Approximately two months ago, we decided that it was about time for a little character change in Bart, in order to hopefully redirect an attitude that could be best described as manipulative and exasperating. I've finally come to the point, where I truly believe that Bart sometimes intentionally misbehaves, simply to test my authority, which often leads me to the question of just "who's mastering who?"

For example, it wasn't too long ago during a late afternoon, that I saw a beautiful parakeet perched above an area that's been set aside for feeding and watering visiting quail. With Bart dutifully sitting nearby, I commented to him "Hey Bart, look at the beautiful parakeet, it must have escaped from someone's home!" After contently watching the bird fly about, for some time, I left Bart and the bird and went inside. The next morning, I opened the door to the front porch, to find Bart lying on his carpet, next to a compacted mass of brightly colored feathers that once cloaked a happy-go-lucky, breathing, freedom loving parakeet! Now, I know most of you are asking, "How did a dog catch a parakeet?" Well, we'll never know "HOW" he did it, but more importantly, the question that really needs to be answered is "WHY DID HE DO IT?" Trust me when I tell you that this was NOT an isolated incident. For some reason, Bart continues to find a great deal of pleasure in doing a lot of strange and perverse things such as, tearing up dripper irrigation systems, ripping apart fifty pound bags of mulch and displacing my stack of firewood, from the front porch, down the middle of the pathway that leads to our parked cars. With Bart, it seems to be just one frustrating scenario after another, so my wife and I though well, why not try some dog training classes? If just might make a difference in Bart's attitude. And so it came to pass, that Bart and I went off to a place of higher learning, "obedience school!"

Classes were held at Lime Street Park and were given by our instructor, Mr. Keith Williams. Initially, none of the participants knew what to expect, so most of what took place during the first session, and was within an atmosphere of dogs and owners simply getting to know each other. From the beginning, all of this was very new to Bart, because he's never been around other dogs, except for our own and he was also in total awe of the park setting, which consisted of all kinds of strange smells and expansive areas of dark green grass, something that we're completely void of at home. Within the class, the dogs were of mixed breeds and various sizes and shapes, with Bart being the largest in the group. The names of the other dogs were all unique and all of their owners were patient, friendly and pleasurable to work with. Their name were: Coby with "Rocko," Jaelen with "Shaca," Linda with "Zulu," Cherly with "Little Bit," Patti with "Turk," Jennifer with "Sadie" and Lizza with "Jessie." Like I said earlier, a regular "Heinz 57" variety pack of dogs. Our instructor was an excellent teacher, who was extremely knowledgeable about dogs and really took a lot of pride in teaching all of us how to train our animals. Within his demonstrations, he often used a coupe of his own animals to clearly show us what the results of our training efforts should resemble. During the short time that Bart's been with us, however, I've become acutely aware of just how Bart responds to people who come to visit us, so I could sense that in the beginning, he really didn't appear to be overjoyed with Keith's presence, or his training techniques. To me, it appeared to be just one more example of Bart's questionable attitude.

Over the two month period that was spent during the one and a half our and once a week session, Bart did okay when it come to "sitting," "healing," "lying down," and "coming" when called. The trip to and from class, however, was a different story. After a couple of sessions, he began to look forward to the trip to the park, to see his new found friends and so all I had to say with "Hey Bart, let's go to school!" Upon getting this invitation to go and play, Bart would run to the front of my 1986 Nissan station wagon, throw his front paws up upon the hood of the car and be ready to romp. Once inside, Bart became a bundle of nerves and loved to jump all about, especially when we reach the main road. From with our car, he would chase cars that would pass us by, coming form the opposite direction, by suddenly leaping over the back seat and rubbing his large wet nose across the entire length of the windows next to him. This trail of "nose tracks," seemed to represent either of his own personal trademark, or "Bart" signature.

One night, during an unusual cold snap, while on our way home from a session, Bart decided to make up to me for being disobedient in class, by licking the side of my face and trying to sit on my lap. As I tried to push him away, he became more determined than ever, to sit on top of me and in the process, turned on the windshield wipers, along with the sprayer. (He did this twice!) In my struggle to push him away and still maintain control of the car, I yelled at him to "get away!" Then I looked up and suddenly realized that I could no longer see out of the windshield, because between his hot breath and all of the frantic commotion, the front window had completely fogged up and my glasses had become all "licked over" and were dangling from my face. For me, the "last straw" finally came, when during this melee, he pushed the transmission out of gear, into the neutral position. By now, while in the midst of utter chaos, I couldn't see out of any of the windows and couldn't push Bart away far enough, to get the transmission back into the "drive" position. Consequently, as a result of all the pushing, screaming and licking, I was forced to literally come to a screeching halt in the middle of the roadway, where luckily, there were no cars to deal with due to it being so late in the evening. Eventually, I was able to cautiously make my way to the side of the road, where I could calm things down, wipe my face and glasses off and regain my composure. Bart, in turn, seemed quite satisfied to move into the back seat to fog up the rear windows and drool.

Bart's final exam was held at the end of about the eighth session. Prior to the last class, we spent a lot of time together practicing all of the moves that he was to be judged on by our instructor and towards the end, I felt very confident, that Bart would pass with flying colors. Volunteering to be tested, behind Linda with "Zulu," Bart and I both watched, as this team moved effortlessly through all of the moves, completing the course. Now, it was our turn, but as I began to lead him into the roped off, testing area I quickly learned that he had NO INTENTION, OF DOING ANYTHING RIGHT! He wouldn't "heal," "sit," "stand," "lie down" or "stay." NONE OF IT! He simply decided that he'd just disregard all of his previous training and walked about, sniffing the ground aimlessly! Through clenched teeth and tensed muscles, I scolded him, yanked on his leash, threatened him and even mustered up the meanest look that I could come up with. But, none of what I said or did, affected him in the least and by not performing adequately, before the instructor and the rest of the members of the class, I felt like a completed "dolt," because Bart made it look like I hadn't taught him anything. Bart deserved a grade less than an "F," probably an "F" minus!

The ride home was a quiet one and I believe that the instructor sincerely felt so sorry for me, that out of sympathetically, he'd issued Bart his certificate of completion. So, while I fumed behind the steering wheel and reflectively looked back upon our failed attempt, to improve Bart's demeanor, he rested his cold, wet nose behind my left ear, watching and waiting for the next car to pass by. All in all, the whole episode turned out to be quite an experience, but at least he learned one thing through all of this effort and that's how to sign his name across the inside of my car windows, while chasing cars. "Oh, what the heck, Go get'm Boy!"