Down. Stay. Come. Good Boy.

We enrolled Logan in obedience training during the winter of 2007. I remember because my wife, Erica was pregnant with our first child, Joshua. The reason I mention my wife’s pregnancy is because it was she, at 7 months pregnant, who participated in the classes while I, like the world’s most self-absorbed, uncaring husband, tipped back on a metal folding chair and watched her march around the room in a parade of dogs, led along by a 70-lb. Labrador.

A little backstory. As I’ve mentioned, I grew up with dogs. There was a dog in the house the day I was born, and there have been dogs in my life ever since. I’ve helped raise them from puppies, cleaned up messes, been to obedience training, and learned the proper way to heel a dog. Erica, on the other hand, was raised in a dogless household and, since she moved to New York City after college and immediately embarked on a fast-paced career, never had the opportunity to own a dog.

Cut to the present. We live in a rural area of southern Vermont. We have a yard and our house is set back from the road. It was an easy decision to get a dog. But when it came time to train him, we decided it would be “educational” for Erica to go through the motions, given that Logan would be spending his days with her at her home office.

As it happened, the obedience classes coincided with the third trimester of her pregnancy. Erica, being a strong-willed individual and, despite my offers to take the lead (so to speak), was intent on completing the course by herself, with my job being to offer moral support from the sidelines. After 7 weeks of classes, Logan was improving. He had perfected his “sit” and “heel,” but was still having trouble with “down” and “stay.” Unfortunately, time was up. We had reached the end of the course—there was just one more class and then… graduation.

I was excited for the last class but my elation immediately ended upon finding out that Erica would not be attending. This wasn’t pregnancy-related, though. This was all business—her last trip down to her company’s corporate headquarters before maternity leave. So there it was. Session 8. Logan and me. I have to admit, my training skills were a tad rusty. How we made it around those little orange traffic cones is beyond me. When it came time for the finale: the long “down, stay, come,” I could feel myself trying to channel my brainwaves into Logan’s head. This was the big one. A full minute. The longest minute of my life. It was a stare down with just 6 feet between us. The clock ticked… slowly. :10, :15, :30, :31, :46… and then… Logan nonchalantly got up and walked across the room to check out a cute Jack Russell terrier.

I learned a lot about obedience training. The main thing was that, as long as you pay up front, and your dog doesn’t eat a classmate, everyone passes. As for Logan, I can’t say he got a lot out of the experience. Though he did get a diploma with his name on it, and a cookie. And he may have gotten that Jack Russell’s phone number, but I’m not sure.

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