Riley

Riley Bunker goes through puppy kindergarten. 

Here I go showing my age. Decades ago there was an Emmy award winning television program called “The Life of Riley,” primarily starring William Bendix. Those of us who remember the show, also remember watching in black and white on a TV screen the size of an iPad Mini surrounded by this large wooden cabinet filled with tubes.

 

It wasn’t lost on me that the name of the Yard Sale Queen and my new dog, Riley, would evoke fond memories of that 1950s TV show. The show was a comedy about a Chester Riley who creates chaos that his family must straighten out, which brings me to our new family member Riley.  

 

Riley is a 3.7 pound Yorkie full of mischief and chaos. Of course it is up to the Yard Sale Queen and I to exact some order.

 

Since we got her in March as a tiny 2-pound puppy, she has been precocious. She sprints around in the backyard like she is a greyhound, launches herself at bugs, quickly devouring them or grabs a fallen magnolia leaf, while triumphantly parading around the backyard with the Yard Sale Queen in hot pursuit. We know where that leaf is headed – Riley’s tummy. She loves eating bugs and leaves.

 

To say that Riley has personality is an understatement. Friends have commented about her expressive face. And it is. She can curl her mouth to look inquisitive or twist it to look assertive.

 

Yorkies, while loyal and loving, can be so hard headed. Housebreaking has been a challenge. It still is, but there has been some improvement.

 

Teaching Riley the basics -  like socializing with people and other dogs, or getting her to respond to commands like coming when called, instead of getting the defiant, “I hear you but I like it here and, I am not coming” look - posed a problem.

 

I turned to the Culpeper County Department of Parks and Recreation by signing up for “puppy kindergarten” – a seven-week course held every Tuesday at Lenn Park conducted by Betty Ann Howell and her assistants Leta and Michael Ann. It’s money well spent.

 

There were seven of us in the class – three were Yorkies – and three large dogs, plus a Boxer. Two dropped out for various reasons.

 

Being retired, I accepted the responsibility for taking Riley to class and attempting to train her. The Yard Sale Queen still works so that I can enjoy the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.

 

The hour long class is fun. The dogs get to socialize with other puppies and meet strangers.

Betty Ann follows a script and checks off boxes for those dogs that perform given exercises. Hurdling a low pole, walking through a tunnel, pacing beside small traffic cones and jumping through a hula hoop are just some of the exercises.

 

Obviously, getting the dogs to walk on a leash, come when called and sitting are major accomplishments.

 

Riley has proved quite unafraid of obstacles, people and other dogs. She walks on a leash fairly well and comes when called – most of the time. Sitting and laying down on command has eluded her. I tried getting her to watch the Boxer named Walter who sits immediately or lays down on command. He is only four months old. Riley is either not paying attention or is unimpressed.

 

I tried explaining to her that she won’t pass the course if she doesn’t sit or lay down. She gives me that almost teenager-look of “so?” I told you she has an expressive face.

 

We are working on it. The instructors are wonderful and very patient.

 

We wanted a tiny Yorkie, with a great personality, and a love bug. As an old Toyota commercial stated, “You asked for it You got it ...”

 

This is our life with and of Riley.

 

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