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Carmen's Tale

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An agility fable for today...

Once upon a time in a tiny hamlet on the shores of the Great Left Ocean, just north of the wondrous City of Angels, there lived a very selfish man called Harry who owned a very intelligent dog whose name was Carmen. Harry wanted his dog to be THE best, so he taught Carmen to do Obedience - to shake hands, sit, lie down and fetch. Carmen was good - very good. But that wasn't enough for the greedy man. Now if you are sitting quietly girls and boys, Uncle Rich will begin the story...

Harry tried to train his dog Carmen to do many things like to sit straight, walk at heel and come when called. Carmen did her best to try to please Harry. Every so often Harry was unclear with his commands, and though Carmen would do what she thought Harry wanted, it wasn't always right. Then Harry would get mad - very mad. Carmen didn’t understand, but she loved Harry so much it was okay.

One day Harry saw agility on TV and thought that he could do that! He looked at Carmen and thought, 'Easy peasy. I can teach her that!

Harry spent the next two years going to agility class, seminars and even agility camp. They went to trial after trial after trial. Harry had worked and worked but one day he realised that Carmen wasn’t THE best. Actually, boys and girls, Carmen was good; it was Harry who was the mediocre handler.

Your wish is my command
Harry believed that if only he could only 'talk' to Carmen as though she were a person that she would understand everything. Now we all know that dogs only hear dog - not human - but Harry was a dreamer. Over and over he thought 'If only...' I could talk to Carmen. She would be brilliant.'

One day on the way to the village market, Harry saw a ceramic fireplace dog statue that was in the window of a charity shop. It was very pretty, so he stopped and bought it. As he was coming through his front door, Carmen jumped up to greet him, and Harry dropped his package. Crunch! Much to his dismay the ceramic dog had broken into a thousand pieces. 

Harry was furious! Just as he was about to raise his hand to Carmen, he heard a beautiful voice say, 'Hello Harry. I am the Agility Fairy Dog Mother. Thank you for releasing me! I have lived in that ceramic statue for over a hundred years.'

Harry nearly fell over, but Carmen was beaming, 'My Agility Fairy Dog Mother?'

The Agility Fairy Dog Mother floated around his hut and told Harry, 'Because of what you have done by releasing me, I will grant you one wish. But it has to be dog related.'

Harry thought and thought and thought. Finally realised that this was his chance to have a really smart dog. It was what he had always wished for - to be able to talk to Carmen. So Harry said, 'Agility Fairy Dog Mother, I want to be able to talk to Carmen.'

 And the Agility Fairy Dog Mother responded, 'Oh my! That is a very hard request. I can do it, however, you only have eight hours.'

No sooner said than done
So the Agility Fairy Dog Mother and Harry put their heads together and worked out the time and date when Carmen would be able to listen and understand exactly what Harry was saying.

Harry was so excited. He planned for weeks; he had all the agility equipment cleaned and polished. He got course plans out to study with Carmen, and he even also planned on working on obedience and flyball.

He thought, 'Eight hours. I can teach this dog everything in eight hours. Then I can show everyone how good I am at the next trial.'

The big day arrived, and when he awoke, Carmen was staring at him as she did every morning, waiting to play. Harry tested her, 'Go around in a circle,'” he said, and sure enough, she did. “Get the newspaper. Now open it, turn to the classified pet section on page A4”. Again she did it - all of it. Carmen could understand every word he said. It was like talking to a person.

So out back they went to agility club. As they walked the agility course, Harry carefully explained to Carmen what she should do - where to run really fast, and when she needed to go slow. When Harry realised that she could map read, he even drew a course plan with Carmen complete with handler and dog path on it.

It was wonderful! Harry would be great! He didn’t want to waste any time so they worked non-stop, straight through lunch and dinner. At the end of the day, Harry was happy, and felt that now his whole world would change. He would be known far and wide as the BEST dog trainer in the world.

When Harry woke up the next morning, he was excited. This would be the first day with his really good dog - the dog that he felt he deserved. 

Lo and behold
But Carmen wasn’t by his bed as usual. Where was she? Harry jumped up, feeling irritated, and looked all through his hut. 'Carmen. Carmen!' he called, but there was no answer. After all the work he had done for her where could that ungrateful dog be? Harry called out to the Agility Fairy Dog Mother. 

As luck would have it, she was still in the neighbourhood and soon she was floating around in his house.

Harry asked, 'Agility Fairy Dog Mother, where is my dog? Where is my Carmen? I spent all day yesterday talking to her, training her and telling her all the ways she could be a better dog.' 

The Agility Fairy Dog Mother said, 'Harry, did you tell Carmen that you would always take care of her and give her a warm place to sleep? Did you tell Carmen that if you ever acted mad, it wasn’t because of her? After eight hours of talking, did you tell her you loved her and would never let anyone hurt her?'

Harry didn't answer.

And so it was that Carmen had always tried to be a good dog, but now that she knew Harry didn’t love her. Off she went off to look for a handler who would love her for herself.

A fairy tale ending
Not far down the road, Carmen came upon a jolly fellow named Richard. They became fast friends, and they decided they would stay together. After a few months, she showed Richard the game of agility. Although Richard turned out to be just another mediocre handler, he loved Carmen more than anything else on earth, and they lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story is:
Love your dog for what they are, not what you want them to be - and they will do the same.

About the author
Rich Deppe and Carmen live in California (USA).

Illustrations: Kim Blundell