Posted by: jility | December 7, 2010


Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Sometimes the Universe kicks your arse and works in mysterious ways to keep you humble. Such was the case for me yesterday. I needed a day to let the sting subside before I spilled my big churning guts.

The weekend at the Invitational was magic. GREAT friends, GREAT laughs and GREAT agility! I picked up Susan Garrett and Lynda Orton Hill in San Diego the day after their flight here from Canada. I blogged all about that in my last post.

Susan and Lynda stayed overnight with us and left on Monday to return home to snow and miserable winter weather. I do NOT envy them! I HATE COLD WEATHER! Anyway, Lynda said she wanted to help me with some training on our puppies so appreciatively I jumped on her offer. Well, they are not very puppyish anymore. They are 14 months old today and ENORMOUS! Uppity Puppity Piddles When You Pat Her Pankin Pants Poodle is 24 3/4″ tall and her sister, Barque, is 25″ tall! They look like Poodlezilla! So Lynda said she would help me transition from my hand presses to the plank to the 2o2o position and I was thrilled about that! Mel not so much. He hates putting himself out there and failing. I normally don’t mind.

It was 7:12 and we were supposed to leave about 7:30. Lynda called from the house that it was time for the lesson. I started out the door of the Global Warmer and saw Lynda headed back to Les’ house to get another load of suitcases to put in the Stinkmobile. I yelled after her to ask where she was going. She yelled back that Susan was giving us the lesson. I turned around and there she was standing there behind me. OK, I thought, this will be great! I can show off for Susan and she will see my bitchin recall and crate games and nose presses, etc. I will be styling but I hope poor Mel doesn’t get in trouble because he rarely trains his dog. So that is what I kept thinking (I am a tad OCD). Then Susan calls Mel out and tells him she wants him to work his puppy at the same time. I was very worried for Mel.

So I gather my tugger, treats and Pankin Pants and off we go towards the working area. Mel was close behind. I have no leash on Uppity but Mel has one on his dog because Barque has ZERO recall. It is a bone of contention in our home but that is for another time. So in our work area, we have two large soft crates. Susan tells me to put Uppity in one, which I do, but leave the door open. I was confident Upp would stay in there so no problem. No sooner do I turn my back and she is out of the crate. No problem, I just put her back in and started to zip it up when Mel removes Barque’s leash and asks her to get in her crate. Well, Barque did what she does best and bolts. When Pankins sees all the fun her sister is having, she too bolts from the crate and the two of them take off running wild like two freed race horses! CRAP! I wanted to strangle Mel for allowing his dog to get loose! I was still OK though, because I was sure Uppity would come to me the minute I called her. We do recalls all the time and I call her out of the pack as they are running like mad women. So I call her – NOTHING! Not so much as a look, let along a recall! So Susan starts in on me about how I have been bragging to her about my awesome recall, yada yada yada and how I am full of it and how Uppity probably hasn’t had a decent recall since she was 12 weeks old… Well, thinking the first snub by Uppity was because she didn’t hear me, I call again. NOTHING! Now I start to panic. Mel doesn’t even bother to call his dog because he knows that is a lost cause. I am so pissed at Mel because his F#@%!^g UNTRAINED dog is making ME look bad in front of Susan and Lynda that I want to slit Mel’s throat!

So forgoing the verbal call, I now try walking after her. Pankins gets right up near me, then she takes off for another loop with her sister. Clearly, at this point, all was lost and I now looked like such a fool, no matter what I did, I couldn’t look any worse (WRONG!) so I put on my angry voice (like that is going to help anything) and call her again. I did everything short of yelling, “EASTER BISCUITS YOU F#@&!NG BITCH!” Finally, the Universe had Their fill of fun and, for some reason, unknown to me, Pankins let me grab her collar. The entire time Susan was telling me I better get on it and how everything I had been saying about my training was hooey, etc. I didn’t blame her one single bit! Clearly, the recall only worked as long as I had zero stress!

Once I caught Pankins, Barque no longer had a partner in zoomland so she let Mel grab her collar too. With both puppies securely in their crates, I took a deep breath and waited for further instructions. I can’t recall a single one because, by that point, my nerves were shot and my brain was fried so they all got scrambled. My ability to learn or listen had all but disintegrated and my flight or fight response was fully engaged! I wanted to run for the GW and jump back in bed and pull the covers over my head. I can’t even feed Susan that bullshit line, “BUT SHE IS PERFECT AT HOME!” BECAUSE I AM FREAKING HOME!!!!

Susan had Mel show her HIS crate games while I tried to breathe. Mel is used to working under stress. He is always stressed when he runs his dogs. I am never stressed so this emotion is something Uppity rarely sees in me. She was a bit freaked about it too. I heard Susan’s voice talking to Mel as if it were far in the distance, yet they were standing right next to me. I didn’t see a thing they were doing but I remember hearing Susan going on and on about how wonderfully Barque was doing and how fabulous Mel was (or something along those lines).

