••• Sunday, February 05, 2006

C is for Cheddar 

AKA: Choo-Choo, Chooch, Chupa-Lupa, Puppa, Poo-Poo, Butthead, Butt and Mr. Buckles (the latter is assigned only when he is working undercover security detail at my husband's office building.)

When I first met my husband, his mom and dad were volunteer foster pup parents through a local agency that trains service dogs. A few months after Eric and I started dating, the folks picked up this bitty bit:

Foster pup parents are responsible for providing basic training and socialization skills to their assigned puppy, who lives with them from the age of weanie to 18 months. The dogs are then returned to the agency, where they receive the specialized training to prepare them for service.

I can't remember what the dropout/expulsion rate for puppies in training is, but it's very high. Some don't make it past the socialization training, because of excessive anxiety or barking or health issues. Throughout the advanced training the dogs are continually screened for their compatibility with the program.

I'm proud to say that our Cheddar made it all the way through grad school, up until the day before being shipped to his new home. For unexplained (to us) reasons, the training team had a last minute change of heart and decided that Cheddar would not be placed after all.

Whenever a dog is removed from the program, the foster parents are given first dibs for adoption. This happened just before Eric and I got married. And because Cheddar, Cam and I all started out with this wonderful family around the same time, we shared a special bond. So we took him.

Even though it had been two years, Cheddar seemed to remember us, especially Cameron. He also brought along some unique skills. For example, whenever the phone rang, he would run to find it (we didn't have a special handle on it, so he couldn't pick it up). He would pick up coins when dropped and one time I actually got him to pull up the comforter on the bed.

It didn't take long to figure out why Cheddar was booted out of the program. Even though he was a very well behaved dog around the house, whenever he got out of alpha range, he went afoul of the law.

For example, every once in a while he would wander out of the yard when I wasn't looking, and absolutely would not come when I called him. If he was in a yard just two houses down, he would stop what he's doing, look at me like "I'll come when I'm ready, bitch," then proceed to sniff around. If I headed toward him, he'd give me another look: "Oh, I'm scared now. Whaddya gonna do, carry me home?" Then would slowly move further away.

The only way to get him under control in this situation, was to sneak up on him, in order to assume the physical range of authority. Then he'd be all "Hi! I'm so happy to see you. Sniff this! It smells ree-ree good!" Then he'd scootch on home.

Needless to say, this authority-proximity issue would be a huge consideration had Cheddar been assigned to a person with physical limitations. I picture him rifling through purses for mints and pantries for pop-tarts. And racking up thousands of dollars in 1-800-IMN-HEAT hotline charges, whilst ignoring his master's helpless pleas.

And he's also a bit neurotic. He barks at fire hydrants and sometimes barks at me, if I come out of the bathroom wearing something different than I had on when I went in (i.e. from pj's to towel).

Here are some other little bites on my Chooch:
-He's afraid of vacuum cleaners, but won't blink at the scariest thunder storm.

-He can hear a banana being peeled from a block away.

-He's the founder of the local chapter of The Lick-A-Wish Foundation, a research group that has been performing ongoing, steady and pleasantly torturous studies on the theory that chronic and repeated licking of empty ball sacs will cause the missing (and very much missed!) contents to reemerge.

-He eats poop.

-He does not eat barf poop. ::Can ya blame him?::

-His body is host to an alien life form known only as The Man Who Lives in Cheddar's Mouth. He only speaks at night. It's a real voice, not a noise. Sometimes he screams, but mostly just babbles. Words. In another language. I'm not kidding. Really.

-When I'm getting ready for work in the morning, he knows exactly when I'm almost done, at which point he moves from his bed to the door. Up until that point, he sleeps.

-Even if his back teeth are floating, he will not go outside if The Cakers opens the door for him.

-When he's happy in a particularly special way, his ears fold into pleats, thusly:

C is for Cherish.

Thanks for the sweet indulgence in response to my last post. I was sooo tired when I wrote that. It seemed pathetically funny at the time. Come morning, not so much.

The big test is four weeks from yesterday. I'm doing nothing much but studying while home, and when Child and Cheddar allow. This may be the only post this week, so you might wanna read it slow.

Instead of studying for finals, what about just going to the Bahamas and catching some rays? Maybe you'll flunk, but you might have flunked anyway; that's my point.-Jack Handey


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