Fermo, best in class

Hello, my name is ‘Fermo.’ I’m a one year old Scottish terrier. I know you are a youngster too and are going to bed, so I want to tell you a little story to help you go to sleep. It’s about me growing up as a puppy. I have lots of doggie stories, about my friends, my adventures and my experiences. In this story, I would like to tell you about my going to school, puppy school.

My humans adopted me when I was 2 months old. My doggie mom explained that humans adopt puppies to bring more love, energy and fun into their homes. I am very lucky. My new family is just wonderful.

My female human is Nadia. She is very gentle and even when I don’t understand her, I like how she talks to me. When she combs me, she is always saying, “Che elegante!” in such a warm and soft way or “Che bravo che sei,” when she brushes my teeth each morning. I have no idea what she is saying but it sure makes me feel good. I like her a lot.

My male human, Richard, he is gruffer. I know he means well and he loves me. He really takes care of me. No matter what kind of weather, twice a day, he dresses me up carefully and takes me out for long walks. If it is snowing and cold, he puts on my fur-lined coat; if it is raining, my plastic raincoat, all bright yellow and with reflective tape for safety. However, I wish he would stop pulling so much on my leash and also, it tires me to hear him repeat over and over and over…“Come on, Fermo,” “Hurry up, Fermo,”…“Come on, Fermo,” “Hurry up, Fermo,” Puleeze, I got it the first time.

One day, my humans walked me by a big brown building and said, “Fermo, next week you’re going to go there, to puppy school.”

“Puppy school? Huh? What’s that,” I wondered. I had no idea what puppy school was and so I was a little bit nervous but I knew Richard would watch out for me.

The first day of school, I was amazed. I had never soon so many dogs like that, all in one place: tall ones, short ones, skinny minnies, chubby tubbies, long hairs, short hairs, long legs and wee ones too.

We sat down and the teacher asked for introductions. The humans said our names but each of us knew we would meet and greet each other in the better way later, the doggie way.

I sniffed the dog on my right, “Hya! I’m Fermo.”

“I’m Priscilla,” the little bundle of white yelped back. “I’m a Maltese. What are you?”

“I’m a Scottish Terrier. Most people call us ‘Scotties,’” I barked back in that gruff voice that we Scotties have. By this time, the brown, long sausage-shaped, low-to-the-ground doggie next to us started sniffing at me.

“Hey, how you doin’? I’m Dutchie, ” he ruffed. “I’m a wiener dog.” For those who might not know, that’s a daschund.

Priscilla and I circled Dutchie. Sniff, sniff, we continued our introductions.

I was the youngest pup in the class, just 8 weeks old but I wasn’t the smallest. Priscilla was smaller, Dutchie was shorter.

Did you know that dogs are bilingual? We start learning our second language, humanese, as soon as we come into our new home and begin living with our new family. Humanese is easy to learn because most humans are very open and direct. But they must think dogs are either not very smart or that we may be hard of hearing because they repeat things many times, and each time, they say it louder. Maybe they think repeating things louder makes it clearer. It doesn’t. They don’t realize dog language has no words like human language. We translate whatever they say into doggie language and this takes time, especially if the human words are new or complicated. Sometimes the loud talking makes me nervous and then understanding becomes even more difficult.

One dog in puppy school seemed very hesitant about playing with the rest of us. He was all balled up over in the corner, in a kind of defensive crouch, a big, black, long-legged Lab and I mean BIGGGG!!! He sat far away from everybody as if he didn’t want to talk to any of us. Eventually we coaxed some information out of him and learned that he was from Nova Scotia, a province far away from our own, Ontario. I thought he was probably very homesick and maybe even a little frightened even though all the doggies in the school seemed very friendly.

In front of me sat Lizzie. She had long blond fur and wore a pink ribbon on her head. She whimpered to me, “I just hate that ribbon. I think it makes me look so silly.” She was right, but I didn’t tell her that.

Toby was the tallest dog in the whole class, a handsome golden retriever with a beautiful, shiny long coat. He looked so intelligent. Then there was Fritz, a giant of a German shepherd with thick grey fur and the biggest jaws in the whole wide world, with huge teeth. Lucky he was a friendly guy.

Then, I spotted the cutest doggie I had ever seen, sitting quietly under her human’s chair. Coco was really, really cute. She was a Havanese, a breed I did not know at all. She was a little white ball of fluff. But wow, was she ever pretty!

There was a lot of excitement in that first class, all the yelping and barking, in so many doggie voices. Some grunted, some yelped, some whimpered and I even saw one crying. It all seemed kind of chaotic.

Then the teacher stood to make an announcement. Her name was Jan. She had a lot of experience with dogs and knew exactly how to manage us. She made each class a lot of fun in a firm way but she was very fair. All of us liked and respected her a lot.

We learned something new in every class and Jan always made sure that learning was fun. We laughed a lot at our mistakes and we barked cheers whenever one of us understood and succeeded. It was cool!

At the end of every class, we had playtime. That was the most fun. Jan organized us into small groups so we would all be comfortable and we just played with our group partners, nuzzling, licking, bumping, and rubbing each other. Humans called all this doggie sniffing and nuzzling, “socializing;” such a big word for just being friendly.

I had never seen so many black dogs all in one place before. Hey, wait a second. I was black too, so I went over so I could hang out with the black dudes. They were all bigger than I was, None seemed to object to my joining them. Well, none except the big black Nova Scotian who seemed to object to everyone. He growled a bit at anyone who approached him but I wasn’t afraid. I wondered what was bothering him? What was making him so edgy? It became a more noticeable problem when at one point he surprised me and snarled at me. He looked like he was ready to bite me. Richard, my human, immediately picked me up before anything happened. I guess he thought I needed protection. He must have forgotten that Scotties don’t need protection. No Scottie ever backs away from a threat. Nothing scares a Scottie. That black lab didn’t know who he was tangling with.

