This week I met a charming liddle poocheroo, Penny Wood, a Shetland Sheepdog. (Think miniature Collie.) She’s very deli-cut an feminine, only 18 months old, but she’s going to school for a Very Important Job.
She trotted right up for the Wag-an-Sniff. “Hi, Mr. Bonzo. I feel like I know you already cuz we always read your columns in Vero News. I’m Penny Ann Wood the Ninth. My pooch Dad an Mom were Tyffani’s Little Rascal an Akiro-n-Willow’s Zesty Zoe.”
“Shut the doghouse door,” I gasped.
“Oh,” she laughed. “Just call me Penny. This is my Mom an Dad, Milly an Dave.”
We got all comf-tubble. Penny sat on the floor next to her Dad. “I understand you’re in special school,” I said.
“Yes, but when I was a liddle fluffmuffin, I was just gonna be a regular pet.”
“So, what happened?”
“Well, see, Mom an Dad really like Shelties. That’s what humans call us Shetland Sheepdogs. Also, Toy Collies. Liddle kids call me Lassie. So when they were shoppin’ for their next dog, they found me at a North Carolina kennel. I was still too liddle to leave my litter, so they hadda come back later. I was worried they’d forget. Thank Lassie, they didn’t. I loved ridin’ in the car to my Forever Home. I had my own comfy crate an everything!
“Natchrully, Mom an Dad wanted to teach me the basics ASAP, ’speshly Pottie Training. So Dad’d get up at 1 a.m., when I was happily snoozing in my crate, dreamin’ about peanut budder and my squeaky hedgehog, an, basically, drag me out of it, place me in the backyard an then stand there lookin’ at me hopefully. But I didn’t HAFF to go pottie at 1 a.m.
“Well, THAT didn’t last long. Now, I have a schedule. An if Mom an Dad forget, I bang on the umbrella stand to remind ’em it’s Pottie Time. That works great. It also works when I just wanna go out and chase lizards. I corner ’em and we stare at each other. Then they run away.”
“Um … that’s good. So, tell me about going to school.”
“Well, my Dad has what humans call a Service-Related Disability. He can’t hear stuff too well. He needed a special trained dog, called an Aw-duh-tory Dog, but I was already a Basic (Fabulous) Pet, and we didn’t know whether I could do it.
“So they checked with this Cool Kibbles dog school, Dogs for Life. They train service dogs. An also regular ones like me. And we found out that SOMEtimes, when a regular dog that’s already in a regular famly has the right, um, the right, oh, poo, I always forget the word. The right – oh, I remember – TEMPER-mutt. So the human in charge, Miss Shelly, hadda see if I had that. I didn’t even know what it was. I was nervous. Would I make it? Could I help Dad? Woof, was I relieved when she told my Mom an Dad I DID have the right temper-mutt.”
“That is SO Cool Kibbles!” I told her. “What’s a temper-mutt?”
“I dunno. But I have the right one. Anyway, I was accepted and went to a basic class first. I passed the Dog Park test, an even got an aWARD. Look! It means I’m polite to humans an fellow pooches an follow the rools.”
Her Dad showed us a nice, framed award certificate that said “Canine Good Citizen.”
“Woof, Penny. That is Crispy Dog Biscuits! Good for you!”
“Thanks, Mr. Bonzo! So now I’m in a smaller class, me an two pals, Swag, he’s an Australian Sheepdog; an Spencer, a Jack Russell mix. We’re learning to be Aw-duh-tory Dogs. Dad has to learn stuff, too, so we’re like a team. We totally stick together.”
“How long do you go to school?” I inquired.
“It’s about a year in human. I’ve been going for 6 months. We’ve just started Level 3. I’ve already learned a lot. Mom an Dad are proud of me. An Miss Shelly says I’m doing very good. She says Shelties learn as well as Goldens an Labs cuz I’m a herder. So I guess I kinda herd Dad.
“I have a special vest just for work. When I’m wearin’ it, I’m All Business. I have a card to show I’m certified. I go shopping with Dad. I ’speshully like PetSmart an Pub-licks. (They got lotsa stuff!) At a rest-runt, I lie politely under the table. At home, when somebody knocks, or the phone rings, or the tea kettle whistles, I pat Dad with my paw. He says ‘Show me,’ an I do. I’m also learning Tap Signals.”
“Woof, that’s pawsome. Whaddya do when you’re off duty?”
“I’m ALWAYS alert to help Dad, of course. We play a lot. Dad throws the Frisbee and I grab it midair and return it. When I get pooped, I bring it back and lie on it. Then there’s treats. My FAVrite is banana. An peanut butter. When we go for walks, I get to wear my red collar an practice my Perky Trot.”
“You’re coat is so silky,” I observed. “Who’s your groomer?”
“Dad an Mom! Since I’m a Service Dog an all, I have to make a good impression by bein’ Well Groomed. At All Times. I consider myself an Extension of Dad. I enjoy my baths. An I get vacuumed so my coat is perfect.”
“Yep. Dad does my nails, too. What he does is, he puts a liddle peanut budder on the hand that holds my paw, and puts the clippers in the other one. So, while he’s gently trimmin’ my nails, I’m lickin’ the peanut budder off his hand. It works great.”
Heading home, I was thinking how pretty Penny had totally found her Purpose as a Dog, like my author pal Tucker said. I wonder if my groomer has peanut budder.
Till next time,