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|Learning to wait for the command to move|
|by Topher Payne|
|March 18, 2011 00:00|
I never spend less than an hour in Pet Supermarket. We’ve had our dog for over a year now, and I’ve developed the ability to pick up a toy and envision exactly how Daisy would destroy it in less than five minutes. She’s a chainsaw with fur.
So I’m in the toy aisle, stress-testing the joints on a stuffed cow, when a guy enters with his dog. It’s a beagle, just like Daisy. But the breed is where the similarities end. This beagle is not on a leash. The fella says, “Sit,” and the dog actually sits, patient and content.
There are literally hundreds of distractions surrounding the animal, and he couldn’t be less interested. Daisy would have pulled down a display and eaten a cockatiel by now. I am green with envy. I want a Stepford Dog, and I need this man to make it happen.
I muster up all the skills I used to utilize in bars when approaching someone completely out of my league, and head over.
“Hey there,” I say. “How long have you had your beagle?”
Two hours later, Daisy and I are in the front yard, with her new long leash and the shock collar. We never hang out in the front yard, because there is heavy traffic, no fence, and a wide variety of feral cats in the neighborhood. Following the advice of Stepford Dog Daddy, we are playing a new game where anytime Daisy pursues a distraction, I shock her and force her to sit until I give the release command.
Instead of giving her a treat for sitting, which I’ve always done, I’ve been told to give her the treat when I release her. I’ve decided on “Go play” as the release, because it’s what my sister tells her kids to do when they’re making her nuts. I’m not comparing dog ownership to raising children, but when they’re young there are similarities. It’s the poo factor: Your life completely changes the moment you are responsible for monitoring anybody’s poo other than your own.
This exercise feels wicked and wrong. My dog’s instincts tell her to explore, chase and possibly retrieve moving objects. Her forebears would be wildly praised for presenting a freshly caught squirrel. Yet whenever she acts on this instinct, something zaps her into submission and the big goofy guy says “Sit. Stay.” She is confused in the extreme.
Stepford Doggy Daddy said it’s an act of kindness to help the dog learn not to get too excited, as it keeps them from getting overwhelmed by their surroundings. Daisy does not see this as an act of kindness. She tries to go back into the house, where life is normal, the rules are simpler, and there are socks to steal.
What Daisy fails to realize is that life is anything but normal in the house. My husband is in the process of interviewing for a job out of town, and if he gets it, he’s gone in two weeks. He would spend a few months in training and getting the homestead set up, and then he would send for us.
Meanwhile, I would prepare our house for rental, because selling right now is about as likely as a fat girl winning “Rupaul’s Drag Race.” Also, we live next door to a paranoid schizophrenic who posts signs on her house denouncing us, and we haven’t figured out how to get those taken down before we show the property.
Everything could change on a moment’s notice. Or not. But even if we end up staying for the time being, we’ve decided to start plotting an exit strategy from Atlanta.
Every relocation I’ve ever taken on has been of my own volition. Packing up and moving away for Preppy’s job would be the first time I’ve made a major life change taking a cue from someone else.
For a control freak like me, this goes against every instinct I’ve got. In my head and heart, I know it’s right, but I never learned the appropriate responses for this. I want to take control this instant, chart out a master plan. But I can’t, because I haven’t gotten the go-ahead.
Three teenagers saunter past the house, and Daisy’s tail thumps the ground. She starts to make a move. I zap her.
“Stay. Don’t get too excited. Just stay.”
She stays, and looks up at me for the reward. But I can’t offer it. The reward comes later. Right now, we focus on learning to be still, waiting for the release.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at topherpayne.com.
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