Leash Training Ollie: How One Becomes a Puppeteer

Coming to Skygate Farm to live with James and Ron was the best thing to ever happen to me. That is until I found my neck being circled by what James called a collar. Here I’d lived my entire life, granted, it was only nine weeks, free of restraints. Now I had to wear a noose around my neck. Okay, so it’s not a noose, but it sure felt like I was going to be strangled when it first went around my neck.

Only that wasn’t the worst of it. Shortly after having my neck bound, James snuggled with me to try and make me feel better, and then he attached a long cord, what he calls a leash, to the neck strangler. Oh, I didn’t like that one bit. No, siree bob. I kept pulling away from the cord, but James simply allowed me to pull. Yet when I would bite the cord, James would gently take it out of my mouth.

And then something wonderful happened. Every time I would move a few feet with James holding the leash, I got a treat. Bingo! All I had to do was walk a little and stop and I got a treat. Then, when I’d start to bit the leash, James would offer me another treat so I had to take my mouth off of the lead. I quickly learned that I could get a treat by biting the tether. Not only did I like biting it since it helped my teeth feel better, but I got a treat for it.

IMG_0140
(Ollie’s introduction to the leash.)

After a week of James walking me on the leash, I had a good hang of when I could get a treat and when I needed to simply keep walking. But I quickly forgot all about that when James began taking me out for walks with Trek. Who’s Trek I hear you asking? That’s my friend who already lived with Ron and James. When James walked Trek, all he ever did was pull – constantly. I kid you not. And when James walked us together, Trek pulled and I ran around trying to get Trek to play with me.

Version 2
(Trek, the Dalmatian Dog, behaving himself as usual.)

Now Trek was a well-behaved Dalmatian who was up there in years. Yet he still had plenty of spunk in him. James said the only thing Trek did that he didn’t like was how he constantly pulled while on leash. Otherwise he was the perfect pet. I think James told me this so I would aspire to be as flawless as Trek. Well, like I said, all I wanted to do was to play while we were outside walking.

Because Trek constantly pulled, and I would weave around with me running between Trek’s legs and around the front of him, James said he felt like a puppeteer trying to keep us untangled. I never have understood why he simply didn’t take turns walking us, but that’s his business. I have to say that it was one of the highlights of the first month being with James and Ron – having Trek there.

Version 2
(Ollie refusing to budge – waiting for a treat.)

It was after one of these walks that James got the bright idea to write a poem about walking the two of us. I hope you enjoy reading it.

                        PUPPETEER*

Outings initially were a frenzied sight
with you being hesitant – defiant actually –
and Trek pulling onward
with me being drawn – thankfully not quartered –
by leads in opposite directions

zigzagging and turning with sleight of hand
leashes between my legs and around my back
over and under the one and the other

twisting brings a quick flip an underhand lob
a toss a slide and – voi la
free and unraveled

wanting only to play with Trek
while he mostly ignores your 11-week old puppy self
who jumbles the halters by jumping over
running around and squeezing under
the unfazed old guy who
knows how to get untied – most of the time

being driven nearly crazy
I find myself a puppeteer
gliding along without any glitches
you Ollie the Old English Sheepdog
     a wily whippersnapper
and Trek the dogged old Dalmatian

becoming the master of ones destiny
     managing the strings of life ever so fragile and dear
whether man or animal
requires sleight-of-hand skills
     like a ballerina or a tightrope walker
     demands delicate hand and foot choreography

maneuvering through to survival
is uppermost in our thoughts
as we smile through the days and nights
encountering entanglements we must undo
much as the tether we shed as we age

Today I’m rarely walked on leash. Only when we go away from home will I have to have a lead. James says it because I’m too friendly with people and other dogs. How can anyone be too friendly, I ask you?

Around home James simply takes me out and we both walk around the farm. Well, truth be told, James walks and I do a lot of running. I’m rarely out of his sight, or should I say he is rarely out of my sight. There is no way I’m going to leave him when we go out. Well, at least no way has presented itself so far.

We hope you’ve liked this story and poem. In two weeks I’ll tell you about my inability to stop drinking water as a puppy. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read it and the others to follow.

Also, please let us know what you think of these stories and the poems James wrote. I always like to hear from you, so please feel free to leave me a comment about this or anything else that’s on your mind.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

* Puppeteer was first published in The Maine Review, Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall 2015.

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated
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