‘Gracie, come!’

You remember Gracie, don’t you? Adorable fluffy pup of the Bernese Mountain Dog variety. She was going to fill the void in my life left by my ungrateful daughters who had the audacity to grow up and live lives of their own.
Cute puppy. The one who peed on the floor hourly for the first nine weeks and chewed up everything in sight (and even some things not in sight). The obedience class fiasco, almost worst puppy ever except for chocolate lab Chester and yellow lab Chester.
I’m practising some deep breathing just to get those painful memories out on paper. Chanting helps, too. Ooooo-eeeeee-aye-ahhhhh.
Okay, the truth? Gracie is now not the “almost worst dog ever.” She has graduated, moved up the ladder, and now qualifies as the worst dog in the world. She makes Marley, the movie star, look like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin.
The truth all became painfully clear yesterday. We went to the ocean, the shore where dogs are allowed, and we saw happy families with dogs fetching and sitting and staying. It was enviable.
Gracie fetches, but doesn’t quite understand the return component. I even showed her the definition in Webster: “to go and bring back.” Bring back, Gracie. Bring back.
I did my Grover from Sesame Street impression and demonstrated fetching as thoroughly as Grover did his “near and far” routine. I ran after balls and bones and sticks and brought them back—happily dropping said items at Gracie’s feet.
She wasn’t buying.
It’s the “come” command that seems most lost on Gracie. Her idea of “come” is right after she chases other dogs, after she smells some interesting seaweed and rolls around in the dirtiest sand she can find with remnants of once-living sea life, and sometime after she saves innocent swimmers in the water who claim they weren’t actually drowning until after Gracie began saving them.
It’s embarrassing and exhausting. I was expected to be the dog whisperer, but I’m not sure I boasted any kind of credentials in that department.
Farm dogs have the run of the place; they bark when someone comes and they lie at the back door and that’s pretty much it. They’re not mowing the lawn or doing mathematical calculations.
But Gracie seems slightly more challenged than most in the smartness category. Can’t I just blame her for her shortcomings? Does this have to be my fault?
I bought one of those training collars (the vibrating one rather than the shocking one). I fear that if I had the shock collar, I just might electrocute her as she ignores my “Gracie, come” shouts that can be heard in the next county.
But I haven’t taken the collar out of the box.
I think that just may be the definition of failure. The obedience trainer told us to use the word “come” just the one time. I always remember that right after I have screamed “come” 29 times.
Who am I kidding? I couldn’t even get my kids to make their beds or hang their jackets up. Why did I think I could train my dog to come and sit and stay and sleep and sweep up her own dog hair?
I take her for lots of walks. I buy her pigs’ ears and other deliciously chewy things. I tell her she is pretty. I brush her until she can’t stand it anymore. I don’t yell at her immediately when I find her under the covers of my bed.
The least she could do is come when called. The first time—after just the one call.
Sigh. I think I’ll get a pot-bellied pig. I hear they are really clever.
wendistewart@live.ca

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