My sister threw me a wonderful birthday celebration back in 2008 at her place in Euless, Texas.
I left my apartment in McKinney bound for Euless. Directions were rather simple. Get on 121 South and go F O R E V E R, and I mean forever.
I traveled through McKinney, Fairborn, Richardson, Plano, Dallas, Carrollton, Coppell, Irving, the DFW airport, and finally Euless. Sounds like I covered most of Texas, but it was actually 38 miles. Little did I know at the time, that this would pale in comparison to what was in store for me later.
She gave me the history of all of the pictures she has hung throughout her home, and I had many, many questions. She and her son won numerous awards throughout the country with their Tennessee Walker horses. I was trying to relate where I was when each picture was taken. I have never seen so many ribbons and trophies.
Then she commenced to demonstrate her dog training skills with her French Poodle named Sterling. My sister is really gifted in this area, and Sterling testifies to that fact. It was all terribly confusing to me, however. She used her voice, gesticulations with her hands like a music conductor, and a clicker that even made me sit up at attention, and always a small piece of food as a reward. Kind of reminded me of my X Carole, who controlled all of us using the same techniques – without the clicker of course.
She would say, ‘Sterling! Sit!‘ Using her right hand just at the right time, with one or two clicks, and ole Sterling was sitting like he was on that big dog show they have on TV once a year. Then, she would say, ‘Sterling! Down!‘ Then ole Sterling was flat on the carpet flat as a log. I tried it later, and it seems Sterling prefers a soft carpet a necessary ingredient to the trick regardless of the tone of voice, gesticulations, or number of clicks, and amount of food offered as a reward. But what the hey, I’m not a very good trainer.
My favorite trick of all was when she had Sterling ‘Hide’. From the down position she said, ‘Sterling! Hide!‘ Sterling placed both of his front paws and feet over his eyes and most of his snout. She continued the demonstration with many more tricks that had my poor ole brain reeling. There was BOWING, DANCING, HOPPING, MARCHING, FIGURE 8’s, BACKWARDS, OFF, HEEL, etc. I really ‘felt‘ for Sterling. If my brain was tired, I remember thinking, You poor dog – you must have one vicious appetite!
Then, it was off to the Grapevine Mall. Sis told me she wanted to buy me some walking shoes. Seems that everyone is concerned about the ‘twins‘ I’m carrying around with me above my belt buckle and my chest. She purchased me a beautiful pair of New Balance walking shoes, and 9 pairs of socks. I remember thinking, just how much walking is she hoping I will do? Am I that fat? The three of us were a real site in that sports equipment store. They kept looking at Sterling as they talked to her and me about our purchase. She even asked if they had running shoes for Sterling, and they said they were out of stock.
As I started to put my Cole Hahn loafers back on, she said: ‘Put your new walking shoes back on!‘ I did so in 100% submission waiting for the clicker, and my treats. But, as fate would have it, I received neither. Oh well. There I was in my new Tori Richard Aloha shirt, my favorite male leis, light brown Tommy Bahama shorts, new black walking shoes, with new black socks. I was puzzled by my sister’s request to wear the walking shoes. Surely we weren’t going to try them out now. I was already starting to perspire somewhat, and my breathing was a little heavier from the walk from her car to the sports store.
Then she announced, ‘I’m taking you to our park here in Euless, and we’re going for a LITTLE walk.’ Well, her definition of LITTLE does not equate to what the word means to me. To me, a little walk means 1/4 mile or so. To her, thats just a warm up. It was fun. The weather was absolutely perfect. The temperature was around 73 degrees, the sun was out, and just the perfect amount of breeze. It reminded me of one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs, ‘Blue Skies’. Blue skies shining for me. Nothing but blue skies do I see.
We walked the perimeter of a baseball outfield two or three times, and I noticed that exercise seems to bring on a fertilizer frenzy for ole Sterling. He was fertilizing several dry spots in the outfield. It has the same effect on my two Chihuahuas and on me. We then started walking on a concrete walking, jogging, running, and bicycling path that is probably three miles in circumference. I kept remarking how neat it would be in a go-cart driving on this path. We passed at least 8-10 dogs, many walkers like ourselves, joggers, a couple of runners, kids riding their bicycles, volley ball courts with games in progress, tennis courts fully occupied, picnic tables with familes laughing and enjoying a feeding frenzy, and probably several other types of courts that I have already forgotten. It reminded me of the perfect setting for one of Norman Rockwell’s paintings.
We walked, and we walked, and we walked, and we walked, and we walked. Finally, I asked the question. ‘Sis, how much farther are we going?‘ Her reply was, ‘Well, right around the corner is the halfway point, and we will turn around.‘ She was not kidding.
After returning to my sister’s home, she ordered us a wonderful Rib-Eye steak dinner, with salad, baked potato, and wonderful desert. I knew Chinese restaurants and pizza places delivered, but had just never thought about steaks. They were wonderful!
After dinner, my sister asked me to have Sterling perform some of his tricks. Well, easier said then done. I started with a simple ‘Sit‘, and Sterling just looked at me. Dee started laughing, which didn’t do much for my dog training self-image. She said: ‘You must say Sterling’s name first!‘ So, I tried again. ‘Sterling(notice no exclamation mark) Sit’. Again no response. Now my sister is doubled up with laughter and nearly falls down.
She then goes on to explain that I must be THE LEADER OF THE PACK. It was apparent to all in the room that Sterling was the leader of the pack, and not me. So, I tried again, this time with the exclamation mark. ‘Sterling! Sit!‘ Once again, no response. My sister is now a Sterling DOWN on the floor slapping her hands on the floor. ‘You forgot to show Sterling the food you were going to give him for his trick.’ Now, I was experiencing and feeling that sick feeling you get, when you suddenly realize, you are ‘challenged’ in a certain area of your life – like as a dog trainer.
At this point, I was frozen. I knew that somehow If I tried again, Dee would be more than hysterical, and would tell me I forgot to use the clicker, so I just stood there. There we were – just the three of us. My sister on the floor laughing, Sterling utterly confused – going through all of his 30 or so tricks without me saying or doing anything, and me NOT THE LEADER OF THE PACK.
Vroom! Vroom! Vroom! (The song with the motorcycle engine reaving.)
© 2011, Pierre Cassidy. All rights reserved.