He’s a Valedictorian Again!

Our home is a zoo. Our home hasn’t always been a zoo – but it is now. We have three cats/kittens and a dog.

There is Gracie our sweet – reserved – orange marmalade – tabby cat.   Gracie gives new meaning to stealthy and quiet! Gracie absolutely adores Jason (probably because she knows they are kindred spirits).   She doesn’t talk very often – but when she does – it is significant. When Gracie glides silently into a room or when Gracie meows – our entire family responds. Gracie and Jason have both tried and tried to teach me the power of using your words judiciously and infrequently (BUT I am too much of a goof to learn this lesson!)

There is Ash our sassy – gray – tabby kitten. Ash is my girl. Ash is an absolute diva. She talks A LOT. Ash is demanding and has a huge personality in a small body. She likes everything to be “just so.”   And if something is not up to her standards – Ash will tell you about it over and over and over again until you come and fix it! Jack gave Ash the nickname of Napoleon because he thinks Ash is like our very own little French dictator!

Lily is our mostly white kitten with the huge fluffy tale. Lily is a wild and crazy ball of energy.   Lily is an imp and a blur and just plain hilarious or trouble depending on her mood. She is into everything and all over the place ALL of the time (unless she is sound asleep). Lily talks a lot too. Lily and Ash are sisters (but not liter mates). Lily’s favorite toys are Nerf bullets – and she hunts – stalks and kills them often!

And then there is Douglas the dog – Jack’s Australian Shepherd.   Doug is a beautiful red merle.   He is fluffy and soft and lots of colors. Even Doug’s eyes are both blue and brown!   Doug is a dream come true for Jack. Jack and Doug are side-kicks.

I will be honest – I have struggled DEEPLY with Doug the dog.   Doug doesn’t always listen to me.   Doug has infuriated me by jumping our fence and refusing to come when called. Doug will choke himself and yank so hard it feels like he is going to dislocate my shoulder when I take him for a walk. Doug chases the cats. Doug has almost knocked me down trying to escape out the front door when I am leaving.

I know Doug is not evil – but Doug is often as annoying as rock in your shoe on a long hike up a mountain in the rain with no poncho while trying to entertain a whining – complaining toddler . . .

Untrained dogs are NOT okay. I do not find untrained dogs cute or amusing or endearing (this is my opinion and Doug lives at my house). Jason and I declared we would not live with an untrained – disobedient beast no matter how cute he is. It has always been our policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists (even the really cute ones named Jack and Will).   And we certainly were not starting with Doug the dog no matter how pretty his eyes are!

So – Douglas and Jack enrolled in a 10-week training course hopefully to teach Doug some manners. (Jack already has lovely manners! Jack’s sit-stay is AMAZING and he almost always comes when we call!)

The goal was to earn an American Kennel Club Novice Obedience Certification or more bluntly that Doug no longer acted like an idiot when we take him for walks! I was setting the bar pretty low . . .

Look at that PERFECT heel!

Jack and Doug have spent the last 10 weeks working on all sorts of handler and dog skills together. Everything from heeling to staying to fancy-pants stuff like off-leash figure-eights and down-stays for entire minutes while being distracted. A personal favorite of mine – is NOT barking at other dogs!

Doug is a dog transformed (when he is with Jack). Seriously – Doug is a joy and a delight. Doug heels. He stays. Douglas doesn’t bark at other annoying – barking dogs. Doug does something called an “auto-sit” which basically means when Jack tells him to sit with hand movements – Doug actually sits and stays seated until Jack gives him permission to move!

Doug doing a sit – stay WITHOUT anyone holding his leash!!!!!!!!!

Last night was the final exam and last class.

I went along as Jack and Doug’s cheering section and moral support.

I was incredibly curious how this would all end up. Douglas is an Australian Shepherd (HIGH energy).   Douglas does not listen to me.   Douglas still annoys the daylights out of me every-other walk we take together – and Doug and I take lots and lots of walks together with Jason.

Again – with the NO LEASH!

BUT Doug behaves wonderfully for Jack. Our neighbors have even commented on the day and night difference between the way Doug behaves for Jack and the way Doug behaves for Jason and me . . .

When it came time for their test – Jack and Douglas both did wonderfully. They rocked the test like a couple of rock stars! Doug listened and stayed and came and heeled and did everything he was supposed to do when he was supposed to do it (and so did Jack).

We learned right away that Doug and Jack had passed the class and would receive their official AKC Novice Obedience Certification at the end of the evening.

The valedictorians!!!

But at the end of the evening – when the scores were announced – Jack and Douglas received the top score in the class. Jack and Doug received a score of 198 out of 200!   John Stuart McFarland has been an official valedictorian twice this year! (Jack was pleased with being one of the valedictorians of the duPont-Manual class of 2022 – but I honestly think this may have pleased him even more!)

We are very proud of both Jack and Doug the Dog – our valedictorians!!!

Jack and I spoke with the trainer after class. Doug and Jack are such an in-sync team – the trainer thinks they should advance and take more training together. He also thinks Jack and Doug should take their show on the road and enter AKC competitions.

I love the way Doug is looking at Jack in this picture.

We also talked about the blunt – painful truth that the class valedictorian is also a troublemaker for anyone other than Jack! It would seem – Jason and I need to be trained . . .

THE TRAINER firmly believes that I CAN BE TRAINED!?!?!?!?!   I was so proud of Jack for keeping a straight face when the trainer declared that he thought – Jack’s “parents could probably be trained” and then he asked Jack what he thought . . .

(Yeah – she’s bright enough – I suppose . . . but my dad – well he’s a stubborn one . . . )

So  – in the next 2 weeks before Jack leaves for college – Jack gets to spend part of every evening training his mom. Yes – Jack has to teach this OLD gal new tricks!   Perhaps – we should add Jack to the church prayer list . . . HE MAY NEED IT!?!?!?!?!

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