Baby In Training | TSLN.com

Baby In Training

If you want to prepare your kids for being good parents get them a dog… or five.

The best dog trainer I know is a young lady we affectionately call Shanny. She and her sister Erin are the closest thing my wife and I will ever have to kids and we could not be prouder of them if they were our own. We were at the hospital the day both were born and we've spent almost all our holidays with them ever since. In fact, they had to wait until we were present before they could open their presents on Christmas. And yet they still speak to us.

From the day she was old enough to hold one, every time you looked at Shanny she was holding a dog or cat, which may help explain her special talent. This past Christmas I was sitting with Shanny talking about cows, she was holding Austin (a Little Big Dog Chihuahua), and one of her Border Collie pups was by her side. I swear that pup never took her eyes off Shanny the entire day, as if it was willing to do anything in the world for her. I believe Shanny could have taught that dog to tap dance.

When Shanny went looking for a husband she looked for the same traits she looks for in her dogs; she wanted one who was intelligent, attentive, hard working, good looking and devoted. She and Dustin make a great pair and in just a few short years they've bought a small ranch and are making a big mark on the stock dog industry. It seems like they go to a dog trial somewhere every weekend and they've have sold their dogs from California to New England. The best news is that two years ago Shanny gave birth to Everett, the best baby in the world. Not that I'm biased or anything.

Never having had any children, our home is not what you'd call "child proof." There are land mines everywhere but when Everett comes for a visit he's a perfect gentleman. You never saw a more well behaved two year old in your life. Terrible twos? Not on your life. He never touches a thing, cries or makes us wish he'd leave, which is more than I can say for most visiting grownups.

One day Shanny and Dustin came to our place to look at an old Visalia saddle I have since given Everett for Christmas. It's a collector's item and in great shape but there's only one problem: on the back of the cantle is the name of the child who was the original owner. I was worried that Everett might have an identity crisis so I asked Shanny if they wanted me to put a patch over the name, thereby decreasing the value of the saddle. "It's either that," I said, "or you're going to have to name your next kid Tony."

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"That's not gonna happen," said Shanny. Of course, I want them to name one of their kids after me and I offered to give them my entire motel stationery collection, including what I believe is the largest aggregation of Travelodge, Super Eight and Motel Six stationery in the world. But for some reason they don't want to saddle one of their boys with a girl's name like Lee.

Hopefully, by the time you read this Shanny and Dustin will be proud parents of another boy named Caleb. A decent moniker, I suppose, and I admit it does sound more cowboy-ish than Lee.

Shanny is always sending me cute videos of Everett and our refrigerator door is plastered with photos of he and I either engaged in stimulating conversation, or taking a nap. In the latest batch of photos Everett was sharing his bowl of mush with three plastic cows who were gathered around his cereal bowl as if it was a watering trough. There was also a photo of Everett surrounded by three dogs and a cat watching TV. A documentary, no doubt. Or a rodeo. In every video Everett is immediately obeying his mother's commands. "Sit," "Get," "Roll over," "Here boy" and "Can you say Charolais?" (Tragically, Everett can say "Charolais" but not "Lee.")

Having great dog trainers as parents is wonderful but I do have one concern: I just hope Everett and Caleb don't end up being sheepherders.

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