FERMO GOES TO SCHOOL
I’m an older dog now, but I still remember my younger days, my school days.
One day, my female human and her husband walked me to a new place, a brown building. I had only seen it in driving by.
“Fermo, next week you’re going to go there, in puppy school,” they told me.
Puppy school? Wow, this was going to be interesting, learning for puppies like me.
The first day of school when we walked into the classroom, I was amazed. So many dogs: tall ones, short ones, skinny minnies, chubbies, long hairs, short hairs, long legs and wee ones too. I had never seen so many dogs in one place like that, ever, and so many different kinds.
We sat down, and the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves. The humans said each dog’s name but each dog knew we had our own special way of getting to know each other.
I sniffed the dog on my right, “Hya buddy. I’m Fermo.”
“I’m Priscilla,” yelped the little bushy bundle of white fur in reply. “I’m a Maltese. What are you?”
“I’m a Scottish Terrier. Most people call my type, Scotties,” I barked back in that gruff voice that we Scotties have. By this time, the brown, long shaped, low-to-the-ground guy next to us started sniffing at me.
“Hey, how you doin’? I’m Dutchie, the daschund,” he ruffed.
Priscilla and I circled Dutchie. Sniff, sniff, we went on doing our doggy thing as a way of introducing ourselves.
I was surprised to learn I was the youngest pup in the class, just 8 weeks old but at least I wasn’t the smallest. Priscilla was smaller, Dutchie was lower, errrr, shorter.
One thing that we dogs have over many humans is that all of us are all bilingual. We start learning our second language, humanese, as soon as we come into our new home. Humanese is easy to learn because most humans are very open, very direct, and very loud. Many of them think we dogs are either dumb or deaf because they repeat what they say many times, and each time, they say it louder and louder. They think repeating things louder makes it clearer. They don’t realize dog language has no human words in it. We have to translate what they say into dog language. This can take time, especially if the human words are new or complicated. It’s hard to understand what they mean when they say too many things. It becomes an even harder task when they shout at us.
I am really lucky. My female human is very gentle. Her name is Nadia 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 gentle way. I don’t know what she is saying but it sure sounds nice. When she brushes my teeth, “Che bravo che sei” I have no idea what she means but it sure makes me feel nice. I like her a lot.
My male human, Richard, he is gruffer. I know he means well and that he likes me a lot. 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, I get my plastic rain coat, all bright yellow and with reflective tape for safety. But I wish he would stop pulling so hard on my leash. And it does become tiring 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.
I really have to teach my humans a lot. They don’t realize that we Scotties have an independent streak in us. We don’t like to be pushed around. My female human, Nadia, I think is learning that more quickly than Richard.
Oh, but let me get back to my story. After the introductions at school, every dog except one was eager to play with every one of the others. Over in the corner, balled up into a kind of defensive crouch was a big, black, long legged Lab and I mean BIGGGG !!! He sat far away from everybody. He didn’t like to talk but we were able to coax some information from him. He was from Nova Scotia, far away from our province of Ontario and this was his second puppy school.
I didn’t worry about the big black lab because there were so many other dogs for me to meet.
In front of me sat Lizzie. She had long blond fur, and wore a pink ribbon between her ears. She told me she hated the ribbon saying, “I think I look silly with it.” She was right, but I didn’t tell her that.
Toby was the tallest dog in the whole class. He was a handsome golden retriever and very proud of his coat, his good looks and his stature. He looked so very intelligent. Beside Toby, sat Fritz, a friendly looking German shepherd with short grey fur. Fritz was big, really big. I thought Fritz had the biggest jaws in the whole wide world with huge teeth to match. Oh, those teeth. Oh my! One would have to be really careful playing with Fritz.
Finally, I spotted the cutest dog of all, sitting quietly under a human’s chair. Her name was Coco and she was really, really cute. She was a Havanese. I had never seen a Havanese before but wow, was she cute!
Well, there was a lot of excitement in the class. We were all new. Everything we were doing was new. It all seemed kind of chaotic, kind of frenzied with all the yelping and puppy barking, and a whole bunch of different doggy voices. Some grunted, some yelped, some whimpered and I even saw one crying. The humans in the room had not yet learned our language, so us doggies seemed to be in charge.
We forgot about the teacher. Her name was Jan and she knew exactly what we were up to at every instant because she had lots of experience with dogs we found out. She made each class a lot of fun and though she was firm with us, she was very fair. All of us liked and respected Jan right away.
We learned something new every day and Jan made sure that it was always fun. We laughed a lot at how each one of us made silly mistakes and we barked cheers whenever one of us showed understanding and success in learning the lesson. It was cool!
At the end of every class, we had play time. We all liked that the most. 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. All of us continued our sniffing and I learned that humans called this “socializing.” Heck, such a big word for just being friendly.
