Zozo’s found his curl-up spots around the apartment where he and Dragon can snuggle and wrestle. He’s established some form of truce with Athena, the intricacies and boundaries of which I don’t understand. He’s known since Day Three which apartment is ours, so as we exit the elevator we drop his leash and let him trot happily along the hallway and sit by the door until we make our way home. We’ve had to carry him back to the building after a particularly long walk when he decided he wouldn’t take any more steps.
He’s 9 months old. He’s doubled in weight since July and his fur is growing out into a lovely Zo-fro. He’s happy. Also, he’s trying very hard to be a good boy and we’re trying very hard to not let him see when he’s pushed our buttons. The training manuals and online videos aren’t working for us. It’s time to call in reinforcements.
During one of our weekly excursions to Petsmart, I loitered by the floor-to-ceiling glass to watch a puppy training group roly-pol through socialization exercises. Zo’s a monster compared to those pups. His paws alone… But we’re here ALL THE TIME now. Might as well ask someone if Doodle (that’s nickname number two, for those of you keeping score at home) could possibly be allowed to participate in a smaller class.
Lo and behold: his condition is not unique! There are plenty of non-puppies who need a little obedience love. We’re registered. Tuition has been paid. High-value treats have been procured (Zo’s very food motivated, which is just another way we know he was meant to be our dog). We now have a real weekly date at Petsmart.
We are Beginners. We are proud.
At our first training session, Zozo becomes enamored with our assigned trainer, who has recently immigrated to the States with her doctor-husband after having an illustrious career as a dog whisperer in Korea. She’s superb. She’s commanding. She comes bearing liver snaps. Instant BFF.
Slowly, Zo starts to retain the lessons. He’s a little ADD so we may be working on sit wheeee—SQUIRREL. What were we doing? Oh, right.
We master “sit” and we’re trying to finesse his “down” so that it’s not a belly-flop followed by an eruption of loose fur. He’s ok shaking his left paw, but he’s not interested in adding the right. (I’m left handed; we’ll have a life of oppression together.) He’s fine walking on-leash loosely in the store, but the minute we hit the outdoors it’s all out the window. Something to continue working on. He’s learning to leave his treats until prompted to eat, and to share his toys with the other dogs in class.
By the way, say “loose leash walking” five times fast. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Zo’s favorite new skill is double-high five. We put our hands up, palms out, by our shoulders and he’ll pop up on his back legs to touch his front paws to ours. Sure, his aim is bad and occasionally we end up looking like middle-schoolers slow dancing, but it’s worth it for the little kiss on the nose he throws in. Every time.
The six weeks fly by as his confidence grows in leaps and bounds. The final class is a culmination of the program, a test of the skills and tricks we’ve been working on. We’re overachievers. We’ve been doing our homework. This exam is ours!
Zo passes with flying colors. For all of his hard work he’s rewarded with a certificate– ahem, diploma—and a whole hot dog. He inhales the hot dog but doesn’t give the diploma a second sniff. We (I) get a little misty when thanking our trainer. As we’re driving home, we’re still praising Doodle. We’re applauding ourselves. We’ve made it over the first training hurdle and we now have a consistent vocabulary to use moving forward. What a great night. What a great two months!
Zozo must share in our excitement. He pukes in the backseat of my car, sharing the hotdog with us. How considerate of him.