In Training

Have you ever been to a professional dog show? Me neither, but I recently watched several minutes of one on TV and then went online to find out if my new puppy, Rupert, would qualify for such an event.

SPOILER ALERT: He would not.

According to the American Kennel Club’s official 166-page Regulations and Guidelines Rulebook, obedience trials are open to all dogs who are not blind or in heat. Unfortunately for Rupert, expectations only become more daunting from there. The other 165 pages are full of the ridiculously complex assessments and stringent disqualification policies that are enforced during competitions. For example, Rupert would be expected to know his own name and come to my side when called. On the first try. Without yelling or bribing him with pieces of rotisserie chicken. Also, he’d be instantly disqualified for biting even if the judge intentionally reached into his mouth to recover the scoring sheet.

Oh, well.

I still believe Rupert is a good dog.

Or at least he will be someday.


The point is, winning (or losing) some pretentious award isn’t going to change how I feel about Rupert. I didn’t bring him home from the shelter with hope of earning a trophy; I brought him home with hope of earning a friend. One that is joyful and spirited and frequently lovable. And one that is welcome to attend indoor family gatherings and long car rides.

That’s why I created a scoring system entirely focused on maximizing our time together. It’s simple, fair, and totally inclusive, even to those poor dogs who are visually impaired and/or horny. I call it the Dog Bean Scale, and it works like this: You assign your dog a number based on how many refried beans they can safely eat before producing noxious, room-clearing gases. Note that this number may be different from the number of refried beans the dog *wants* to eat. For reference, our last dog, Ivan, was a One Bean Dog. He knew his limits. In contrast, our oldest son’s yellow lab, a well-established Zero Bean Dog, found and finished off an entire can of refried beans last month. We can still taste it in the air when we visit, even over Zoom calls.

It’s too soon to know where Rupert will end up on this scale, but I vow to help him become the best dog possible, no matter how much Taco Bell we have to eat together.

Because that’s what friends are for.

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