Then Susan comes to me and tells me to open the door and release Upp and tug. So I unzip the crate, lift the flap and give my release word. Uppity just sits there like a statue, just looking at me (or by me). She sits as still as a stone. Susan tells me to zip her up, walk away, then go back and try again. Same thing happens. Meanwhile, she asks to see Mel’s hand presses. I hear her exclaiming how WONDERFUL they are (they are usually sucky and whimpy but the Universe has told Barque to CRAM her nose into Mel’s palm just to help my ego get smaller and pump his up) and what a great job Mel is doing blah blah blah. CRAP! Not that I want Mel to fail, but I have been complaining about him not training for a year and now he is making me look like a piece of shit and he is coming out of this smelling like a rose!

Then it was my turn to try to redeem myself. I unzip the flap and open the crate again. I give my release ~ NOTHING! F#@&!!!! WTF???? This dog normally flies out of her crate yet she is sitting there looking at me like I have three heads instead of three chins! I am about ready to crawl in there with her and never come out, when she finally decides to leave the safety of her crate, she just saunters out. Boy, don’t I just look like the greatest trainer who ever walked the face of the earth or what? My dog is showing ZERO drive – ZERO joy and HATES ME! Meanwhile, the grin on Mel’s face is growing every minute. He knows damn well that it always goes the other way and he is always pissed because my puppy is so much better than his at behaviors. I start saying some not so nice things to him about that fact and then I get my ass verbally kicked again. Standing three inches tall, I try to get Uppity to tug, which, THANK GOD, she does!

Running out of time because of the zoomfest that started this brilliant session, we move right to the plank work. I am relieved that Uppity gets right on it. At least I can show Susan something I have done right. Now she tells me to hold her collar and release it for her to tap my hand. As soon as she comes off in front, she swings her butt around off the plank. No matter how hard I try, she swings off that freaking plank! Susan tries to help me and tell me what to do but I seem to be having another mental meltdown. So Susan takes Pankins to try. Now, Pankins LOVES working for Susan! Here is this dog who doesn’t trust anyone besides me (and sometimes not even me!) yet she adores this nearly total stranger! Susan shaped her at a trial one time while we were waiting to run. Pankins trusts her and her training. I can just hear Pankins thinking, OK bitch (meaning me)WATCH this chick and learn something for once! She has it going on! She rewards correctly, I understand what she wants and everything is clear as a bell! When YOU train me, everything is clear as MUD MORON! Well, it takes Susan about two seconds and Uppity is sticking the 2o2o position with no flipping of back feet. “It’s just shaping,” she tells me. Right. CLEARLY, I suck at that too! As Steve Jenks said in his oh so dry sense of humor after watching some of Susan’s flawless runs at the Invitational, “She should teach.”

So I try it again and manage to get three feet to stay on for a second or two before she flips off the board again. My position is wrong, my body language is wrong and my verbal praising is non-existent! Susan is being very patient and kind to me but I want to slit my throat (right after I slit Mel’s that is). So Lynda calls me over to her to do some recalls. She can see how stressed I am and works hard to help me regain my composure. In the background, I can hear Susan telling Mel how incredible Barque is doing and her plank work is awesome! F#@&!!! He couldn’t even get her ON a plank last time we worked the dogs! I had to shape her to do it for him and now he is a FU@%!NG SUPER STAR!

Feeling more dejected than ever but happy for Mel on some level (right), we end the session from hell and start to walk back to the GW. Pressure over, Pankins walks next to me like the superstar she is, riveted on me. I have no clue where Mel is or what he is doing but I am sure it is perfect whatever it is.

So much for Mel never training and me having a great recall and foundation! Now I start telling myself that is why I chose that dog for him! She will always make him look like a rock star no matter what! I just have to work harder and get my foundation more solid.

So we load up the Stinkmobile and Mel walks up to the gate to let us out. As we are pulling up, Susan tells him how great he did and how wonderful his dog is. Mel has a shit eating grin on his face so I look him in the eye and mutter, “F#@KER!!!” at him. His grin widens and he turns his head away so he doesn’t have to make eye contact with me but his Cheshire Cat expression has now turned into a full blown open mouth smile (unusual for Mel). I am laughing too now. Mel knows that this never should have gone down the way it did and that, for some reason, the Universe flipped the tables. My ego is bruised and Mel’s has found new life (not a bad thing at all actually). Maybe this Universe Thing does have a clue about how things need to go down!

On the way to the airport I felt like such a schmuck. Lynda asked me how I was feeling. I told her “ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated.” She couldn’t understand why. I told them that I had so wanted to show off all the great things my puppy can do, including her BRILLIANT recall but all I had done was humiliate myself. Then I started to cry. I NEVER CRY! Now I was a schmuck AND a freaking cry baby! Susan said it was good for Mel to have the success he did for a change and that I was a good sacrificial lamb. So, I guess if I were to be a sacrificial lamb for anyone, I couldn’t think of a soul who deserved it more than Mel (which made me cry more).

