Weaving our way among the sage and bunchgrass pigeon in hand, it hit me: dog training is like building a castle out of Popsicle sticks.
To be structurally sound, the sticks must lie flat. As they’re only about a millimeter thick, it takes a while to see a wall rise. Likewise our progress in the field. Tiny increments, often barely noticeable. An elegant find and front leg tucked might be worth two Popsicle sticks’ of height, but most times it’s less noteworthy. And just as you must raise tiny, utilitarian wooden walls before adding gaudy towers and flying buttresses, you’ve got to lay a firm foundation for the magazine-cover poses.
Add too much glue, a drop here, drop there piling up in millimeters and soon one corner is higher than the others. Use too much correction (or praise) and your training might tilt to one side. Put the balustrade up without a well-engineered wall, and it will assuredly come tumbling down. Skip a step in training, and a dog will disappoint you some time, somehow.
Day by day, Popsicle stick by Popsicle stick, the castle takes shape, or the dog (and human) grow. If we have to buy another pack of frozen desserts and it takes a few more days to finish, I prefer orange.