“You have a very bold dog.”  These words were spoken by our newly hired dog trainer about 20 seconds after meeting Madison for her first session.  We later realized this was trainer-speak for “you’re going to need a lot more training than this 10 week course.”  Bold isn’t so bad, is it?  Little did we know, the trainer summed up the worst and the very, very best of Madison in that simple first impression.

Puppy school was 10 Saturdays in a pretty Missoula park during Maddie’s first fall.  Even though it was a “beginner” class, many of her classmates had either received some personal training or were already well-trained and just in the class for socialization.   We were by the far the most raw rookies – puppy and owners both.

You’d think that with 10 weeks of training our dog would be at our beck and call, but the bar was actually much lower.  All she had to do to pass her final exam was heel, sit, stay and come.  Heel, impossible. Maddie tugged on her leash her whole life. Sit, yes!  Stay, seconds, quivering harmonically in her younger years, but almost perfectly mid-life.  Come, easy.  Any of these in the presence of the rest of the puppy class that first fall – not a chance.  We were prepared for a sit-down with our instructor at the end of our class, but to our surprise, she let us off the hook and praised our progress.

Nobody who knew her would say Madison was well-trained, but for the things that mattered to us, she was great.  She was great in the car.  She was great on the trail.  She was great in our home.  Puppy school, not so much.