Andrea didn’t have to be back at the Good Dogs Come to Heaven Dog Training Center until evening so she headed home. As the familiar pink and black sign of Happy Dance Pet Supplies came in to view she remembered that the dog food bin at home was dangerously low. Heaven’s retail section was too small to dedicate any space to dog food. The training center limited its inventory to training items such as leather leashes, front clip harnesses and lots of treats. Andrea and the other trainers purchased kibble and large items either online or at the Happy Dance.
After wheeling her vehicle into a parking spot, Andrea checked her supply of business cards and unzipped her jacket so the Good Dogs Come to Heaven name would be visible on her sky blue polo shirt. As she pushed open the door she saw Patty, dressed in her trademark black, on duty at the cash register. “Hey, Patty. Anything new?”
Patty waved. “We have some new Nina Ottosson games.”
“Okay. I’ll check them out.”
Andrea pushed her cart slowly through the dog food aisles, stopping to read ingredient lists on new varieties that caught her eye. Heaving a 40-pound bag of grain-free dog food into her cart, Andrea next made a pass down the treat aisle. She usually cooked chicken to use for training treats with her own dogs, and Susan supplied liver for the trainers to use in classes but Andrea still liked to buy some prepared items. Today she picked up a small container labeled “alligator bites”. Andrea noticed another customer examining a container of freeze dried salmon.
“Those are very popular with my dogs” she said. “Stinky, but popular.”
The customer smiled. ”Sometimes it’s so hard to figure out what the dogs will like.”
“Well, you can’t go wrong if it smells strong. Try the tripe if you can stand it.”
Andrea moved on to the toys section and examined the Nina Ottosson games. She already had the Dog Brick™ and the Dog Smart™ at home and finally decided not to get another. At least, not today.
As she wheeled her cart into the checkout line the customer ahead of her turned and noticed the Heaven logo, a brown dog with a halo over his head, on Andrea’s shirt. “Oh, I like your shirt. Where did you get it?”
“This is where I work” Andrea explained. “Heaven Dog Training. We’re right down Old Church Road.” She noticed the customer was buying a puppy formula. “Stop in sometime. We have puppy play sessions a few times each week.”
“Well, the schedule is on our web site.” Andrea pulled a business card from her wallet. “And there is a new puppy class starting tonight. I don’t know if it’s filled up.” Even with Jane assisting, Lisa was adamant about no more than eight puppies in a class. “But you could certainly come and watch, then fill out a registration form for the next class.”
“What kind of puppy do you have?” Patty joined the conversation.
“A Clumber spaniel” the customer replied proudly.
“Oh, we had a Clumber in class a few months ago. He was adorable. A really nice dog.”
“Yes. We’re very happy with ours.” The customer gathered up his purchases then turned back towards Andrea. “I’ll check out that play group.”
As Patty rang up Andrea’s bag of dog food and alligator training treats Andrea asked “Can you take a break and have coffee with me? I want to talk to you about something.”
Patty quickly agreed but it was almost twenty minutes later before the two women had their orders and settled into a quiet corner at Starbuck’s.
“This is a nice break” remarked Patty looking around. “I seldom get out during a shift.”
Andrea nodded absently. “You belong to Old Church Kennel Club, don’t you?” she asked.
“Yes.” Patty paused. “Actually, I’m on the Board.”
“Oh.” Andrea realized this information was going to change her approach. “Does the kennel club have training classes in addition to conformation?” Conformation referred to competitions in which dogs are judged entirely on appearance.
“Yes, we do. Are you planning to take up showing now?” Patty teased her friend.
Andrea paused and smiled for a moment, imaging her two All-Americans in the conformation ring. Thinking of Sue’s comments the week before she asked “Tell me, are there Old Church members who are critical of Heaven?”
Now it was Patty’s turn to hesitate. “People who train for performance think they need a different approach than pet training.”
“We have lots of performance people at Heaven. All of Sherry’s Agility students compete” Andrea protested. “Plus everyone in our Rally classes.”
Patty made a face. “You know Rally doesn’t get the same props as traditional obedience.” She thought a minute. “I think it’s the judging. Too many perfect scores without a perfect performance. “
“Yeah.” Andrea nodded her agreement. “But that’s what the judges have to work with. Serious Rally competitors don’t like it either.”
“Doesn’t APTD penalize for multiple cues?”
“Yes and I think the new AKC regulations for Rally will tighten up on that.”
Patty laughed. “So no more lying on the floor to get your dog to Down?” She was referring to a local handler’s dramatic attempts to coax her dog through a Rally course.
“I would say that by the third cue, anyone can tell you and your dog are definitely not working as a team.” She cited the AKC Rally regulation.
After a pause, Andrea went on. “Do you know a kennel club member named Sue with a golden retriever?”
“I think I know who you mean. Red head? “
“Yeah. What’s she like?”
“You mean as a handler? She’s got a couple of otches” said Patty using the slang expression.
“I heard about the obedience trial champions. What kind of trainer is she?”
“I suppose she’s typical of the really competitive obedience people. They always seem sort of uptight. Why?”
“Oh,” Andrea shrugged. “She just stopped in the other day for a ring rental. Wasn’t too happy with our policies. I think her tension was affecting the dog.”
“Probably so” agreed Patty.
The two friends finished their coffee, sharing dog stories for the remainder of their visit.