My name is Clayton Dean, and I have a problem: a big, horrible, black haired, face-licking problem. I have a dog. Truth be told he’s really more of a cross between an upset wolverine and a flatulent, shoe-eating hippopotamus. His name is Trouble. No really. I’ll say that again: his name is Trouble. Over the coming months I’ll introduce you to him and his adventures in this column: the Trouble with Trouble.
As anyone who’s been burdened with the joys of dog companionship knows: You don’t want to be the owner of that dog. The one that noisily barks at invisible objects, steals toys from the smaller dogs or doesn’t play well with others in the sandbox. Some would say I’ve just described my dog, Trouble, to a T. Walking him through Clarendon, I routinely have strangers come up to me, slowly shaking their heads and saying things like, “I’m so sorry” or “You poor dear man.” You see Trouble is exactly that dog: obnoxiously friendly, jumping up and down trying to lick your face while baying so loudly as to make you feel like you were at an Ozzy Osbourne concert; he’s a handful. Of course my wife was suitably concerned to the point one day when she turned and asked, “Do you think Trouble needs a tutor?” Being a dad, I made a show of putting on my contemplative face all the while having no idea whatsoever about anything my wife was discussing. Tutors? For dogs? What I did know was that dog + tutor sounded expensive. Really expensive. It turns out there are puppy day cares that will take your scofflaw dog for the day and transform Fido into the world’s most awesome dog. Trouble could be socialized, run around and chew things that were actually meant to be chewed—preferably other dogs and other people’s shoes. I could finally take him out in public. Not wanting to disappoint the family I asked, “Wouldn’t it just be cheaper to get a smarter dog?” but was quickly overruled. Trouble was going to puppy day care.
Of course the first day was “Hairy Potter” day at dog preschool. All the dogs were going to be sorted into the various houses according to the sorting hat from those movies. My kids were over the moon; “I’m sure he’s going to be in either Gryffindor or Hufflepuff,” my youngest daughter, Cassie, 7, announced. “I hope he learns some good magic,” proclaimed my preteen, Piper. Secretly, I was just hoping he didn’t eat everyone else’s dog snacks or teach the other dogs how to illegally poop in the back alley.
One of the other features of Northern Virginia’s dog preschools is the ability to watch the action on the Internet. Well we gathered around to watch as several other dogs were sorted in Ravenclaw and the other houses. Finally, it was Trouble’s turn. With bated breath we watched as he sat in front of the camera and the felt hat was placed on his head. In an instant the selection was made. It was official. My sweet dog was officially (and appropriately) selected into … Slytherin. He was the only dog so selected that day. My kids were crushed. My wife was disappointed. I was out a ton of cash. But Trouble? He had found his calling. As the session ended we watched him slowly shake off and begin to chew apart the sorting hat. —Clayton Dean