First Day at Puppy School!

Mugen’s first day at Puppy Kindergarten was last night. I was disturbed by the fact that he was the only Lab in the class. There were five german shepherds, a soft coated wheaton terrier, a chihuahua and a sheltie… Oh and a flat coat retriever.

Mugen… was the single, solitary Lab. So when asked to explain the history of the breed, it felt strange to offer up that Labs are one of the three most popular breeds of dogs in the United States… I opted not to say it. Instead I explained that Labs come in black, yellow and chocolate and that no other colors need apply and that this dog was commonly used for hunting in the retrieval of water fowl and that they were excellent swimmers and that Mugen was just awesome.

I got a few smiles and a few chuckles.

The daughter forgot to bring her camera. I forgot to bring my camera so we were left without photos, but I think she and I will always have a fond memory of last night because we finally saw who Mugen was, the both of us.

I know that I have been blinded by my grief over losing Reilly. I was ready for a puppy, I knew what that was going to take, I have not been expecting Mugen to be Reilly, but I have had a very hard time letting Mugen into my heart. This is not to say that I don’t love him, I do. I have just been very reluctant to throw myself into him with reckless abandon, as I did with Reilly when he came home. My grief for Reilly is still new and it still sneaks up on me and kicks me in the gut when I least expect it. So, I have been trying to be reserved and aloof because I’m still hurting and let’s face it, he knows it. Mugen’s not dumb. I realized it last night when the trainer said, “You don’t sound very excited about this at all. Come on! Get happy!” she was right, I wasn’t.

Part of it is that I think sitting is… well I’m so over being excited about Mugen sitting when I tell him to, he’s been doing that for a month. I still give him treats, I still give him praise, but the sun, the moon and the stars do not shine out of his backside because he sat when I told him to. Now that happens when he obeys “Off” because he already downs reliably and “Off” is really the next thing I *need* him to learn.

The other part of it is that I just wasn’t into it. My heart wasn’t there. I didn’t even realize how much I was closing myself off from Mugen until she said something to me and I realized that all of my problems with him are not about my husband or my family. They’re not even about him because he is actually… just incredible.

It’s about me. It’s about the fact that I have not had my heart in this and that I have been giving Mugen the short end of the stick. He’s been trying so hard to give me everything. I guess I started obedience a tad early… at least compared to my puppy class… but Mugen was ready to work from day one. He was ready to earn his keep, whenever he wasn’t sleeping, he was waiting for me to show him something new. He stepped up to the plate a while ago. He was just waiting for me to follow him.

So last night was awesome. I learned a lot, about myself, about my puppy man and about life. Even if Mugen is a tad ahead of the curve, there are things that I haven’t learned yet. I’ve never been very good at teaching a dog how to behave on lead and I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to take Mugen through his CGC and we’re gonna do Rally together… so we’ve got a lot of work to do. Both of us.

As we were leaving, my daughter said, “Mom, that was fun. Can I take the lead next time?”

Reluctantly, I agreed.