let slip the dogs of war

May 18, 2009

Once again, we learn the dangers involved in dog naming. Poor Havoc was named for the quote from Henry V about let slipping the dogs.

And he is a dog who slips. He has beautifully long, poodle legs. And an almost perpetual limp from tripping over his own feet, and yanking us off balance trying to do what he wants to do, when we are on walks.

The latest problem happened on Mother’s Day, when #1 son was taking him for the last walk of the evening. He lurched forward, knocking the handle of the retractable leash out of #1’s hand.

The leash hit the porch with a thump and frightened the dog, who ran. The leash followed, and frightened him again. So he ran faster. For almost an acre. Until he hit the sheep fence at the end of the pasture.

A few minutes later, #1 reappeared with a gimpy labradoodle and said, “Happy Mother’s Day. I broke your dog.”

The next day, Havoc took me down to the fence to show me the spot where he’d hit, and the little bits of doodle hair, caught in the wires. I think he was trying to tell me to get rid of the fence.

I saw this as a sign that we needed:

#1 x rays (which appear normal although he is still limping)

#2 obedience training.

Our last dog, Kaiju, washed out of obedience class. He left happily. I left with my tail between my legs. On our last class, he dragged me across the room on my knees, so that he could talk to a beagle on the other side of the ring. The teacher shook her head and said, “I don’t know what I’d do, if I had a dog that large.”

Which made me wonder why I’d given her $120.

But for Havoc, I’m trying a different school, and have convinced myself things will be different. Last week, I took #2 son along, so that he could be trained along with the dog. Our instructors have a wall full of ribbons, and train dogs for therapy, and “protection”. One of them is a police officer.

These are no nonsense women, used to working with bull terriers and Rottweilers. They assured me that the second to the last class would be the “Canine good citizen test”. Did I know what that was?

I said, no. All of our previous dogs were canine delinquents.

They assured me that they have only had two failures, out of all the dogs they’ve trained.

How hard can a labradoodle be?

The first lesson was called a sneak away. Hold the leash in front of you, walk the dog, and turn suddenly. It is the first step to walking at heal.

If the dog chooses to walk, of course. Havoc refused. #2 might as well have been dragging a brick on a leash.

The first instructor tried for a while. And then turned it over to the police officer, who dragged my spread-eagled dog back and forth, the length of the classroom.

Instructor: Does he understand a hardwood floor?

Me: (covering my eyes in shame) Yes.

Havoc: Everybody go limp. That’s how we did it in the 60’s.

Instructor: Some dogs are more difficult than others. You just have to work through this.

Havoc: Police brutality!

Instructor: Was one of his parents an apricot poodle? Because they are the most stubborn kind of poodle.

Havoc: Sanctified and holy, we shall not be moved…

Eventually, the dog stood up and walked long enough to let us declare victory, so we could move on to the next exercise. Sit. No problem. We know sit. Sit is easy.

Havoc would not sit. This time, I took the leash from #2 son. Still nothing.

Instructor: See? The way his tail is wagging? And he’s smiling. He’s not scared. He’s not confused. He’s just messing with you. Your dog has an enormous ego.

I told this to #1 son, when we got home. He said, “So. When I told you this dog is being a dick. I was right?”

It’s kind of hard to argue with him, now that we’ve gotten a professional second opinion on that.

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