Lessons with Deb the dog trainer
“Ron, would you like to come over? Ebony is having her lesson with my dog trainer,” Debbi says. Ebony is a 55-pound, 10-month-old, pubescent puppy. Debbi struggles with disciplining Ebony. She’s a real softy. Birds sing when Debbi glances their way, and deep freezes have been known to defrost when she walks past.
When I arrive, I find Ebony lying peaceably on her cushion. Looking closer, I notice Ebony’s leash is pinned beneath the trainer’s foot. Debbi introduces me. “Ron, this is Debbie,” she says. We now have two Debbi’s.
“Hi Ron, you can call me Deb. My full name is Debbie Dibble,” and of course I smile. “See, my name always makes people smile,” she says, and immediately goes to work.
Deb is the Margaret Thatcher of the canine world. Her entire attention is on Ebony. Ebony gets restless and starts to get up. “I did not invite you to do that,” she reprimands. Ebony wilts. “The goal is to get their attention and then re-direct them to do what you want them to do. See, now, I have her attention. I am the center of her universe,” Deb says emphatically.
Debbi is given Ebony’s leash. Ebony starts to get up. “Turn away, withdraw your attention. You didn’t ask her to get up,” Deb commands. I get the feeling Ebony is not the only one being trained.
We visit a neighbor’s house where Ebony likes to raid their dog’s bowl. Debbi rings the doorbell. KC, the dog in residence, is an older Jack Russell terrier. KC barks at the least provocation. Sometimes he barks so strongly, his two front paws fly off the floor. We enter and Deb deliberately walks Ebony past KC’s bowl. “Leave it,” Deb insists. Ebony can’t resist. Retribution follows instantly. KC continues barking non-stop. “This is a high activity house,” Deb says and offers her hand to KC. KC barks at the top of his lungs. Deb then scatters tiny bits of treats in back of KC. KC is confused and leaves them alone. “Some dogs don’t even respond to treats because their brains are exploding. This is an old dog and would be very hard to train,” she says.
We return to Debbi’s house. “We’ve been working for almost an hour and Ebony has about as much training as she can handle,” Deb says. Deb’s love of dogs runs deep. She tells us about a problem dog. “I was training a dog, and if the dog was in a holding position, and a cat ran by, it wouldn’t move. But, if the dog had taken one step, he’d chase the cat and kill it. Dante was another extreme case. Dante was an older dog, and very strong. He could drag you around something fierce. We finally got him adopted after four years,” she says with obvious affection. “Unless they’re trained, you have a creature running your life. Today, if they’re too much trouble, people throw dogs away. My job is to help dogs survive in a human world, or they’ll be killed,” Deb says.
A week later I visit Debbi. I ring the doorbell, and hear “bark, bark, bark.” Moments later I go inside. Debbi is glowing proudly, and a Zen-like Ebony reclines on her pillow. Another Debbie Dibble success story.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.