So we get to the airport and I take the wrong turn and end up in a parking lot only God knows where. I look up at the signs and try to figure out where to go so I can talk to a real person about not paying because I entered by mistake. The “cashier” signs on the left are green and those on the right are red. For some idiotic reason, I take the red lane! WTF??? What was I thinking? I get up there and it is credit card only and there is nobody in the booth! DUH! Hence the red light MORON! So now I have to back up but a truck pulls up behind me with no intention of moving. There are posts on my side so I can’t swing around. I keep backing until the bitch moves but she won’t back enough to let me turn around! Finally I decide to turn left but the lanes are too narrow so I have to back up twice to make the turn in the big ass Extortion/Stinkmobile! Now I am blocking all the checkout lanes with no place to go! I inch back and forth and finally get turned around, drive up to the escalator that is next to the lot and drop off Susan, Lynda and Encore. I have visions of driving around the lot looking for a way out for the next week or so but finally manage to get free and head towards home. Susan and Lynda must have been wondering how I ever train anything! I can’t even find my way to the airport departures with a freaking GPS and clearly marked signs!!!

Once on the road to home, I call Mel to tell him I am headed back and to talk about what happened in our training sessions. I knew he must have been still grinning and secretly laughing about how bad I had looked and how wonderful he had looked to Susan and Lynda (who will never believe another word I say!).

So I dial his number and when he answers, he doesn’t say his usual  “hey” or “what” or any of his other normal telephone greetings. All he says, in his best sarcastic in your face tone is, “SUCKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We laughed for 20 minutes.

Thinking back, it was an amazing lesson in humility as well as training! Any chance to watch Susan train or get instruction from her or Lynda is worth any emotional pain or ego bruising because, like child birth, the pain is soon forgotten but the benefits remain for life 🙂

I am a lucky woman to have great friends, a husband I adore and a puppy who is teaching more than any other life experience I have ever had.


  1. I feel your pain, but I peed my pants laughing anyhow.

  2. I just found this blog. This one was so funny that it took me about 10 minutes to read it….I laughed so often and so hard that I had tears and I couldn’t see through them to read. I LOVE your blogs!

  3. Freaking hilarious… sorry, I laughed… a lot… 🙂 You are a great story teller!

  4. […] […]

  5. OMG Helen, you’re friggin hilarious! Made me laugh out loud! I’ll be thinking of you the next time Dizzy or Zappa totally embarrass me 😉


  6. I just read your blog out loud to John and had one of those laughing-married-humilated-bonding experiences which you so “lovingly” described, at your expense. I love your writing, it’s like being right there with you, eating terriyaki tofu, and enjoying the company. In my world, sharing is the biggest gift, thanks for that Helen.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Jodi! It was pretty funny after the fact but not so much during (as you can well imagine 🙂

  7. too funny.loved every word

  8. Ha! I can relate. Cry, over agility? No way…not me…I am tough as they come. Yeah, right. Hahaha. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a gem. Valerie T.

  9. thank you for a wonderful guffaw this morning.. your tale was vividly sketched and I pictured every blushing moment! Oh the pressure when our “teachers” are watching… I think Miss Pankin was having one on at yer expense… Poodles and their love of practical jokes… 😉

  10. OW !!!!! the whole thing sounds like a nightmare to me. I can just picture it all so well.
    I’m sorry that happened to you , because I have listened to how hard you have worked with Pankin’, and having a friend who is as famous as Susan, and having attended so many seminars….. I can only imagine how embarrassing it must have been. You are hard on yourself also so that doesn’t help anything. I can just feel so well when you said their voices sounded far away… It’s not like you HAVEN”t been training…
    Well, the cool thing is when it all comes together then everyone will be oohing and ahhing…. and you and Upp will be smilin’ large.
    Mel mel mel.

    • NO! It was fine and it is very funny now! It exposed lots of holes in my training! That is what teaches us and makes us grow as trainers! I will work even harder now!

  11. ohhhh I laughed my ass off! too funny!

  12. Sorry about the airport tho!!

  13. OMG! Been there. Done that. Lat year up in Ontari at Susan/Greg/Linda camp. I have Spitfire wh is being wonderful, but Susan says I can bring Will out for the start of a class where we are ‘learning’ flat/circle work (make that heelwork) So I am thrilled to be able to SHOW OFF my brilliant training (and I have worked my ass off on this pushy, drivey, enthusiastic dog). Ha Ha!! Will bounds sidways with delight, barking at me, bumping into me….and Susan says she has no idea what I am trying to do with the dog, but that he is training me and obviously I have no idea where he is meant to be! I wanted to crawl into a hole. Arn’t dogs great!!

  14. Helen; that was hilarious. I see you got the lesson, the one when you think you’ve finally made it, and your dog let’s you know that you are not there yet. They definitely keep you humble and like your girl, my LUke has taught me more about dog behavior and life than I could ever imagine and it was not all fun while I was learning. 🙂


    • Yes Sherri, LESSON LEARNED! LOL

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