I thought I had my dog, Melvin, fully trained. But, in recent months, he’s become harder and harder to control. Every day, for example, he dutifully brings in the mail, sets it on the floor, even checks it out. All fine, but, if there’s a picture of Donald Trump, he flies into a rage and defecates on it.
I realized I had to get him re-socialized. I couldn’t be the teacher (I think, somehow, he associated me with Trump, though I’ve assured him I voted for Clinton). I gave some thought to an on-line obedience course, but realized that, with no one physically present to assure discipline, it wouldn’t work. Learning how to act properly in a social context requires a social context.
The only option seemed to be obedience school, though the specter of recent attacks, most of them coming from their own students, and the awful, cascading copydog effect, worried me. What if an unhinged Rottweiler or a Pit Bull with a grudge tried to wreak vengeance on its schoolmates?
But I at least wanted to check out the possibilities. I found a school nearby and met the owner. I felt I had to share my concerns, which, she acknowledged, were legitimate and very much on her mind, so much so that the school had adopted key preventive measures:
Controlled Access: Each student entered and exited through an appropriately-sized doggie door. Larger dogs, who were the likelier source of a truly dangerous attack, couldn’t follow the fleeing smaller dogs once they had escaped through their little doors. At least part of the school population would survive.
Helper Dogs: (1) Therapy dogs to calm, reassure, and redirect potential problem students; (2) Resource dogs (genuine, German Shepherd, police dogs) to guard the students and stop an attack; (3) Guide dogs to lead the students to safety if needed.
An All-Canine Instructor Corps: The owner explained that the uncanny sensitivity of highly-trained dogs to their students’ emotions made them ideal teachers.
I speculated that the teachers must be the key to any defensive plans.
Not really, she said. Though, of course, the best defense is sensitive, compassionate teachers who guide their students to equally compassionate, responsible behavior, it’s not fair to put that extra burden on them. With such unruly students, they’re under constant stress and, if they cracked in an emergency situation and harmed their own students, everything would be lost.
I was impressed and told the owner I would seriously consider enrolling Melvin. But, before I could make that final decision, everything went up in smoke.
According to newspaper accounts, it started when one of the school’s video cameras caught an indistinct image of something entering through one of the doggie doors. The school went immediately into defensive mode. The Resource Dog on duty rushed to investigate, but found no one, and barked this fact to the owner.
The owner, herself, had actually seen the fleeting video image. Concerned, but not panicked, she went on the school’s PA system to try to reassure everyone. The transcript reads:
All of you, I want you to know the situation is under control and there is no cause for alarm. We have no reason to think that whoever entered the building intends harm, and, in fact, the video image shows something so small it is unlikely it could cause a problem in any case. So we will … wait just a minute … I think it’s coming into my office. It has hopped on my desk … and … Oh My Goodness, it’s just a cute little …