I had never seen so many black dogs all together before. I’m black too. So, I went and hung around with the black dudes. They were all bigger than me, but no one seemed to object to my joining them. Well, no one except the big black lab. But he seemed to object to everyone. He snarled and growled a bit at anyone near him and almost the whole time we were in school. I wasn’t afraid but I sure was curious. What was bugging him? What was making him so angry? It became a more significant problem when at one point he surprised me and snarled at me. He looked like he was ready to bite me. Luckily, Richard, my human, intervened and picked me up before anything else happened. I think he thought it was time to protect me. I think Richard had forgotten. Scotties don’t need protection. We can protect ourselves and, no Scottie ever backs away from a fight. Nothing scares a Scottie. That black lab didn’t know who he was tangling with.
We learned a lot in puppy school. Each 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 would get a treat whenever I did it right for my humans.
I even got homework to do. I had to practice to sit, to down, to jump, but to not jump on people. I really liked jumping on people a lot, but I learned this was not always acceptable to them, and when I did it, it didn’t earn me any treats. So, I was careful as to when I jumped up on anyone. I did it only after Nadia or Richard said, “OK, Fermo.” Then, I understood it was okay to jump up on people. But even then, I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked because I knew humans don’t like a dog who is jumping up on them, even if he is being friendly.
I loved running around and playing in our back yard at home. There was lots of grass but even nicer, there was lots of garden. Scotties are diggers, you know, and so I could dig all over the place. Nadia didn’t like that because she was the gardener. Richard never scolded me for digging. I don’t think he liked gardening.
Then, I would hear the whistle and when I did, I’d come running back to the laundry room door. I always got a treat. This was a lot of fun and I liked getting my little rewards.
One time we had an assignment for puppy school. I practised my homework with Richard and Nadia every day. The next class, all the dogs showed off what they had learned. When my turn came, I stood up as proud as could be because I knew this command well. It was the “leave it” command and I had really practiced it.
All the dogs were silent as they watched me trot out to the centre of the class to do my exercise.
“Fermo, sit,” said Richard and I sat perfectly with a doggy grin on my face. Richard smiled.
“Fermo, down,” to which Richard added the special hand signal, a flat palm swooshed downward. I dropped like a stone into my down position. Richard stood taller with pride. My chest heaved with it 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 7 or 8 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 and to get one. I didn’t move. I just kept looking up at Richard who was standing very still. His Fermo was doing his learned stuff, flawlessly. We were both proud as could be and I wasn’t moving, not an inch.
Richard then knelt down by the treats. Every dog now expected me to make a dash for them. They all thought this was the release signal. It wasn’t. They were wrong. I didn’t budge. Richard’s smile grew even bigger. He knew I was doing it all perfectly. Then, he bent over and with his forefinger, he tapped the floor behind one of the treats. I jumped up, ran over and gobbled up that treat. Richard then chose another treat farther away than the next one in the line, tapped the floor again and I ate that treat. And in turn, where he tapped, I ate the treat.
Every dog jaw in the place dropped…even Jan was surprised. An 8 week old puppy able to show such great self-control. Wow, that was really incredible! The dogs all barked out their cheers. “Bark, bark,” “Woof, woof” “Hooray Fermo, you’re great man.” “Way to go, Fermo.” The place was filled with doggy cheering.
I was declared the winner and received a neat squeaky toy for my trophy! 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. I was so happy that I fell asleep on the way home and dreamed of the wonderful new friends.
I really loved this school and all these new friends.
And so every week we met at the same time and place. 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 every day and 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. But, though I was small, I knew I had a reputation to maintain. Scotties are known for their bravery and their courage. Also, I understood I had a big responsibility. I had to go to class and be an example for the other small dogs. This was very important.
This is what I learned so far in puppy school: do my homework, listen to my teachers, obey my humans, be on time, follow instructions, and be friendly.
In every class we also enjoyed a game.
During our last class we had a contest. The teacher held a timer, and another person was counting. I was so nervous and so 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 puppy 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 walked over to him and smiled. He kind of smiled back, sheepishly. Can you say that about a dog?
I then said to him, “Come on big guy, tell us what is bothering you.” He opened up with the coaxing and told us about his experience in the last school he had gone to, how the dogs had laughed and jeered at his very common name which they thought didn’t suit him at all. It was 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. And they all barked back, “Yay, yay, 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 shrink back. 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.
We all have special gifts to respect and share and that is how we became friends. Our lasting friendship began on that day.
At the last class, each dog had his photo taken wearing their graduation bandana around their neck and standing beside the school graduation cap. Each of us left that last class, puppy proud, proud of all we had achieved and especially happy for all the wonderful new puppy friends we had made and had become.
I really liked puppy school a lot.
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