One day last January I came in the house after cleaning the snow off my car only to find the family room in total disarray. “What was the commotion in here while I was outside?” I asked my loquacious lovebird Pavo Rotti.
“Phydeaux your puckish poodle was in a good mood again Big Guy. He was licking himself, running in circles, having a great time. Sorry about the furniture. I hope nothing’s broken.”
“That’s okay Pavo. It can be fixed. But that’s an unusual display of energy for Phydeaux. What put him in such a good mood.”
“There was a great program on TV about obedience school Big Guy. I think you left it on by accident when you were looking around for your snow shovel. Phydeaux stopped by to watch because he’s sick of those dull, boring shows about the sex lives of wildebeests on PBS. I think it was something he could finally identify with.”
“But he’s already been to obedience school,” I said righting an overturned hassock.
“Yeah. But he said the refresher training was good for him. He made believe he was exercising in one of those midnight infomercials. When they did steps on the screen, he did steps. When they ran in tight circles, he chased his tail until he got dizzy. When they danced to the music, he bopped along until his hips hurt. When they fell in line, he acted like he was the drum major in a parade. He said it was great being able to respond without thinking about it.”
“This wasn’t that English lady who was so popular on the telly a few years ago was it? The one who taught old dogs new tricks?”
“I don’t think so Big Guy. But I couldn’t tell. I didn’t see the first part of the program. I was busy reading the paper on the bottom of my cage. And when Phydeaux came across the program he got so enthusiastic he knocked my portable TV sideways. All I could do after that was listen. But it sounded like a school for new dogs. Yuppie puppies I’d guess. Phydeaux watched and said they all looked pretty well groomed. But he also said they were young and clumsy, as if they’d never had any formal training. Before the program began there was a lot of sniffing and slobbering and jumping all over one another. But it sounded like it was all in good fun.”
“I’d guess from all the noise that it was pretty informal Pavo.”
“Phydeaux said it was like a big family picnic. Lots of relatives hanging around.”
“That’s understandable Pavo. Most puppies are natural born showoffs. It’s genetic. All part of being a good pup. They love to strut their stuff for friends and relatives. Most times they don’t even care how silly they look. Cats would never act that way.”
“But it ended when the trainers took over Big Guy. First they were taught to sit. Then they were made to look smart while being brought to heel. Then how to roll over. Finally they were taught to sit and speak on command. There was even someone there to whip them into shape. In no time at all, the trainers had them on short leashes. After that it was work, work, work and no more play.
“But before I went outside I could hear a lot of yipping and yapping in the background. Sounded serious. What was going on?”
“Phydeaux said there were some big old mutts in there when the young pups came in Big Guy. The old dogs got displaced and didn’t like it.”
“I’d say that from all the snarling I heard Pavo, it was more than a simple territorial dispute?”
“No question about it. I’d guess the old dogs thought they owned the territory and got a little anxious when the newcomers arrived. Realized they were about to lose their kennels and runs. Favorite trees and mailbox posts too. And you know how territorial dogs can be about squatting or lifting their legs.”
“But how did they get them settled down?”
“The last thing they did was have some kind of dog show and declare a winner.”
“What was the outcome Pavo?”
“Actually Big Guy, I’m not sure. But Phydeaux said there was a bleary-eyed, sheepdog that seemed to have won all the prizes. There was no question that he was the top dog because there was a lot of bowing and applauding every time he barked. And when he whined, they all paid attention. And he did plenty of that. The last thing he did was lead them in a grand finale, a kind of parade around the ring to demonstrate how well they worked together.”
“You sound like you were impressed by what you heard Pavo. What happened at the end?”
“Beats me Big Guy. That’s when Phydeaux stepped on the remote and shut it off. I never did hear what happened after that.”
I picked up the remote from the floor near his cage and hit the “on” button. C-Span came to life on the screen. There was a lot of milling about but nothing seemed to be going on so I picked up the Channel guide. To my surprise I couldn’t find a program listing an obedience class for dogs but I did find the schedule for the day. It was a calendar for the opening meeting of the newly elected House of Representatives.