Monday, December 10, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 8

Everybody was excited about the last day of Kindergarten. We all got out of bed a little early (yes, five minutes early still counts as early). Whenever one of us said to Couper, “Are we going to Kindergarten today?” he would run to each of us to make sure we were all ready and going. Just like week 1, I was conflicted on what to wear. I wanted to wear my “I love my Weiner” shirt, but I did not want to jinx my Little Buddy. I also knew we were at least going to take pictures with Santa, if not graduation, and did not want to embarrass Couper when he sees those pictures in high school (I also did not want to piss off Santa this close to Christmas…apparently the shirt has some sort of double meaning and Santa supposedly checks his list more than once). I went with the boring blue dachshund-less shirt.

The day once again started with rain. The walk from the parking lot was done quickly and was fairly uneventful, though not exactly barking and pulling free. On the way in, Couper did stop to go #1 on a tree. It was not his last #1 of the trip. We got in the store a bit early. Since Couper was a bit barky, we decided to walk him around with yummy rewards to get him calmed down. He did calm down, but just about every time he walked by a support post in the store, he hiked his hind leg. Not much came out, but he did about 4 or 5 markings. Our guess was that he was either nervous or knew it was his last class and was leaving his legacy. I guess it was Couper’s Senior Day.

For the last week, let’s take attendance. Ms. Puppyteacher – here. Couper – here. Big Buddy – here. Couper’s Mommy – here. That’s it. No affenpinscher. Amazingly, no German Sheppard. It was obvious that Couper was the attendance winner, with perfect attendance no less. However, my dream of a big prize was just that, a dream. I guess if showing up is half of life, it is the half empty glass (mixed metaphors that don’t even make goofy sense – it has been a long eight weeks).

So this week is just a formality and we play games, drink champaigne, and get our graduation certificate, right? Well, that theory looked good when Ms. Puppyteacher opened the classroom cabinet and pulled out a Petsmart Frisbee. It looked less good when she flipped the Frisbee over, showing us the final taped to the back. It was our worst nightmare. I suddenly felt like I was in that dream where you don’t study all year and then realize there is a final and you show up to the final naked. If I did not spend an hour earlier in the morning deciding which shirt to wear, I would have sworn that was the situation. By the way, there is a name for that dream. It is called Junior year. It seems so real…

I still have no idea why the final was on the back of a Frisbee, but there it was. There were about ten items of which we had to do seven. (Ethical note: From this point on, I am going to describe the Petsmart Beginner final. If you have a dog in beginner training, or plan on having a dog in beginner training, or are going to set up a beginner training course yourself, you really should skip the next few paragraphs. I will leave it up to you. Good luck sleeping at night if you cheat for your dog). He did not have to get a treat from the groomer or get weighed by the vet. I am not sure why he did not have to do those. Maybe she liked the groomers and vets working that day and knowing how Couper reacts to strangers, did not want to subject them to him. The third item that we did not have to do was “down”. We had an agreement that we could substitute 10 second stays for “down” since he could/would not do “down”. Stay was already on the list, so it was like eliminating an item.

Item one was the name game. This is where we call his name and he has to make eye contact with us. We had to do this five times in the toy aisle. I am sure Couper’s Mommy was confident, as Couper listens to her, but I was petrified, especially in the toy aisle where he has so many fun distractions. Couper’s Mommy called him first. “Couper”. He looked right at her. We let him wander and then it was my turn. I gulped, “Couper”. He looked right at me. I almost fell on the floor (and would have except I knew he left his legacy somewhere in that aisle earlier). We went back and forth and each time he looked. I am sure the yummies in our hands helped, but that was not breaking the rules. It did kind of make it like an open book test, though. We were one for one on our test items.

Item two was three sits in the toy aisle. This one we were confident about. We knew he could sit for a yummy and he nailed three without sweating. We were two for two.

Item three was a two minute loose leash walk in the fish aisle with 5 stop and sits. As luck had it, the fish aisle was one of the places that we were walking him right after we got in the store to calm him down. However, we had not practiced sits on stops in a while, even with "sit" prompts (which was legal for the test). Ms. Puppyteacher said, “I am guessing he will just sit when you stop.” I replied, “I wouldn’t count on that”. We loose leash walked perfectly to the aisle and then up the aisle. At the end of the aisle, we did our first stop. To make sure he saw me stopping, I did a little stomp before stopping. I stomped, he sat. My jaw almost hit the floor at the same time as his hiney. We walked back down the aisle and I did the same thing. He sat again. He was so good, I am pretty sure we did not do two minutes of walking or 5 stop and sits. Maybe we did. I was pretty much in shock by that point. Three for three.

