Twenty years ago I took in my first boarder at my training school in Chicago after being officially open for only one day. ‘Max’ was a young German Shepherd, all teeth and tail and floppy paws. My place was gleaming with new paint and pristine crates. I had called friends and family to bring their
dogs over so we’d have some warm bodies to show new customers, but that night, the puppy was to be the first to stay over.
I fretted to my husband, “Should we take him home with us?”
“No”, he said, predictably. “Where do we draw the line? He’ll be fine here”.
We had fire and burglar alarms, soft music, night lights, and regular patrols from friendly cops. I made sure the pup was fully exercised and fed, and locked the door at 9:00PM. I tossed and turned that night and woke early, loading my Rottweiler, Maura, into the car and making the 4-block drive to my training school. I opened the door with the key and deactivated alarms, expecting to see ‘Max’ up and prancing in his crate. Massive amounts of adrenalin (the bad kind, not the “gee isn’t this roller coaster a blast” kind) surged hard through me when I saw his recumbent little body in the crate. Laid over on his side, he looked as if the air had been sucked from him. In a word, he looked dead.
“Max!” I half-shrieked, half-sobbed at the unmoving puppy. My dog was instantly by my side. She barked once and Max slowly opened one red eye, stood up gradually like an old basset hound, and stretched lazily.
“Morning already?” he seemed to think. “Is there coffee?”
I hauled him out of his crate and gave him a greeting similar to what Lassie got after pulling Timmy out of yet another well.
The two dogs romped in our big play yard as I tried to regulate my heart rate. I got their food ready and took a couple of phone calls. ‘Max’ was my first paying client and I intended to train him well. I certainly had the time, but that was about to change. Within a month I was full almost every day, and loving the job despite the long hours. My furry charges depended on me and I intended to live up to their trust and their owner’s expectations. The dogs taught me how to have fun in the process.