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Really the issue here is the training. The Mom, bless her cotton socks, is not much of one for training any creature. She is more prone to the benign neglect or managed chaos type of training. As in, they’ll figure it out eventually. As in, as long as nobody gets hurt. As in, don’t call me for bail money.


I suppose her theory is along the lines of live and let live. Give the dog or kids or whatever it is you’re trying to train up, enough rope with which to hang itself, and hope for the best.


I don’t think people do this sort of thing anymore. Looking over the various pets we have all had throughout the years, I’d say I come closest to her school of training. With the parakeet, Newton, I let him do what he was going to do. If he took an interest in something, say, curry, or reading/shredding the newspaper or book I was reading, I encouraged him. I tried to keep him away from harmful things, but he needed to learn. He got into a fair number of scrapes, but by and large he turned into the parakeet he wanted to be. And, he was pretty popular. Always a welcome guest, he was.


Crazy D is trying to break the mould with Mr Pants. He took him to puppy class and didn’t cheat, which is unusual with our lot. The Mom, rather proudly, came home with Poochie’s certificate of completion and immediately announced they’d cheated to get said certificate. I don’t know who was prouder. But Crazy D is keen to make sure his puppy is well-behaved. Which is always tricky when he comes to visit and I’m home because I’m not so keen on rules. But I must follow them, I tell you. Sometimes I look at Mr Pants when we’re on a walk and he’s gobbling up a stick and tell him, Look here Mr Pants, Daddy thinks you need to not eat that. Me, I’m indifferent. That poo is going to hurt when it comes out and I reckon that’ll teach you a lot quicker than me taking it away from you, but I’m not in charge here. So hand it over now, buddy and we’ll be done with this. He usually just cocks his head to one side and I imagine he hears the Peanuts music in his head.


The Pig, L’il Sis’ beagle, is untrainable. At least, it’s difficult to train her to do anything you want her to do. She’s the self-training model of beagle. Trained herself to do things she wants to do, that she finds interesting. Couldn’t give two bits about what anyone else thinks. A strong individual.


Which is, I suppose, the thing. This sort of laissez-faire training that The Mom has taught us all leads to many things, but most of all a strong individual, unafraid of what people may think or say. There are many examples of this throughout our family’s rather colourful past, and I’ll mention only a few here in passing: the day we all wore Hawaiian costumes to high school after having a Hawaiian party the night before. Not a kegger or anything, just a mid-winter bit of hope at dinner. We liked the costumes so much, we kept them on. The random lunches we used to eat, that contained food not many self-respecting kids would eat, or even recognise. But we always set our lunches out with maybe not pride, but for the most part something approaching interest, curiosity and anticipation. We weren’t really joiners, we stood up for our friends, read what we liked, watched what we liked, and didn’t pay too much attention to the braying hoards.


And that’s the reason The Mom would’ve never even passed the first inspection if she’d gone so far as to sign up for some kind of surrogate puppy-rearing role. If she’d have kept it quiet, and none of us had known, even then, the minute the inspector came by for a home visit, that would’ve been the end of it.


Because there’s no reasonable way to explain, as a puppy trainer, that you’ve had a long chat to the dog about proper toilet habits, but since it was terribly cold and windy, that it was okay to pee in the kitchen.