Otis

It is 8:50 p.m. and I have settled into an easy chair in front of my gas-powered fireplace after the end of a trying evening. I also have a glass a wine —a “party pour” as my 20-something niece calls a generous pour. The reason? Otis.

Otis is my 9-week-old golden retriever. Tonight we started puppy socialization. He prepared for class by peeing on the floor in my home office and biting my pant legs. When we arrived at class, he could not find a suitable place to potty outside, rather waited to pee until we were in class. He was the only dog who relieved himself in class. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We began class with a discussion of the placement of the dog crate in our home. The teacher advises that the crate should be positioned next to my bed, so the dog can hear me breathe and hear my heart beat. If I moved the dog crate to my bedroom, he’d hear my spouse packing his bags. When we came home two weeks ago, we situated the dog crate in the laundry room. My heart doesn’t beat that loud and even if I had emphysema, he couldn’t hear me breathe. I don’t disclose this to the teacher.

But I don’t need to because Otis has already drawn attention to us by straining on his leash to interact with another puppy who is nicely lying at his owner’s feet. When the straining and choking noises don’t stir the well-behaved neighbor, Otis begins barking, then ups the ante to lunging and barking. No other puppy in class is doing this. I don’t dare look at the owners; I am certain they are horrified. Being cute can only make up for so much.

Otis and another puppy, Lena, are then banished to the other room because both are new to the class. I am sure Lena is wondering what in the hell she ever did in her short life to get assigned Otis as her playmate. She is bigger but soon Otis has her on the run. There is no “me too” at puppy school. Finally, Lena takes a swipe at him. Undeterred, Otis keeps chasing her. Lena is visibly relieved when we rejoin the others to learn a few simple tricks.

The first one is to get the dog to sit. Passed with flying colors. Then we are to coax the dog to lie down. Instead, Otis pees. I mop the floor; Otis licks the wash water. The teacher takes pity on me and attempts to get Otis to lie down. He’s having none of it. Instead, he returns to an old favorite — biting my pant legs. Finally, the teacher succeeds in getting Otis to lie down for a nanosecond. Then he returns to biting my pant leg. When I try to get him to stop, he takes a nip at my hand.

At the end of class, the teacher hands us a folder of instruction. I am to work with him at least three times per day for the next week. My mind has already raced ahead to what will happen if next week is a repeat performance.

I text my son on the way home and tell him that Otis was the worst-behaved puppy in puppy class. He responds, “He is going for the most improved trophy.”

I can only hope.

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