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Friday, January 11, 2008

An Unforgettable Student: "Sybil" and her friends


"Sybil" (not her real name) came in for a private lesson one Saturday afternoon wth Buffy, her small terrier mix. A friend had driven her to Manning Dog Training, dropped her off, and arranged to come back in 90 minutes to pick her up.

Sybil wanted to get Buffy a little more under control. He jumped up on people, jumped up on the bed without an invitation, occasionally got too barky, and had a few "accidents" in the house. Nothing terribly unusual, I thought. At least, not about the dog.

"He's pretty good with me," Sybil explained. "But when Becky is there he gets upset and hides under the bed. When JoAnne shows up, he barks a lot and doesn't listen to her. And when Julie comes, he gets really mad and she can't control him at all."

"Sounds like you have a lot of company," I offered, "and sometimes that can be difficult on a sensitive dog."

"Oh, no, they're not company. They all live there," Sybil said.

"Well, how many people do you have in the household?" I asked, confused.
"About ten. But there's only one person there at a time. I have Multiple Personality Disorder."

My eyebrows boinked, but I tried to act nonchalant. "Oh...I see."

I was used to dealing with entire households of people with their dog problems, but not with an entire household inside one mind! I was out of my league with this one. Since dogs are always seeking consistency in their leaders, this was a totally abnormal situation from all angles. In nature, this individual never would have been a pack leader. It was one thing to explain "Multiple Personality Disorder" to another person...but you sure couldn't explain it to a dog!

I sent her home with the standard prescription: a drag leash on Buffy, "everyone" working on consistency, and making sure someone gets this dog plenty of daily exercise. Sybil was mildly disabled, but said she had a friend who'd volunteered to walk the dog for her. Diplomatically, I had to ask if this friend was...well, you know....a "real" person. She assured me that it was....(but I'm still not convinced!)

I never heard from Sybil, Julie, Becky, JoAnne or any of the others again. I'm guessing things somehow resolved themselves, and the dog is either living elsewhere or simply ignoring all those other folks and doing the best he can with Sybil.
Funny thing about those private lessons....you just never know who's going to walk in the door!

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