Just a quick blog to bring everybody up to date on one of our key and self inflicted retirement activities – bringing up two border collies. Last night was a first for us all. As every parent knows there comes a time in a puppies life when they have to go to school. When there they have to conform to a certain standard of discipline. In fact that’s why they go. It seems like a good idea when we consider it. A six week course where they learn important things like walking to heel, coming when called and, well, that’s about it really, at least that’s the important bits as far as we can see.

So how, from such a simple base, can things get so complicated? We drive to the village hall just out of Otley. We are very nervous about how this is going to be for us oh, yes, and for the puppies. But mostly for us, how are our children going to be judged by course leader and other parents but, more to the point, how are we going to be rated as parents? We’re new to this – unlike it appears – the rest of the class. The lady who runs the class is very nice, we get there early and that gives her the chance to tell us how much she loves collies and that she has one herself. That’s all good then. They’re very bright and pick things up quickly, she says. Except, she seamlessly goes to say, that means bad habits as well as good ones. At this stage ours are perfect puppies. Ahh.puppies Just like the photo.

For 10 minutes all goes splendidly, then something unexpected happened, the other dogs, bringing their owners, arrive. Things go rapidly downhill and aspects of our dogs we haven’t seen before manifest themselves, actually that’s not quite the right word. The aspects hit us right between the eyes or more accurately between the ears. Special needs here we go again. Archie, placid, easy going Archie, becomes a barking, snarling, yapping monster. Each new doggie – all cute little puppies by the way – is greeted with a tirade from Archie. Millie, our sensitive, intelligent one, takes a look at the rest of the group and immediately jumps on my lap and refuses to get off for the rest of the session. To hell with this idea, I’m having none of it, she intelligently states.

We are already in puppy time out, in the sense that we are sat on our own, just the four of us at one end of the room while the rest of the group, huddle for protection at the other end of the village hall. We are far too engaged in trying to get Archie to present as a nice doggie to listen to what the lady is saying. If you looked at it in a pros and cons way, most things would be in the latter column. After a while, with Archie continuing to act like a maniac, the rest of the doggies decide to join him and begin barking, rushing around on their leads and similarly acting like doggie lunatics. This immediately makes us feel much better.

The poor lady trying to deliver her training information seems unfazed by having to talk over a cacophony of doggie shouting. And I thought I had had some difficult audiences but, in all the years I presented to teachers, they rarely raced round their part of the room, tethered to their tables, barking and squealing. So yes, she seems OK but I’m thinking, despite her sweet words, that what she really feels about our babies is that Archie is a nutter, the proverbial bad apple that is rotting the rest of the nice barrel ( a description I achieved on my teacher training course many years ago, so I have sympathy for Archie’s position, if that is his position)and that Millie is a little princess, wimp who needs to toughen up and get out more.

More information about luring and tunneling pass us by. Our pets continue to embarrass us in their own very different ways. Archie is busting a gut to get down the other end of the hall. He’s very sociable, I say weakly, which he is. I say, equally weakly, if he can just go down and meet the other dogs he will be fine. The nice lady shows her proverbial teeth. He has to learn that he can only do things when we allow it. Fuck that I say silently, just let him go and he’ll be fine. After another 10 minutes of lunancy from Archie, she concurs. I think we might just split you two up, she says. We realise she means the dogs not us. She’s right of course, we’re supposed to be in control of our doggies but I’ve always been a compromise kind of guy. Principles are all very well in the right place and the right time but this is neither. Let’s just get through this alive, is my view – and Millie’s. My brother is a nutter she whispers in my ear.

Anyway, so Archie is allowed to meet the other dogs. Yes, he has a predictably disconcerting effect on the other dogs but at least he’s not standing out from the crowd now, they’re all acting like lunatics. Actually that’s unfair, he does calm down eventually, somewhat. My wife, now at the other end of the room, who you will have gathered, has drawn the short straw, looks less like a sumo wrestler trying to control a boisterous orangutang and I start to feel a little less guilty. She did choose to have Archie and refused my offers to swap I would just like to say. Meanwhile Millie and I sit at the other end of the hall, observing the proceedings and both of us still. despite the improvement in her brother, thinking this is not a good idea, let’s just go home. Which thankfully we do. The lady finishes the session about 10 minutes early. Under different circumstances I might have been thinking, hang on we paid for an hour but, as I’ve said, I’m a compromise kind of guy.

We get our puppy packs. Archie didn’t get one because, although quieter, my wife still had her hands full trying to wrestle him to a halt and couldn’t take the pack so I got it which was OK. We only need one. See you all next week, the lady says, eyeballing Archie. Don’t forget to practise what you’ve learned. On the drive home I say to my wife, erm, what have we learned? Not unreasonably, the answer is not very much, she was too busy trying to control Archie and I was too busy thinking of being somewhere else and feeling guilty of course. So there we have it that’s how things are in retirement land and it’s only week one, great. Perhaps the gales will blow the village hall away and there won’t be a week two. Maybe. Ah, retirement, wonderful thing.

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