That time I taught that dog a trick

Image by FiveRings [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Many, many years ago, I used to work with Jack*.  Jack is a musician and at the time was in band with two other guys.  Jack was renting this little cottage and that was where the band would rehearse.

One fine summer evening, the singer (Bill) came over with his dog. It was one of the little dogs with a vague, call it haphazard, genetic history.  The dog’s name was Zero (a cool name for a dog or a singer).  Bill’s landlord had just discovered that Bill had a dog and Bill’s lease prohibited pets.  Bill asked/pleaded/demanded if Jack could watch Zero for a few days.  Jack was the new guy in the band and felt a bit pressured to allow the dog to stay.

A few days turned into a couple of weeks.  Jack is not really a pet person.  He had nothing against Zero.  Zero was a perfectly fine dog.  It was just a responsibility that Jack didn’t want.  At that point in life, I really didn’t know anything about dogs.  Whenever I came over (I spent a lot of time there), I would play with the dog and we became friends.

So I decided to see if I could teach my new friend a trick.  Jack’s cottage had a little bit of land, enough for the dog to run around in.  There wasn’t a lot of space, but there wasn’t a lot of Zero either.  The cottage didn’t have many rooms, but it had a small living room.  There was a couch with a window right above the couch.  It was a pleasant summer and the windows were usually open.  The living room window didn’t have a screen in it. This would come in handy.

Over the span of a couple of days and a fair amount of dog treats, I trained Zero to jump out of the window on command.  If I said “Zero, Out!”, the plucky little dog would run into the living room, bound up on the couch and jump out the window,  That was the easy one.  It took much longer to train the dog to jump back in through the window.  But somehow, he did it.  If I yelled “Zero, In!”, he would take a running leap to the window.  He would get his front paws up on the window sill and pull himself in, back legs scrabbling against the siding.  Good times.

After a few days of training the dog to jump out a window, Bill came over.  I was outside with the dog and I stepped inside to see Bill.  Bill despised me and me being there always annoyed him.  After ignoring my greetings, he looked around for his dog.  He asked Jack where his dog was.  I spoke up: “You want Zero, he’s outside.  I’ll get him for you….  ZERO, IN!”.

On command, Zero came in through the window.  Bill was speechless to a moment and then managed to sputter out “What?”.  I said, “You don’t him in?  ZERO, OUT!”.  The intrepid canine went sailing back out the window.   Bill’s face turned red and I yelled “ZERO, IN!” and the dog came back in.

To make a long story, Bill took the dog home that night.

Looking back on this, I get that it was a really stupid thing to do to a dog.  And I don’t advise anyone else to teach an animal to jump out a window.  Zero was small and light, a larger dog could have been seriously injured.  Plus, it’s all fun and games when you are on the first floor….

* The names have been changed to protect the sheepish.  Except for Zero, he had a cool name.