “That’s what we all say,” they say in unison.

Franny moves in closer, licking her chops. “We’ve got a cure for fleas,” she says with an impish grin. “We eat ‘em.”

I shake my head again. “I’m not eating my fleas.”

Huckleberry’s ears perk up. “Ah, so then you do have fleas.”

The three of them crowd in closer. “Don’t worry, Raud, we’ll eat them for you.”

#4 – Pizza

While sitting outside on my patio trying to think up an idea for a short story, my dog Franny ambles over with a stick in her mouth.

“Whatcha doing, Raud?” she slurs around her stick like a day drinker.

“Trying to write a love poem,” I answer flippantly, frustrated with my efforts.

“Ahhh,” she coos. “I like thinking of pizza too, but wouldn’t it be easier to just order one? They’ll deliver a pie of love right to our front door. That’ll inspire a lot of love poems. And if you order pepperoni they’ll be spicy love poems.”