We learned a lot in puppy school. Every lesson had a different goal. We learned not to touch things without permission; this is called ‘respect for property.’ We learned not to jump up on people; this is called ‘respect for people.’ I learned to sit and to be good. This means that I was obedient and I used to get a treat whenever I did it right.

We even got homework. I had to practice to sit, to down, to jump, but not to jump on people. I really liked jumping on people a lot, but I learned that some people don’t like this and when I did it, I didn’t earn any treats. So, I learned to jump up on people only if they didn’t mind and Nadia or Richard said, “OK, Fermo,” which meant it was okay.

I practised my homework every day. In our next class, all the dogs were to show what they had learned. When my turn came, I stood up, proud as could be, ready to show off my newly learned command, ‘Leave it.’ The command meant I was not to touch whatever treat was put on the floor in front of me until Richard gave the release phrase, ‘OK Fermo.’ I had learned the ‘leave it’ command really well and was ready to show it off.

All the dogs were quiet as they watched me trot out to the centre of the class.

“Fermo, sit,” said Richard. I sat perfectly, a doggy grin on my face. Richard smiled.

“Fermo, down,” said Richard adding the special hand signal, a flat-palmed swoosh downward. I dropped like a stone. Richard stood tall with pride. I did too. We were on a roll.

“Fermo, stay,” said Richard as he walked out in front of me. Then, he bent down and dropped about seven or eight little treats in a line a little ways in front of me. I looked at the treats. Every dog in the class expected me to begin crawling toward them but I didn’t move. I just kept looking up at Richard who was standing very still. His Fermo was doing great. We were both proud as could be and I never moved an inch.

Richard then knelt down by the treats. Every dog now expected me to make a dash for them as they all mistakenly thought this was the release signal. It wasn’t. I didn’t budge. Richard’s smile grew even broader. He saw I was doing it all perfectly. Then, he bent over and with his forefinger, tapped the floor just behind one of the treats. I jumped up, ran over and gobbled up the treat. Richard then chose another treat farther away, again tapping the floor and I snapped up that treat and in turn, where he tapped, I ate the treat.

Every dog jaw in the class dropped…even Jan was surprised, an 8 week old puppy with such great self-control. Incredible! The dogs all barked out their cheers. “Bark, bark,” “Woof, woof” “Hooray Fermo, you’re great man.” “Way to go, Fermo!” The place filled with doggie cheering.

I was awarded the trophy for “Best trick” in that class, a neat squeaky toy! I was so excited. Coco, Dutch, Priscilla, Fritz, Toby and a bunch of the others came over to look and to paw me on the back. We all took turns playing together with my new toy. Then Coco came over and nuzzled her face into mine, saying, “Fermo, you’re the best!” I was the happiest puppy in the whole wide world.

On the way home, I fell asleep in the car and dreamed of all my wonderful new friends and about my next puppy class. I really liked puppy school.

Every week we met and I really rushed doing my business outside on the lawn near the bushes because I knew it was very important to arrive to class on time; this means to be punctual. We learned new things like that in every class.

One day, I didn’t want to go to class. I didn’t like how I always had to be very attentive and very cautious around that big black lab from Nova Scotia. Though I was small, I knew I had a reputation to maintain. Scotties are known for their bravery and their courage and I understood I had a big responsibility. I had to go to class and be an example for the other small dogs.

Here’s what I learned so far in puppy school: do my homework, listen to my teachers, obey my humans, be on time, follow instructions, be a good example for others and be friendly.

In our last class, we had another contest. The teacher held a timer while another person counted. I was so nervous and excited and I showed it: wag, wag, wag, faster, faster, faster….

And the winner is….FERMO.!  Hey, that’s me! I won! I won the “Tail wagging contest!!!”

I was overwhelmed and barkless. Then suddenly, all around me, again happy barking cheers erupted. All the puppies in class came around to congratulate me, all but one. It was the big, black lab, sitting so sadly over in the corner. He looked so lost and alone. I had had enough of his attitude, so I walked over to him and smiled. He kind of smiled back, sheepishly. Can you say that about a dog? He told me about his experience in the last school he had gone to, how the dogs had laughed at his very common name. He was called Rover.

“Hey man, ‘Rover’ is a great name. It’s used in books and dog stories all the time,” I said. “Isn’t that true guys?” I barked out my question to the others. They all barked back, “Yeah, yeah, for sure.” Then, Priscilla trotted over and yelped out, “Besides Rover, you’re really special. All other Rovers are always ‘Red Rovers’ but you’re not. You’re a ‘black Rover.’ Hooray.” And everybody shouted out “Woof, woof hooray for black Rover!”

Rover stood up, tall, majestic and powerful. He sauntered over next to me. Oh, oh, but I didn’t back away. No way would a Scottie ever shrink back. Rover bumped up against me and then rubbed his haunches against me saying, “Fermo, you know something? You’re a first class guy!”

“Hey, it’s ok buddy! You’re doin’ just great,” I said to him reassuringly.

So, I learned another thing in puppy school: each of us is special in some way and we should respect and care for each other; in that way, we build friendships.

At the last class, each dog had his photo taken wearing their graduation bandanna around their neck and standing beside the school graduation cap. Each of us left, puppy proud of our achievements and especially happy for all the wonderful new puppy friends we had made and had become.

Puppy school was great!

Submitted by richard@szpin.ca

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