When he learned to “sit,” with no leash and no treats, I thought I was a good trainer. When he learned to “wait,” with no leash and no treats, I thought I was a really good trainer. When he learned “down” and “come,” with no leash and no treats, I thought I was a darn good trainer with a pretty smart dog.

Today my suspicions have been confirmed, however; I’m probably a mediocre trainer…but I have a darn good dog!

This morning seemed like a great morning to practice walking on a leash (the one seemingly basic skill Duke still hadn’t learned). After my slow waking up and breakfast routine, we called the Aunt and Cousin Bruno (another handsome standard poodle) and out we went. The first quarter mile was pretty bad. I was sure I would choke him and tire of the word “heel” before we made it to the park, much less all the way around Southridge High. But I was wrong. By the time we made it just past the park, “heel” was understood…Duke would slow, speed up, and stop next to me pretty much every time, minus a few puppy sniffs (out of curiosity) here and there. By the time we were rounding on the park for the second time, Duke could “heel” and maintain my speed up to a fast jog, and then suddenly stop on command as well. He had me at that point. But it gets better.

When we got to the park and I unfastened the leash, Duke took off at great speed (for a puppy whose legs are only 15 or so inches tall). Just for the heck of it, I yelled “heel!” I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but he did it. In his excited puppy way he came all the way back to me, got beside my right leg, and did a sort of running in place puppy thing (I can’t describe it…like a series of jumps…like running up instead of forward). I cracked up laughing and took off running with him.

All this excitement was making me late for lunch. I decided to leave him alone with free range of the apartment for only the third time ever (Duke was not crate trained, but I had started leaving him in the bathroom for fear he would tear things up if he found himself alone). The first time, he was alone for a half hour and knocked a kitchen towel to the ground. A stern look while saying “no” and holding the towel directly in front of him solved that. The second time he was left alone for two hours and even the kitchen towel was in place when I returned. That was Monday and Tuesday this week; today was the third day. Grandma and Aunt were going to pick him up within a couple hours.

Well, Grandma and Aunt…forgot. I, had a wonderfully long lunch, followed by an even better dessert and walk. When I was finally on my way home, 4 hours later, I found out Duke was still alone and picked up the pace a little. No need. I opened the door to find one pup super excited to see me, and all my stuff as I left it.

Long story long…Duke’s amazing and I’m starting to think God sent him as a roommate more than as a mere puppy. (I’ll explain why later.)

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It happens sometimes that I read till I’m sleepy and when I’m satisfied and try to close my eyes I can’t sleep. It’s a weird and extreme example of a nonconformist attitude.

I send out a text…a call for help really, but I know it won’t help me sleep…I’ll just wonder why it’s going unanswered. To distract myself from that one I send out another. I’m pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call in response to the second one. I get an offer to talk boring talk until I fall asleep. Instead, I find myself making silly but excited conversation. Before I know it I’ve brewed tea, burned my tongue, dropped some ice cubes on the floor, hit my head on the counter on my way back up, and my caller has left me to find sleep on my own as he goes off to whatever he’s doing…which is not sleeping.

Then, just as I figure I’ll write something and make myself tired…my first text gets answered. Ha ha! I’m so weird. I’m actually starting to wonder if the person texting me back exists at all. It’s like I’m having a text friendship with a person I’ve barely met. Like a correspondence friendship Austen would’ve written about (except modern and less verbose). It’s brilliant really…a friend who always answers when I think of him, and who expects nothing but that I return the favor when he thinks of me.

So yeah…I’m writing this after I’ve answered his reply text and I’m sorta wondering if he’ll text back to that. Texting is also weird…no one ever really says goodbye and I always wonder if I was supposed to have said one last thing. I usually solve that uncertainty by sending a quiet :); but I’ve no idea how that’s received.

The tea’s room temperature. I think I’ll drink it and try to sleep again. oh yeah…Merry Christmas everyone…30 minutes left!

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