A few years ago, after our house had been broken into, friends and neighbors all agreed that we should get a dog. A big dog, with a loud bark and sharp teeth.
Through a friend of a friend we got a Belgian Sheppard, not exactly a puppy anymore, but not a fully grown animal either. We called her Laura.
Laura grew at an alarming speed and as she got bigger in size, so her strength grew too. Taking her for walks became a comical affair. Laura pulled on her leach and whoever saw us must have wondered … who is taking who for a walk?
“Take her to obedience school,” my neighbor said. “Classes are every Sunday afternoon.”
The following Sunday, Laura and I took a walk to the training grounds and enrolled in the beginners class. That same Sunday, seven other people with their dogs started too.
Almost from day one it became clear that Laura was not like other dogs. Other dogs would listen to their master, but not my dog. She rolled around in the grass, smelled the dandelions and chased the butterflies.
Making Laura sit on command sort of worked, making her lie down was a challenge, but getting her to stay while I walked away didn’t work at all. As soon as I was four feet away she would come to me. No matter how many times I said (in an firm voice) “Stay!”, Laura had other ideas.
“That dog is hopeless,” the training master said. “A Belgian Sheppard is a smart animal, a natural protector, but Laura clearly isn’t smart enough to follow the simplest of instructions, how is she ever going to protect you?”
I had been wondering about that myself.
“Are you practicing with her at home?” he asked.
“Every day,” I said.
The trainer gave her until the end of the month and if she didn’t improve she would fail the beginners course and unable to move to the advanced course.
“Can’t she take the beginners course again?” I asked the instructor.
“No,” he said, “if she couldn’t do it the first time, she won’t be able to do it the second time around. If you ask me Laura simply isn’t smart enough.”
That last Sunday of the month was exam time. Every dog and his/her master was called to the center of the training grounds and was asked to perform a series of commands. When Laura and I were called I held my breath … would she rise to the challenge? Laura did sit on commend, but failed all the other tests.
“I’m sorry,” the instructor said. “But Laura is hopeless, there’s no point coming back next Sunday.”
With this the instructor walked up to me and wanted to shake hands with me.
As soon as the man extended his arm toward me, out of nowhere Laura jumped up and bit him in the arm, growling as she did so.
If she hadn’t flunked the course before, she had now, because biting the instructor was an absolute no no. She had in fact more than flunked, she was banned for life.
As we walked home … well, Laura walked home and dragged me behind her, I couldn’t stop smiling. Laura had just deserved a big juicy bone. She might be no genius where it came to sitting and lying down, but where it came to protecting me, I had nothing to worry about.