October 07, 2022

As I took Zena to her final obedience training class today and was looking forward to her graduation.  We were scheduled to visit the big hardware store in town, but the treat man thought it might be too overwhelming for Zena as she is rarely in situations with other people.  He opted for a nearby farm supply store that might be less crowded and had more potential for other dogs to be present.  When we arrived, rather than the 3 or 4 cars expected, the lot was nearly full.  When we went inside, we found it was inventory day, and the aisles were crammed with checkers counting the product on the shelves.  Zena became anxious being around so many people, but we skirted the inventory aisles and quickly walked by most of the shoppers.  The trainer finally took her to the fenced outdoor patio and escaped from the commotion.  I worried this might be touch and go as far as her graduation went.   

When I looked online, I found Dog Obedience School graduation is usually a time to show all the other dog parents how well your dog behaves as compared to theirs.  That means following hand signals, moving through an obstacle course, and sitting quietly next to the other dogs in line.  The other idea to pop up was the possibility of ordering one of several available cards to commend Zena on her graduation from Dog Obedience School (US$3.79 includes envelope).  There were also graduation announcements that I could send out to all my (Zena’s?) friends.  While it is nice to mark these significant occasions in our (her) life, I often wonder if the real intent is to hint at the possibility of receiving a gift to honor the event.  While I thought the sentiment was nice, I decided to forego both possibilities.  I was already too late to send out the announcement and was not sure whether Zena would appreciate a card.  I decided to give Zena another treat instead.

Zena was able to handle all the obstacles she encountered at the farm supply store.  She maneuvered through the aisles like a trooper and while she took notice of the people, kept her real focus on the trainer.  Out in the yard she jumped up on a raised platform and practiced lay down and stay.  She did well but began to become overstimulated.  When we went inside there was a tiny yippie dog riding in a shopping cart that began to make a ruckus, but Zena ignored her and focused on the treats.  We weaved through the people on the way out of the store and she finally began to settle down when we got to a grassy area.  Time was up and the session was complete.  The trainer praised her work and said she had learned what she needed (I needed) to know, unless we wanted to make her a show dog, and he did not offer that training.  He took Zena’s picture, and the graduation was over.  While this was Zena’s first graduation (she is only 8 months after all), it will probably not be her last.

THOUGHTS:  I have experienced eight school graduations in my life, ranging from Primary School (this was before widespread Kindergarten) to my last graduate degree.  I believe the one I hold fondest in memory was when I graduated from Primary School.  The event was held in the second story of an abandoned dance hall in our small town that had a raised stage and curtains.  Everyone had their name called (all 12 of us) and we walked across the stage to receive our diploma.  While that was memorable, the best part was the homemade cookies and punch severed at the conclusion.  The next year I embarked on a regime that would comprise most of my next 50 years.  Melissa framed my four college degrees for one of my birthdays, but sadly the Primary School diploma had been lost.  Like much of life, it probably exists far better as a memory.  Holding onto memories can bring us joy, but we need to remember the lessons taught as well.  These memories help allow us to navigate through our present life.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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