McKeithan Column

Published 5:50 am Saturday, June 21, 2008

By Staff
Pet training ends with owner in dog house
My two sons made a new friend at our church river service recently. (I was out of town.) They called me on the phone to tell me about her. It’s always sweet to hear the kids’ voices on the other end. “Daddy,” they both exclaimed, excitedly: “We have found a really cute puppy … for free! Can we have her?”
My obvious response: “Does Mom know you have called me?”
This is how a mixed jumble of popular breeds came to be our dog. “Abby” is a good-natured “outside” dog that has endeared herself to all in the family, except our cat.
Marbles is spending most of his time at the neighbor’s house now, probably soon to become part of their family.
We made the obligatory trip to the pet store to get “a few things” for our new pet. Four hundred dollars later we left Pet-O-Rama with a shopping cart full of “I-didn’t-know-I-was-going-to-have-to-buy-all-this-crap.” It was too late to change my mind about the dog; the strong bond between children and canine had already formed.
The gracious couple who gave us Abby also paid to have her spayed and given the necessary shots. (Thank you Bill and Beth Oden.) So I can’t really complain about the expense, can I?
I shall.
Being the family money manager, I had to consider the net effect of this acquisition. I determined that after one-day of ownership, we had gained one dog and lost one cat, four Ben Franklins, and a couple more hairs from my thinning scalp. A HUGE net loss, I reckoned.
We considered many ways to keep Abby within the confines of our property. The best, most liberating option for the dog, we were told, was to buy a “wireless pet containment system (WPCS).” With this device, you can train your dog never to leave a “boundary zone” that we determine. Sounded good to us.
Upon reading the training guide that came with the WPCS, I learned that training Abby was going to take “14 days.” They’re no fools, sounds a lot shorter than TWO WEEKS, doesn’t it? Training sessions must happen three times a day EVERY DAY for two weeks (I mean, 14 days)! Of course, this wasn’t explained on the outside of the box.
I began the training regimen with Abby by fitting the “Receiver Collar” and leading her to the boundary zone we had marked with little flags. As instructed, I walked the dog into the zone where she was to receive a “mild Static Correction.” That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Abby disagrees. We all learned that a “mild Static Correction” was code for: “torturous shock treatment.”
That poor dog yelped loudly; leaped highly and pulled me violently. I was dragged out of the “boundary zone” and ended up on my “rear bumper.” How in the world could I put my dog (and me) through this torture for “14 days … three times a day?”
Nonetheless, I was committed to the plan. As soon as I began leading Abby to the boundary zone for another “Static Correction,” my wife and kids shouted, “Stop!” My wife screamed, “Have you LOST your mind, ‘Chucky’?”
For fear of waking in the morning to a “mild Static Correction” and a “Receiver Collar” around my neck, I quickly aborted the “pet-friendly” training program.
What have I gained from this “new pet” experience? Nothing. The dog hates me; our cat stares at me menacingly from the neighbor’s fence; I’m on the PETA, “Ten Most Wanted” list and my family is siding with the dog.
I’ll never leave town again.