Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Incredible Jumping Dog Tale


A few years back, I went to see an old biker dude named Dix to get a metal roof folded for my house. I didn't know Dix, but I knew who knew him, and he came recommended, as he supposedly looked like a member of the band ZZTop, but couldn't carry a tune. What he did have was a metal machine that would take a roll of colored steel and turn it into metal "pans" that would snap together on their seams and form a roof. This is what I was after-- a roof-- only I wanted to put it on the side of my house-- a wall-- but that's not what I wanted to tell you about. I wanted to tell you about Dix's amazing dog, as I was reminded of Dix's amazing dog today by a Springer Spaniel that showed up to work and wagged it's stump of a tail while my dog Wenzel proudly stirred the air with a tail that kept the flies off both her backside and her front side.

Dix's dog wasn't a Springer Spaniel--not even close-- but it Sprung like one, and he did it everytime Dix snapped his fingers and he did it while running full tilt after a tennis ball that was thrown with one of those extended arm throwing levers you see grandmas using at dog parks across America, giving them the extension necessary to tire out their rambuctious breeds without the fear of Tommy John surgery...

The scene looked like this-- Dix would toss the ball about a hundred yards out into a big field he owned, using his throwing tool, and his dog would go tearing after the ball like almost all black labs crossed with everything else would do, completely focused and obsessed and intent on attaining balldom, returning ball triumphant, passing a slobbing ball off for the sheer joy of finding the ball and doing it all over again. Yeah, OK. So not everyone's cup of tea. But imagine this dog, if you will, his legs grabbing turf and throwing it behind him, his head down, his ears flapping, dust flying...

And then Dix would snap his fingers and the dog, as if poked with something electric, would jump suddenly almost three feet in the air, land, and continue running until Dix snapped his fingers again(the dog now sixty yards away) and the dog would jump--spring, actually--and land, and continue running until about ninety yards away, where another snap of the fingers would produce another spring, and then the dog would start searching for the fragrant tennis ball, find it, turn around and head back. This was extremely impressive, to me, and Dix could see this, so as the dog jogged happily on his way back, Dix would snap his fingers and the dog would jump two feet in the air and continue jogging back, hell bent on returning the tennis ball so it could be thrown again.

Imagine a man who looks like a member of ZZTop but also looks a bit like a wizard with a deviant glint in his eye, watching me watch this dog as it performed this amazing feat of obedience for four trips to the back fence and back... Everytime the dog jumped to the snapping of Dix's fingers, I wondered how he got this dumb looking lab to be so on top of his obedience game? I mean, my dogs listened to me BUT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT IT FOR A MOMENT FIRST. This lab had zero hesitation. Dix snapped. This lab sprang. Sometimes, it almost seemed like the dog was anticipating the snapping of the fingers and so the snap and the spring sprang together. Amazing! I left Dix's with $4500 out of my pocket and a big puzzled smile on my face. I wanted to -- and did-- tell everybody about the amazing Springing Labrador and I looked at my dogs often, as if to ask - "What's wrong with YOU TWO?"

About six months later, I went back to get some steel made for another project and I had to ask Dix about his Spinging dog. Dix was wearing blue over-alls and a funny hat, and he looked like a garden gnome that had recieved too much water and had grown up and come to life. Especially because my question had set him to laughing the belly laugh of a man who had found something to be extremely funny. Funny at my expense, it turns out.

This is what he told me. For years and years Dix had kept pigs out in that big field, and to keep them separated (he had a breeding scheme so complicated, I can't explain it) he had criss-crossed his field with strands of electric fencing wire, which he had heated up with some contraption of his own making, so that all his pigs knew to keep away from these wires and his dog had learned to jump over them...

Jump over them!

His lab was so dumb, when Dix took down the wire after getting rid of his pigs, the lab still jumped at the right times to avoid the serious shock and did it whether Dix snapped his fingers or not. The dog would run, jump over the missing wire, and continue running. Dix had simply memorized the locations of the now-removed wires as the dog had, and poor me simply did not know what poor me was seeing.

And I had told EVERYBODY...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm more of a 'cat' person.
Benjie, aged thirteen when he died in 2004(natural causes) has this infuriating habit.
Whenever I get home and opening the front gate, he'd run from the back of the house to the garage and plonked himself right in the middle of it.
I'd usually reverse the car into the garage and with Benjie stretched out there, I got to get out of the car, carry him aside, hop back into the car and reverse.
It's as if he would then say to my other two cats "See, he plays fetch too".

shar said...

Oops, that was me above.

Nuri said...

I've had dogs and cats since I was little. Not now, though. I have two toddlers now, and "training" them sometimes feels like training puppies. Many similarities. The names of my past pets: Bony, Moreu, Wolf, Rex, Spaghetti, Mishi, Pitxi, Blanc... and my only "pets" now: Alicia & Cristina.

I'm glad you started your own blog. I feel in debt. I'll do my best to post anecdotes. Just don't expect too much either....

Scott from Oregon said...

Nuri-- Things happen in your life that make you laugh. They will probably make other people laugh, too. Sharing these things is not hard, only getting them out in a third or forth language, is hard. SInce you speak more languages than I, and I speak English better than you, I'd say a deal could be made now, couldn't it? Anytime you want help with a story you want to tell, just let me know....

amusing said...

Bloody hell.
You know about standing seam metal roofs too?
Why don't you live up the street from me again?