My dog, Rabia, has several new friends. She shares her lake with Olive, Honey, Skippy, Herald, Lucy, and Ellie. For a dog like Rabia, this is a happy abundance.
Fortunately for their owners, Rabia does not get to visit them all at once. You see, she is an instigator. When Rabia was a year old, living in Vermont, she went to school. The head mistress was named Clare, a no-nonsense horse and dog trainer. Ms. Clare was nice enough to humans but she made sure we understood her school was for us – we were there to be trained so that the dogs could be successful. Thinking back on it, Rabia never had a chance.
Anyway, both dogs and humans learned to walk nicely together. The dogs were to follow the lead of their human. Those leashes on a spool that unwind at the dog’s urging were verboten. Every dog had a training collar so that when the human jerked its leash hard, the dog responded. The more hard-headed the dog, the ornerier the collar. It was serious business.
By the end of the beginner class, the dogs took commands for walking, stopping, sitting, lying down, and more. At graduation there was a test in which all the dogs sat fifteen feet apart with their human standing next to them. Clare came by to tempt each dog with food, make a loud noise to see if they jumped, and even brushed them to see if they resisted. Then, in a surprise to all of us, Clare brought in the world’s most humongous Great Dane. Slowly she led that huge beast back and forth between the sitting students. Poor Rabia was visibly shaking but she remained seated as the monster passed by. I was sure Rabia was the star of her class.
Intermediate school was something else altogether. The expectations were much higher. At that graduation ceremony the dogs lined up ten feet apart on one side of the horse arena and their humans were forty yards away against the far wall. One by one the dogs were supposed to run to their human, turn, and sit. Rabia would have been the forth of fifteen dogs to take her turn but instead, just after the first dog did what it was supposed to do, she leapt up and ran figure eights as fast as she could – enticing the rest of the class to join her in joyful pandemonium.
It took considerable effort and about ten minutes to re-establish order from the chaos. With everyone back in place, dog number two was issued the command to run to its human. Rabia didn’t wait this time, she took off running crazy eights immediately. After the third time Rabia instigated a prison yard riot, she and I were instructed to go stand in the corner. She was happy, as she always is, and I was mortified by our dramatic public failure.
When I see people still resisting the wearing of masks, or read about their social gatherings, I think about how easy it is to get Rabia to do the right things so long as there are not other dogs or humans involved. I wish we could turn the maskless crowd over to Clare and see what she could do with them.