The 50 Foot Fetch

Hondo came to our department in the summer of 2005,  a few months before we were to start official training.  In the time between his arrival and the start of the training class, Hondo and I got to know one another.

At the time, I was assigned to Patrol and Hondo spent several shifts inside his crate which had been stuffed into the back seat of my squad car.  When it was slow or time for a break, I took him out to practice our sits/stays/recalls.

One thing we really had to work on at the start was the recall, or the “Hey! Get back here!”  and it didn’t help that all of Hondo’s commands were in Czech.  Apparently, my pronunciation of the Czech language was horrible because Hondo would totally ignore me as he went in the opposite direction to sniff trees, chase squirrels etc.

To remedy this, I attached a 50 ft leash to Hondo’s collar.  When he retrieved a thrown toy, I would hold the end of the leash and gently pull him back towards me giving him the English command. When he got back to my side I was full of praise, and he quickly figured out that when I called, “Here!” it meant he was to return to me. 

One night I scouted out a good place to work on our recall and selected the grass field in front of an elementary school.  You know the buildings – the ones that are three story brick structures with metal fire escapes up the sides, old growth evergreens sprinkled about the yard, lots of light?  It was the perfect backdrop for our training, which went something like this:

  • hook 50 ft leash to Hondo’s collar
  • have Hondo remain in a sit at my side, with his attention drawn to the toy I was preparing to throw
  • throw the toy
  • give Hondo the command to fetch the toy
  • watch as Hondo breaks into a sprint
  • look down to see a loop of the 50ft leash wrapped around my left ankle
  • try to free my foot from the rapidly disappearing length of leash
  • realize I was not going to be quick enough and brace myself for impact
  • have my left leg snap up and forward
  • hop like mad on my right foot to try and stay upright
  • fail miserably at one-legged hopping
  • crash to the ground, flat on my back
  • get skidded across the grass for about 6 ft 
  • have my dog come back to me, drop the toy on my head and sniff my face as if to ask what the heck I was doing lying down on the job

I started laughing, feeling like a complete idiot, but my guffaw must have sounded a bit winded as a tentative voice floated out over the night air from the direction of the fire escape, “Are you okay?”

Well, you would have though someone had stuck me with a hot poker.  I sucked in a gasp, stopped laughing and looked around.

“We’re up here,” a second voice called from the direction of the fire escape.

Up near the top of the metal stairs were two teenagers, sitting side by side and watching the three-ring circus act unfolding before them.  They waved when I spotted them.  Oh dear.  I waved back and let out another laugh as I picked myself up and untangled the leash from my leg.

“I’m fine, nothing hurt but my pride,” I called back, “It’s okay to laugh, you know, that must have looked pretty funny.”

“Yes, it did,” one of them said.  “Can you do that again?”

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