Humphrey giving the camera an enthusiastic "High Five."

I could teach Humphrey to “high-five” and deliver notes to specific people, but I couldn’t get him to walk on a leash without risking a dislocated shoulder. He had the natural exuberance of any 125-pound happy dog, and his spirit moved him without reservation.  It didn’t matter if I was attached to the leash or not.

Come on! Catch me! I dare you to put a leash on me and try to hold me back! You can't because I'm KING OF THE HILL!

One of us needed obedience training.

The class had about twenty unruly dogs of all breeds, ages, and levels of obedience potential.  The same could be said of the schmucks neophytes well-intended owners. The teacher told us that the last class would be a mock obedience trial, complete with an independent judge. We were expected to invite family and friends to this show. I was worried because I knew that Humphrey needed more than a 10-week class to master basic obedience, which required his focus while other dogs and people were in the vicinity. He needed sedatives blinders and earplugs, even though his hair looked as if it served both purposes.

On the evening of the Obedience Trial, only five of the original 20 had the stupidity courage confidence to show up.  My boyfriend, mother and younger sister came to see a beautifully groomed Humphrey enter the competition ring along with a pristine Irish Setter, a handsome Rottweiler, and two paltry measly other small dogs.

Judge lined us up to assess her field. Our first challenge was to heel on the leash around the ring.  One small dog trembled uncontrollably and wouldn’t move forward.  The only motion he made was peeing on his owner’s leg. And then there were four.

Bladder control is very important in dog obedience trials, for owners and dogs. Peeing in the show ring will get you booted out every time.

Humphrey and I heeled like champs.  Next was the off-leash heel around the ring.  The other small dog, when released from the leash, dashed out of the ring and out of the building. And then there were three.

Given the way Muffin bolted from the show ring, I'm guessing she's still out there running at a pretty good clip. Maybe not. The obedience trial was in 1976.

During the off-leash heel, the owner is not supposed to look at the dog and simply take it on faith that you will both end up at the end of the runway together—dog sitting, watching owner attentively. Irish Setter and Rottweiler executed the performance perfectly. Humphrey and I started off together, but when I stopped at the end of the runway and looked down, there was no perfectly groomed Old English Sheepdog looking up at me.  I looked behind me and saw him about halfway back, seated and scratching himself.  After he finished, he got up, casually plodded over to me and sat down next to me. Lady Judge took serious notes.

The last part of the obedience trial was a five-minute off-leash sit and a ten-minute off-leash down.  Given that Humphrey’s attention span was the duration of a sneeze, I knew this would be tough .  The three dogs were lined up next to each other. Each owner gave the “sit and stay” command once, then stepped back about ten feet and watched.  Humphrey was in the middle of the other two dogs.  Those other dogs had their eyes trained on their owners; it was eerie.  Then there was Humphrey who kept shifting his weight and looking around, scoping out the arena.  He looked at one dog, then turned his head and looked at the other one.  He looked my way every once in a while to see if I was still there.  He may have lifted his paw and start checking out his nails. Somehow he managed to stay seated for five minutes.

That's the look he gave me, right before he started scanning the crowd...

After a short bit of praise and chance of move around, the dogs had to lie down for ten minutes. Again, Irish Setter and Rottweiler responded like they were professionally trained dogs for Hollywood movies.  Humphrey made it to about Minute 6 with the same enthusiasm and focus he had demonstrated for the five-minute sit. He shifted around, looked back and forth one last time and sat up. I held my breath wondering what he was going to do next.  He just sat there. Irish Setter noticed that Humphrey sat up and decided that sitting looked like a good idea regardless of his owner’s tractor-beam eye-to-mind control. Rottweiler never budged. That dog wasn’t human for real. Master..may..I..blink?

There was no surprise in the outcome of the judging: Rottweiler got top honors, Easily-Swayed Irish Setter got second place and Nonchalant Humphrey captured the coveted third place honor.

Hang in for one more story about how my goofy, beloved dog leaves me.