Week Three in Puppy Class and you’re glad you weren’t there.
After my frustrations last week, Andrew was placed – by force – in the hotseat this week, dancing about the floor and doing the awkward interactions with the other idiots that paid fifty quid for this ritual humiliation.
Despite the respite I sat on the sidelines as tense, stressed and uncomfortable as anyone else in the hall. Possibly all of them combined.
It did not even begin well. Andrew had layered up, expecting it to be cold in the large, draughty room and I supposed I’d be fine in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. He was right, and it was cold in there. Nevertheless, upon her arrival, the terrifying woman strode about the room, turning the radiators off and climbing chairs to open windows. My heart sank. And within ten minutes the rest of me was shivering, almost wishing I was up on the floor walking about, if only to try and keep warm.
I’ll tell you who was warm, though: the people who have stopped coming. We noticed last week that numbers had dropped, and the same ones were missing this week – namely the rotund, ugly Beagle-thing, and the cute little Jack Russell. Amusingly, though, Ms. Two-Staff-Tess, the lady who was impolitely asked to bring her husband the next week to control one of the dogs and who duly did so last week, suddenly only had one. It was conspicuous by its absence, but she seemed a lot more collected as a result.
By way of compensation, though, our doggy dominatrix woman had decided to bring one of her own with her – a frail and skinny Cocker Spaniel almost identical to Jasper. I was impressed… About time, I thought… Some practical examples… Some practising what she preaches! Time to see the expert at work, in the flesh!
In the event all she did was pull it around behind her, completely ignoring it and its bemused pathetic face until the one occasion she used him to demonstrate her point, for which she had to ask one of us if we had a treat she could use! Imagine being a bona fide dog trainer, running a class on it, and showing up with your own dog without any treats! I was dying laughing inside.
Walking at heel, sitting when stopping and ‘sit and stay’ were all beyond Jasper’s comprehension unfortunately. He pulled, tugged, turned and flopped at all the wrong times, driving Andrew to a fit of head-shaking and me – still on the sidelines – to a trembling rage. Had it not actually just added to the tension in my shoulders, I’d have taken consolation in seeing at least three people snapping in exasperation at their wilfully infuriating hounds.
To add to the abject misery, horsey dog lady was more intimidating this week than ever before, cutting several people down with her tone of voice alone. I wonder if she sometimes thinks humans work like her dogs do. She glared coldly at the little Husky-cross thing and barked “Out” at the poor girl wrestling with it – later saying, when the broken husk of a girl had swapped with her boyfriend, that “maybe you need to be doing more at home”. And I truthfully lost count of the number of times she sneered, literally and metaphorically, down her nose at the fumbling humans knelt by their squirming pet, trying to “put their hands on” it, until she reached down and simply did it for them.
It is apparent now that she rules by fear. The Cocker at her heel seemed terrified and I’m sure many of the attendees at her class are the same, each of us furiously whispering at our dog to do what they’re told, desperately hoping to avoid being singled out and spoken down to.
The one task Jasper did excel at, though, was his recall. As she explained the exercise, Andrew and I looked at one another and agreed that this should be a doddle – with the caveat that that very fact could mean he’d be an absolute arse about it. The woman took his lead and led him to one end of the hall, Andrew marched back to the other end and called his name confidently. On the second time, he looked over, the woman let him go, Andrew called ‘come on’ and he shot along the floor, skidding to Andrew’s feet. Excellent. Proud moment. Especially when she went on to tell us that her young Cocker had been let off-lead the day before and had bolted, refusing to come when called. She had to chase him down and declared, quite unabashed, that she’d smacked him for it, to teach him that “if I have to go to him, instead of the other way round, it will be an unpleasant experience.”… Her poor husband. If she has one.
In all I was – am – exhausted. I don’t know how Andrew managed it, keeping vague control of Jasper, not treading on the tail of an immovable dog in front, listening to the stream of commands pummelling you and fishing treats from the furthest reaches of any pocket you can lay your hands on. But he did. He did so well, and though the class itself is an awkward and hair-pulling torture, we are at least equipped with things to be doing at home and out on our travels. Which I have to say is going far better.
Next time, though, I think I’m going to just sit in the car.
Least I’ll be warm.