It’s the same every day for this dog trainer: Wake up. Let dogs out. Stumble toward the Keurig. Stop halfway to let a dog back in.
Attempt to drink coffee, but another dog needs in. (They sarcastically refuse to use the dog door on the side of the house if they can see me from a window — what on Earth are our thumbs for if not to open and close doors for dogs?)
Drink coffee while playing the “open and close the back door” game with four large dogs who do not have the need of caffeine in the morning.
Take a shower. More door games. Now I yell at the dogs to quit barking at a deer 1,009 feet away in the back pasture. Now I yell louder and I add some cuss words. I use a little known dog training command at the top of my voice: “DON’T BE AN A-HOLE!” You can use that on your dogs if you like. They will probably ignore it, just as mine do. Dogs apparently do not understand what an a-hole is, or, if they do, they like it.
Call either the horse vet or the dog vet because it seems that I can’t go a week without seeing one or the other. I wouldn’t want to hurt a vet’s feelings and make him or her feel unloved. Vets are crucial to our operation here. Sometimes when I have a doctor’s appointment, I say I am taking myself to the vet by mistake.
The two Border Collies — the BCs, as I call them — have to go back to the vet, so I open the back door to try to get them to do their business before the trip into town. They go out but turn around as soon as I shut the door. They stare at me through the glass.
As I call one dog to load up in the Tahoe, he decides NOW he has to go, and does so in the backyard — but he is sure to go through the deepest muck created by melting snow, tracking mud through the house and into the car. I think about crying because of the mess, but I realize that my tears will just wet the mud down more, making it easier to spread by the 16 paws that roam through our house.
On the way to the vet, the muddy one insists that the back window be rolled down so that he can stick his head out. He stares at the driver’s seat until I agree to do as I’m told (I can feel his eyes boring a hole through the back of my head). I put down his window, even though it is way below freezing outside. Next we play the “open the window so I can stick my head out” and “now close that window because I am cold” game all the way to the vet.
The female BC is just sitting in the far back of the vehicle with a look of disgust on her face towards her brother, who now has a BC Mohawk from sticking his head out the window. He goes and sits behind her at the very, very back of the Tahoe, so she can block the cold wind. I put the window up.
Back from the vet — or what I call the “emptying of the wallet” — the two BCs are now sulky, but not so sulky that they can’t play the “open and close the backyard door” and the “get out of here, deer!” game a few times.
I sit down to eat my lunch at the kitchen table. The dogs are permitted to stay if they lie down quietly while the humans eat. Monster, the 125-pound Irish Wolfhound mix, agrees to lie down but he tries to cheat and goes halfway down with his legs sticking out in every direction. This makes me laugh. I nearly choke to death on my lunch. Next he agrees to the “lie down” cue but he wants me to know he is there so he starts licking my right leg. Lacy, the older dog, starts up with some odd moaning sounds so I will know she is further under the table in case I feel like dropping her some chicken.
As I have a Wolfhound licking my right leg and an old, farting dog moaning under the table, I look around for my BCs. They are not currently licking or farting, so I am not sure where they are. I find them lying next to each other in a perfect down stay by the back door, glaring hard at the Wolfhound and the old stinky dog, worrying that these two inferior, rebellious dogs will ruin their chance for some of my chicken.
After lunch is shared with all the dogs who did manage a down stay, the “open the door and close the door” game resumes. As does the “Is that a deer? I think that is a deer!” barking game. Sometimes they mix it up and bark at birds who have the nerve to fly overhead. Once I had to rescue the male BC from ravens, who were tired of him and actually swooped down on him. Ravens are really, really big in Colorado. And loud, but not as loud as BCs who hate ravens.
After I pretend to get some work done — hard to do with the door games of the canines — I take all of my four-legged canine companions on an off-leash walk around our property. They stay close to me and generally come when called, unless a bastard raven flies overhead. (Or a hawk. Or an eagle. Or a blue heron. Smaller birds get a pass.) They eat lots of deer poop and chase prairie dogs into their holes, and because of that, I hear prairie dogs screaming during our entire hour-long walk: “Here comes that lady with the dogs!! The dogs!!! Warning! The dogs are coming!”
After the walk, I have to go down to the barn to meet the horse vet because, as I said, I don’t want to leave a vet out and get on his bad side. When I arrive at the barn, I realize that the three big dogs have run out through their doggie door. They are all barking, barking, barking at the back fence to alert me to the fact that there is someone at the barn in a strange truck. I am aware of this fact, as I am standing in front of the barn with the vet trying to talk with her about the horses — only we can’t hear over the barking alert system at the house.
The fourth dog, the male BC, refuses to ever use the doggie door because his sister growled at him once when he came through it and got too close to her as a puppy. He is eight now. I feel he is directly responsible for teaching the others about the “open the door, close the door” game.
Since that dog won’t go out the doggie door, he feels left out and sad about not being able to alert me to the strange truck down at the barn, so naturally he starts to howl. The others join him in an act of solidarity. That makes the six donkeys start to bray. Now I can’t hear anything the vet is saying, but it sounds suspiciously like: “You’re that dog trainer, right?”
I walk back to the house after the horses get some shots, my ears ringing from the donkey braying and the chorus of the dogs howling. I make my dinner. I sit down to eat at the kitchen table and tell the dogs to lie down. The Wolfie does his half down stance and looks at me with his huge brown eyes, asking if that is close enough to a down stay. I laugh and nearly choke on my dinner. He lays down and starts to lick my right leg. Lacy, the old stinky dog, starts moaning deep under the table. The BCs are next to each other in a perfect down stay by the back door, glaring at the other two dogs …
… and so it goes.
Annie Phenix supports her four dogs, six donkeys, and two horses with her writing. Sometimes that means no one eats a very good dinner. Luckily for the animals she shares her life with, she is also a professional dog trainer.