Item four was come when called. We did this in the back aisle with the cat food. This was another command that Couper’s Mommy was better at than I was. However, we would have to call him back and forth, so I had to be involved. As I had him on the leash, we let him go to his mommy first. “Couper come”. He went right to her and got a yummy. Although we worked well together in the name game, I was sure if I said, “Couper come”, he would at most look at me and stay with his mommy. I gave it a shot. “Couper come”. He looked right at me and immediately trotted over. At this point I was wondering if this was indeed a dream. I was indeed dressed, so I assumed it was indeed not. We had him go back a forth a couple more times than needed, just for the satisfaction of it. One time I got cocky and hid my remaining yummy in the test Frisbee just to see if he would come. He did. This was easy. Four for four.

Item five was our ten second stays. He had been nailing this all week during homework. We were even able to give him a stay command, walk out of the room, and he was staying when we returned. I was fairly confident in this one. So, he nailed this too? Not really. He did fairly well with his mommy and less well with me. We eventually did get three 10 second stays, two with her and one with me. Ms. Puppyteacher was satisfied. “Couper is OK with staying”. Whew. Five for five.

Item six had us all nervous; friendly greetings. We had to find a person in the store to come up to him and have him sit. No matter how well he had done to this point, I figured there was no way he was going to do well with this. In fact, I feared he would bite somebody and get expelled a half hour before the end of the last class (would we have gotten 1/16th of our money back?). We found an employee that he had no biting or growling history with, handed her a yummy, and gave her a warning not to pet him at the end. She came up to Couper. I tensed my grip on his leash. She showed him the yummy and said, “Hi Couper”. He looked up at her. She said, “Couper, sit”. He sat. She gave him the yummy. He took the yummy politely. She stepped back with all 10 fingers. Couper’s Mommy whispered to me, “Is that our dog?” He did the same thing two more times. We were not going to press our luck it any further. The employee stranger ran back to her work and we went on our way. Six for six.

Item seven was three sits at the front entrance. The key to this was distractions. We got to move aside a little bit, so it was kind of in the reptile aisle. There were fewer distractions there, so Couper nailed this as well. Seven for seven. Ms. Puppyteacher asked if we wanted to do the treat with the groomer or the weighing. We were fine without it. The test was over. Couper not only passed, he kicked ass.

We went back to the classroom to get his certificate. Ms. Puppyteacher signed his certificate and took our picture with it. Ms. Puppyteacher picked up Couper to congratulate him and say goodbye. Couper thanked her by farting. It was too late for her to fail her, so no harm done (to us at least...I wouldn't want to be her). We were done. Couper passed Kindergarten. Being the only graduate, Couper was valedictorian. After week four, we would never have guessed this day would come. Couper’s Mommy and I later commented that we had never been so proud of him; and it is not like we aren’t proud of him to begin with…our house is a Couper/dachshund shrine.

So in the end, Couper’s Kindergarten adventure was a little like the classic Simpson’s episode where Bart has to take Santa’s Little Helper to obedience school in order to keep him (Bart’s Dog Gets an F). Santa’s Little Helper is a maniac at the beginning of class:

Bart: Now... Sit!
I said, Sit! [Santa's Little Helper walks away]
Um, take a walk. Sniff that other dog's butt.
See? He does exactly what I tell him.

As Bart is about to lose his failing dog, he plays with him one final time and something in Santa’s Little Helper's head clicks and he understands everything. The next day he passes the class final. Something we did between week 4 and week 5 must have gotten to Couper and he somehow went from a spray bottle target to valedictorian. See, just like the Simpson’s (Except we were never going to lose Couper. And our class was based on treats, not choke chains. And the teacher was not English (Tracey Ullman). And we are not 10 years old and have not remained 10 years old for the last 18 years. And we are not animated characters. And we have more than three fingers and a thumb. And we are not on TV. OK, it is only vaguely like the show. It was the best I could come up with).

Couper becomes the first member of the household to graduate puppy Kindergarten (yes, both Couper’s Mommy and I graduated human Kindergarten). We are very very proud of him and can see a little bit of a difference in how he reacts around the house. The experience was definitely worthwhile. However, we did not take all the mischief out of the dog. As I typed this, and his mommy worked, Couper created the destruction in the picture to the right. He may be all grown up and educated, but deep down he is still the same Little Buddy he always has been.

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