Friday, November 20, 2009

Everyone gets a trophy

Back in the dark ages when I was 16, most teenagers took drivers ed in school. I was among them. I sat in a classroom listening to a teacher talk about the various rules of the road in the state driving handbook, spent the requisite number of hours in a driving simulator, drove an actual car once or twice, took a test and emerged with a valid driver's license.

To celebrate, I was to take the wheel - my dad in the front passenger seat next to me - and drive the family to a restaurant for dinner. We got maybe six blocks down the street when Dad ordered me to stop, reached over to grab the key, turn off the car and order a change of places. I spent the next several weeks driving around a nearby parking lot under his watchful eye and only when he thought I was not a danger to myself and others did he let me drive on public streets again.

The state may have pronounced me good to go and issued a driver's license, but I didn't know how to drive.

I thought about that this week as Otis and I completed a series of dog (and owner) obedience classes. In seven weeks, Otis was to learn to heel, sit, sit automatically when I came to a stop, lie down, turn left and right, stay, wait and stand still (as in, when the veterinarian is examining him). The final class concluded with presentation of certificates and photo opps for each of the dogs with a mortarboard supplied by the instructor.

So, a freshly minted dog school graduate, what can he do? He will sit when I ask him to, stay (sort of) for a short while, lie down about every third time I ask and only if I have a treat. He won't wait at all, and we only really accomplish "heel" by my managing the leash.

We've made progress, but if he was driving a car, I'd take the keys away from him.

Which only continues to prove that just because you have a piece of paper doesn't mean you know what to do with it.

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