My Life With Dogs #7

Friends: I have decided to share with you My Life With Dogs. These Blogs taken from my book, 14000 Dogs Later, may be one page at a time, or more. I don’t want to dump too much on you at a time. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to make comments here, or on my Face Book or Twitter ACCOUNT . Best, Johndog on hydrant (2)
Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/johnprestonsmith Twitter: @PrestonBooks

“Even the tiniest poodle is lionhearted, ready to do anything to defend home, master, and mistress.” Louis Sabin

In 1963 I joined the Army. I was having difficulty at Wheeling College, the youngest Jesuit school in the United States, and to this day believe it was a great two years of education. But, I was not of the caliber of my brother Bob, who had graduated in ’61. So, with grades below the threshold that Dad had demanded, class assignments beyond my capabilities, I enlisted in the United States Army.

At first it sounded pretty good. My friend and I signed up on the Buddy System, meaning we would stay together through basic and advanced individual training. And, through a program called Choice not Chance, we could choose the advanced training that best fit our abilities. The trade-off would be three years of our lives for Uncle Sam.
Pretty good, so far.

We were due to be sworn in on a Friday in Fairmont, WV. However, being 60’s kind of guys, we really didn’t see the rush and decided to party for a couple more nights and postpone our induction until the following Monday.
The United States Army did not approve.

On Friday night at 10 PM two MP’s appeared at our hotel wanting to take us to the brig. Turns out, once you receive orders, they gottcha, even before you are sworn in. So they processed us the next morning…Saturday morning…they seldom worked on Saturday mornings. Man, were they upset.

After basic at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and advanced training at Fort Slocum, New York, I was sent to Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington, DC. As an information specialist, I wrote for the Pentagram, the Military District of Washington newspaper. It was a nine-to-five job and after settling in I realized that I had a load of free time on my hands and very little spending money in my pocket. The newspaper want-ads beckoned. And there it was…as if by wishful intervention. “Dog trainer needed. Apply in person at Canine T-V Trainers.”

I had already tried selling pots, pans, and china door to door. And the only set of china I sold was the set I bought for my mom. Dogs can’t slam the door in your face. I knew this was the part-time job for me.

My day job as an Information Specialist was just off base in what were called Tempo Buildings. These were “temporary” structures built during the Second World War. Made of steel they were hot in the summer and cold in the winter…not up-to-date for the only military facility in DC.

I scheduled an appointment with the pet store manager.

After work I walked the two-mile stretch from the military base to downtown DC, found Canine TV Trainers on 14th Street, and entered the captivating world of pet shops. The store measured twenty-five by forty-five feet with more animals per square foot than un-adopted puppies in New York City. Squawking birds, barking dogs, and screaming monkeys drowned all human conversation. There were cages everywhere; jammed on shelves, stacked in corners, hanging from the ceiling. Ten to fifteen birds dive-bombed customers who thought it was a sales gimmick. A mynah bird slung sunflower seed at the cat cages; a boa constrictor’s dinner still withered in his stomach, and one of the employees chased the loosed squirrel-monkey that had freed the birds.

“Can I help you?” the attractive blond lady asked, or yelled, I should say. “I’m the manager. Carol Burns.” She extended a perfectly manicured hand. Odd, I thought, for a pet store manager.

“I’m here for the interview,” I yelled back, her soft hand still holding mine. The hook set; the reeling began.

“When can you start,” the yelling continued.

Noting my stunned look, “Follow me,” she said.

The office was large enough for a small desk, an upright chair, and for two people to stand nose to nose. Personal space be damned. Her perfume was something out of Cosmopolitan.

“There was a small mistake in the ad,” she smiled.

“Oh,” I said, captivated by her beauty.

“They left out a few words. Three to be exact.”

“Oh,” I said, again.

“And cleanup boy. It was supposed to read dog trainer and cleanup boy needed.”

Fresh out of college, half of it anyway, and fresh out of basic and advanced training in the United States Army, and standing nose to nose with this beautiful lady in the backroom of a pet store in downtown DC, I was trapped.

Fortunately, they didn’t need a dog trainer for a couple of days. So I spent the next two evenings cleaning every kind of animal poop imaginable and those same nights studying how to train dogs by reading books from the public library. I had learned from Mom and Dad that taking care of animals was more important than playing with them. Dogs malnourished, chained, and kicked around had always bothered me, and the books I read enlightened me regarding the powers dogs possess and the place they’ve served in our history. And so I studied and studied every book I could find about dogs, training, and their history. When Monday morning arrived I planned being as good a trainer as possible, having little real idea about what I’d do if the dog on the ass-end of the leash didn’t see things my way.

Friends: Thanks for reading, The second part of this story will appear next week...and remember, everybody needs a dog, and every dog needs somebody.

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