How cute is he?!?  This is about the time in Cisco’s life that I decided we would pursue “school dog” training.  Cisco comes from a fabulous breeder (http://www.englishlabrador.com/) with a knack for breeding beautiful dogs with wonderfully “chill” personalities.  So how hard could it be, right? HA…

I must admit, my expectations for this sweet pup were (and still are) incredibly high.  When training got rough (literally), I got frustrated.  That only made training even rougher!  In addition to my expectation being high, they were also a bit unrealistic (only seen in hindsight, of course!).  I wanted Cisco to be perfectly behaved at all times…something not many human adults are capable of, right?  I started thinking that maybe I needed a little training right along with Cisco.  This is when our journey intersected with my teaching career.  I would never expect a child to walk into my classroom in Kindergaten and know how to create a VanGogh-esque masterpiece right off the bat so why was I expecting a 6 month old puppy to act like a 6 year old dog?  One of the biggest things I have learned during my teaching career is humility.  You gotta know when you are out of your element and it is A-O.K. to seek out help from fellow educators.  So that is what I did!  Enter Cisco’s breeder who was now going to help train him: Hunter Bryant.  Cisco packed his puppy bags and headed up to the farm for five weeks of focused training…

He returned home with a wicked “heel”, “sit” and “stay” along with some specific directions on how I would take his basics to the next level.  I was pumped…he was ready!!  So off we went…in retrospect I realize that his training had only heightened my already HIGH expectations but we felt invincible!

One afternoon we were out on a training walk at the pond in my neighborhood.  Cisco was doing great so I decided to push him just a bit farther.  I put him in a “sit”, told him to “stay” and took off his lead and slowly backed away.  He kept eye contact with me so I knew he was with me.  I took three more steps back…still with me…one more step…WOW, I am a great trainer!  I have got this puppy right where I want him…focused and ready to work.  On point until…a butterfly flew into his line of sight.  Yes, all of my masterful training and control was blown by a sweet little yellow and brown butterfly that turned my well-trained dog into a puppy again!  He was off…tail wagging and big block head smiling as he chased that darn butterfly until I finally caught him (remember, I took his lead off because I was SO confident…).  Although I was intensely frustrated I couldn’t help but laugh at what had just happened.  That butterfly reminded me that Cisco was (and still is) a puppy and he needed time to be a puppy.  Cisco still LOVES to chase a butterfly and sometimes I just let him do it!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  Cisco was quickly rounding the corner on his first birthday and the upcoming school year was approaching at top speed.  Even with my best intentions, my expectations got higher and higher each day.  Cisco could feel my anxiety and sometimes reminded me to “knock it off” but usually just went along with me.  I pushed and he stepped up.  He was going everywhere with me by this point and was performing admirably!  I decided to give him a challenge by sneaking him in to a Canine Good Citizen test.  I was confident he could do it but it wouldn’t officially count because he was not quite old enough.  I will go into the details of the evening another day since the story is a keeper for sure!  When it was Cisco’s turn the spirit of that darn butterfly was in the room.  He strutted his “heel” and “sit” like a pro.  He rocked the “crowd walk” and “dropped book” distraction.  He was nearing the end of the test with his “stay” and “come when called”…EASY!  There he sat, eyes on me as I backed away 20 feet.  SWEET, he has got this!!  “Good Boy Cisco!  Come!” And here he comes, eyes on me…rocking it!  Then he took the hardest of right turns, ran into the middle of the testing area and POUNCED on the testers clipboard on the floor!  It was the butterfly all over again only we had an audience this time.  As he ripped his test sheet from the clipboard, he looked at me and smiled.  I looked at him and laughed, signaling that we were cool so he came trotting right over to me.

So like all good educators, I am striking the balance between high expectations for myself and Cisco and the reality that sometimes he and I will fall a bit short of those expectations but we will never stop pushing!  The world is filled with butterflies and clipboards and sometimes you just gotta chase ’em!

Jen and Cisco

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