Three weeks ago we enrolled The Puppy into an obedience course held at the local municipal center. Aside from the occasional screeching wife beater or flighty crackhead being hauled into the police station it’s a lovely location, right on serene waters of the Gulf. There is a skateboard park only fifty feet away which, while distracting and frightening to my ADD addled, easily startled dog, serves as a constant reminder that I’m younger and cooler than the rest of the people in dog training school. While they often glance over with irritation and distaste, I watch the hip youngsters with the admiration of shared athleticism, knowing that I could top their daredevil antics provided I had enough OxyContin in my system and Icy-Hot on my back. I also fucking love it when they fall down and get hurt.
The woman who runs the class, Sarah, reminds me of myself because, while she’s attractive, charming and well intentioned, she lacks focus and has the organizational skills of a pipe bomb. Her biggest character defect seems to be her late stage Alzheimer’s memory. Every Tuesday starts off the same, with a re-introduction of ourselves and our dogs, a re-writing of email addresses and phone numbers and a re-promise to send lesson plans and the recipe for the dog crack that we were given the first week but haven’t seen since. She gave us all a sample the first week and I’ve never seen a dog react to anything that wasn’t a dead animal covered in shit with such utter delight. It’s like how cats would react to catnip if the catnip had injured baby canaries and ecstasy mixed in with the green leafy stuff.
I can’t blame Sarah for her inability to remember names however, especially not with this class. There are four small, fluffy, white dogs: Bentley, Brady, Bella and Beasley. There is a large, dim witted Labrador named Buddy and an adorable Bulldog puppy named Bradley who stole Puppy’s thunder because he is actually puppy shaped. The two couples who own Bentley, Brady, Bella and Beasley are just as pedestrian, bland and Caucasian as their dogs. I can’t remember their names and can only assume them to be something like Brad and Betty and Bob and Buffy. Who cares? The point is that all eight of the vanilla looking, weak tea drinking, boring beings are interchangeable and easily forgotten.
Buddy’s owner looks like a younger Marge Schott. And when I say younger I mean not yet dead. But still pretty old. She shows up nicely buzzed and is hammered by the end of the class. She carries a large gray water bottle filled with something that causes her to grimace and shudder after every sip. The more she ‘rehydrates’ the more her New York accent comes out along with a disposition that progresses from surly to caustic. She also has a hard time with names and has taken to calling the men Buster, the women Honey and the dogs either Hey or God Damn it.
The owner of Bradley The Bulldog Puppy is a supersized black man with bulbous, bloodshot eyes and an easy smile. This is my kind of people and it’s him that I feel a kinship with, although I can’t remember his name. I want to say Bernard but that can’t be right.
Despite all the confusion, Puppy does quite well with instruction. She’s nervous and twitchy, especially around Marge Schott and Buddy but so far she’s managed to accomplish every task that she’s been taught. Especially after getting a taste of that canine crack the first week. After hearing Puppy’s Corpsey Cat story and witnessing for herself how nervous the dog actually is, Sarah treats Puppy like the ear taster in a special ed class. This culminates in both Puppy receiving special attention as well as having to sit out of some of the more difficult or anxiety producing tasks. We all must take care not to upset the ‘special student.’ All of this gives Puppy an undeserved air of accomplishment and pride that she wears like an oversized copper metal from one of those socialist sports competitions that give everyone a prize.
This last week we had to ‘Pass The Puppy,’ an exercise in which The Puppy was ironically excluded due to her neurotic nature. As Sarah explained Pass The Puppy, our dog, The Puppy, looked around expectantly for an instruction with the hope of doggy crack to follow. “Ok now pass Bucky(?) to Bennett(?) and Burt(?) to Belinda(?),” said Sarah, tilting her voice upward like an Australian and turning every pause into a question. While everyone looked around with confusion she told me to walk The Puppy around the outside of the loose circle. “Ok good, now pass Bitzi(?) to Bonner(?) and Bess(?) to Bambi(?),” Sarah continued. The eight Caucasians condescendingly grumbled that they didn’t know a Bitzi or a Bonner, Marge Schott swore and sipped and grimaced and shuddered and eyed my black buddy Bernard with suspicion all while The Puppy pranced around the outside of the chaotic circle with a false sense of accomplishment like a mildly retarded stallion and I stared wistfully into the distance, hoping that somebody took a header off the half pipe.