A Story About Dog Training by Shirley Palmer

In 1978 we were the proud owners of two black Labrador dogs – a female named Sugar who was my husband’s hunting companion, and her son Sambo – who we kept as the “pick of the litter” – but he wasn’t too smart!  We had always wanted a yellow Lab, and when one of our friends with a black Lab  mated with a yellow Lab, we were promised one of the puppies.                                                          

We were eating dinner on June 22nd when we got the call that our puppy was about to be born.  So naturally we hopped up from the dinner table and went to watch the BIG EVENT!  There were five blacks and four yellows, but only one female yellow, which is what we  wanted.  Well, the first night the mother laid on the only female yellow and she didn’t survive, so we were left with a choice of the males.  We carefully selected our pup and at six weeks we went to pick up Sir Yellow Brandy Buffett – his full legal name for the AKC.  The name was meaningful, but too lengthy to describe here!           

He was as cute as a button. We brought him home, introduced him to Sugar and Sam and they all became one big happy family in our very large back yard.  Our first camping trip with him, I thought he was going to die.  We had a truck and camper and I had neglected to put the “pin” in the refrigerator door – to make sure it didn’t fly open.  We went around a mountain curve and I heard all these crashes & bangs.  I crawled through the window back into the camper and picked up everything that had fallen out (I thought), replacing the contents of the refrigerator and pinned it so all was secure!  I crawled back through the window into the cab of the truck.  It was not an easy maneuver, even though I was a lot thinner in those days. 

The three dogs were just laying on the floor, a bit irritated that their sleep had been disturbed by the falling debris!  When we arrived at our campsite around midnight, we went around to open the door and let the dogs out – Sugar & Sam always headed right for the creek for a quick swim, as they knew our destination.  When Brandy didn’t come out I went in and turned the light on.  He was lying on his back with his huge belly sticking up and there was the bowl that I had 1 dozen hard boiled eggs in empty; all that remained were a few shells on the floor.  We picked him up and he managed to survive with us thankful his stomach didn’t burst!     After he was a year old the decision was made to take him to Dog Obedience School. Although he minded my husband perfectly, I was the one to take him, so that he would learn to respect my commands as well.  The school was put on by the German Shepherd Club of Los Angeles County and was held in the parking lot of the Methodist Church in our neighborhood.  I mentioned to my partner at work (we opened the bank together, and the vaults etc) that I planned to train the dog.  He said quite frankly, “I guarantee  that you will hate that teacher before your 8 weeks are over!”  I was shocked and told him he was absolutely on the wrong track, that I would be there to learn and to train. I was certain the teacher would become my friend – BIG MISTAKE on my part!!

There were approximately 22 in our class – all breeds.  We’d form a circle around the teacher  and listen to her instructions of what we were to do and practice at home.  Then we’d march around the circle trying our assignment for the day and week.   Which meant we had homework!We were to work our dogs at least an hour a day, and since it was July and very hot in Southern California, we were advised not to work them in the heat of the day.  So my schedule became wake up at 4:30 a.m., out with Brandy by 5, home to shower by 6:15, and to work by 7:30.  If I missed a morning, then I had to wait until night when the sun went down, so it would be cooler.  My husband wasn’t keen about me going out at night, since my regular route took me down a dark alley that lead to a church/school parking lot, where I could let him off leash for our assigned exercises.

One night I was walking down this alley when I sensed that I was being followed.  I had heard somewhere that if you think you are in trouble turn around and face the person, because then you have a clear view of him; and attackers don’t like that.  So I whipped around and commanded Brandy to sit.  Here I was staring at this very large Mexican man on a bicycle.  I had sensed that when I walked he would move forward; when I stopped he would stop.  I was a little scared, but thought “keep your cool!” Then the man said to me, “Lady is that dog viscious??”  My answer was: “He can be.” Then he said: “Lady, would you please let me go by?”  There he was-afraid of us!  I said: “certainly,” and it was like a movie: when he rode by on his bike.  Brandy jerked at the leash, barked and showed his teeth.  It was all I could do to contain him.  The poor man peddled as fast as he could to get by us in panic!!  And to think I’d been worried!  Poor man probably never forgot the two of us!  That was my last evening outing.

By the end of the eight weeks I really did dislike the teacher.  She would always bring a dog into the center of our circle to demonstrate how “easy” it was to train this or that.  I kept asking her to take Brandy, but she never would.  Then every time a cat was in the area, Brandy would go nuts and the teacher would say something to the effect, “well Brandy is putting us on notice of an approaching cat!!”  Followed by: “Thank you, Brandy; now if we may continue!!”  I got the feeling she didn’t like me  or my dog!!
I worked so hard for those eight weeks and on the big test night: our off leash exercise, a cat passed by and so went Brandy.  I’m happy to say that I came home with a trophy for 4th place, but my husband has never forgiven me for letting a Cocker Spaniel beat us out for 3rd place, and only by 1 point!!  I know if he had taken Brandy to school, they would have had 1st, but so be it.  He did learn to mind me most of the time and was a loving pet for many years.  When he died we said, “that’s the end of the Palmer’s animals!”

We had raised 4 dogs – our first was a Norwegian Elk Hound who had about 27 puppies all told.  Sugar had one litter and Sambo was our clown.  I was often told I could write a book about all my dog stories.  I wish I had memorized more of the details.  But at that time I was just coping with life and it’s various problems.  One important point is that Brandy was the cause of me having a $27,000.00 ankle, but that’s a complete other story.

And now to the point to this story – if you ever want to get training and discipline in your life, try a dog training class.  I guarantee YOU will end up “trained”, and probably not friends with the teacher!!  Every morning while we were opening the bank vaults my co-workers would ask about the latest Brandy story; and my partner reminded me that he had warned me “Big Time” about the teachers!  He had taken three dogs through this experience and I should have taken heed.  But, what a wonderful learning and training experience! I was now a graduate of Dog Training and considered myself “well trained”!  Don’t think Brandy ever shared my joy of accomplishment!

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2 Comments on “A Story About Dog Training by Shirley Palmer”

  1. Viv Ray Says:

    Very entertaing. Loved this story. Keep writing. Viv

  2. Marlene Palmer Says:

    Mom, I always laugh when I hear this story for the exception of the 27,000 ankle.

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