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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

The First Three Letters (Written 1/29/22)

It's taken more than two years, but Banner and I have finally earned our first ever title together.

The delay was my fault, not his.

Banner arrived in the exact middle of the worst year of my life. It was 2019, and it was a period of darkness, trauma, and tragedy like I had never before experienced. Many of those difficulties revolved around dogs.

A neighbor's roaming pair of pitbulls dug into my donkey's corral and chewed up her face. Another neighbor's German shepherds killed my female Pyrenees, Snowstorm. Two vicious fights flared up, completely out of the blue, between a couple of my own dogs who had lived together for years.

That is a situation which never, and I mean NEVER, happens in my well-ordered household, and it shook me badly. Gem went lame and was retired from everything. My papillon, Pixel, developed doggy dementia, forgot who I was, and began snapping at me. And, just to top it all off, my dog training van totally conked and was never resurrected.

Banner was the fix-it puppy. He was the new baby who came rollicking in, ostensibly to force me out of my despair and general jadedness toward my older dogs. My rationale was that with a new puppy, I would have to interact with dogs whether I wanted to or not. And I did not want to. He would need training, socialization, and about fourteen tons of exercise every day. (He was, after all, a baby whippet.)

Instead, Banner's puppy neediness, combined with his almost total lack of interest in me, had the opposite effect. Our bond has never been tight.

Then along came 2020 and COVID. Dog shows shut down. Practice shows were disbanded. Training sessions were at a bare minimum.

Without any goals or hopes or prospects, I found myself simply plodding, going through the motions and doing nothing extra with my dogs.

And now, here we are, just stepping over the threshold of 2022. And as I've said before, I've had enough. I'm going to make this our year, my dogs and me, without any more excuses or despair or laziness. We're going to find things to do that will work for us. Even if my old favorite, competition obedience, isn't yet possible, there are lots of other activities to jump into with all four feet.

So today, I put the training collar on Banner, and got out our treats, and dragged in the huge wooden packing box we use as a prop for our routine. My mom grabbed her phone to video the proceedings, and Banner performed the requisite ten tricks to earn him the TKN, or Tricks Novice, title.

He wasn't perfect. He may not have even been impressive. But it didn't matter. It was a title. It was an accomplishment. It was an achievement we had reached together. It was thumbing our nose at despair and depression. It was forging ahead and moving forward. And it felt good.

Someday I plan to write a book about Banner and Scotch, and how they helped me wallow through those dark years and learn some life lessons.

But I haven't learned them all yet. There are more chapters to live before I can write them down. For now, the first three letters, the first word, of that book have been written. Banner and I have spelled it out. Let the story begin.


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