Friday, February 25, 2005

Hey, Pavlov! You wanna piece a dis?!

Well, it's no big news that we have a beagle puppy in our household. We picked him up the day after Thanksgiving, and that was pretty much the sum of my Black Fiday shopping.

The deal was that he would to be our daughter's dog. She has her mind set on becoming a small game hunter and, as I mentioned to my hubby, "It just ain't no fun unless ya' got a hound." However, having grown up with beagles, I know how they are. Or can be. I decided to leave the final decision in my husband's naive hands.

Now don't get me wrong - he did meet my family's last beagle, Spike. Everyone liked to explain away Spike's odd behavior, excusing him because he was the unfortunate victim of an electrocution when he was rather young. Well, like they say, excuses are like ...well, you know what they say. The truth is, he was just evil. Plain old evil incarnate in the form of a 13 inch beagle.

I guess I would not be completely honest if I didn't admit that Spike was never really trained. And as far as top dog status, he was always testing the hierarchy. He did figure out that he was somewhere above my mother but still a little sketchy when it came to me or my father. I was determined not to take any of his shit. Even though it meant donning leather welding gloves and holding his snarling little demon muzzle in my hands when it was time to go anywhere, I knew I could not afford to yield my place on the Slippery Ladder of Dogdom.

And so, with these precious memories in mind, I told my husband that I didn't care if we did or did not get a beagle, I just did not want to hear him crying about it later.

Enter Jasper.

I have to admit, he's cute. Darn cute. So darn cute that he's spent way too many nights in my bed under the down comforter (don't tell the guys at the hunting club!). He is not so cute, however, that I can let the lessons I learned with Spike slip into that same fuzzy part of memory that tells you "You weren't really that nerdy as a kid..." I am taking this very seriously.

One of my main concerns with having a nose dog is their tendency to follow that nose with wild abandon and never come back when you want them to. They eventually will come back but not until they've impregnated your neighbor's dog, rolled in some crap, drained your bank account and leave your car abandoned on a dirt road across state lines. This led me to search the internet for some advice.

First, I must admit how surprised I was to find the amount of information posted by old timey beagle guys. Who ever would have thought? Not me. At any rate, my search led me to the site for Beagles Unlimited where I found a wealth of information on dealing with the animals. No dog is gonna get my goat, no siree...

The advice I found suggested to get a whistle and some pieces of hot dog. So far, so good. The idea is to have the dog associate the sound of the whistle with the oh-so-delicious treat of hot dog. Fair enough.

I went to the local farmer's market and began my search for a whistle. You would think there would be a rather large assortment considering most of the vendors at the farmer's market are not, in fact, farmers but folks of various East Asian persuasion, selling everything from Nike sneakers to laser thingy key chains. You would think. But no, that is not the case. The only whistle to be found at the farmer's market was a shiny purple affair on a gigantic ring - something like a prison guard would wear hooked onto his belt. The whistle comes home with me.

Next for the hot dogs. Fortunately, I remembered to pick some up during the Big Meat Sale (see previous post). I take a hot dog ( will he like turkey franks or would he rather beef?) and slice it into 1/4 inch chunks. Now to try out my stuff...

I pick up the whistle and give two blows. Tweet, tweet. Jasper is already sitting at my feet. He smelled the hot dogs before I even sliced open the plastic package. I look at him, say "Come on, Jasper", feed him a slice of hot dog and tell him "Good boy." He never moved an inch. We are both very happy with the progress we're making. It is time for the Great Outdoors.

I put on my Woolrich coat, slip the hot dog pieces in to a sandwich baggie and put it in my pocket, put my cell block whistle on my wrist and out the door we go.

Jasper immediately bounds off into the snow. Tweet, tweet. He looks at me, doing that head-tilt thing that dogs do. I wiggle a piece of hot dog at him "Come on, Jasper." He runs over and takes the hot dog. "Good boy."

A few minutes into the woods. Tweet, tweet. "Come on, Jasper." He pauses, sees the hot dog and bounds toward me. As he takes the hot dog his eyes say "I love you. You give me hot dogs. You are my world. Give me more. Please just give me some more." "Good boy."

And so it goes, walk a little, whistle, give the prize, give the praise. Things are gonna be ok.

If only it was that easy all the time, for everything.

"Oh, you brought in the second deposit on your home? Good boy. Here's your hot dog."

"You took care of that glitch with my account? Oooh, aren't you a good girl! Hot dog for you!"

"Your homework is done and you decided to clean the house with your free time?! Yay! Hot dogs all around!"

I guess I should just be happy that it only took me four days to remember to take the leftover hot dog treats out of my pocket. Good girl.

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