Rick's List - Advanced Dog Education edition

Dating back to youth, when I attended John W. Carpenter Elementary School in south Dallas and walked the halls in scholarly contemplation like a young John Stuart Mill, feasting on the bountiful and nutritious buffet called Education, the idea of "Christmas" break was almost too wonderful to quantify.

On one level, despite a ravenous intellectual appetite, my fevered brain needed a break, much like a precisely trained and peaking thoroughbred tapering for a week or so before the Kentucky Derby. On a simpler emotional plane, there was a joyful appreciation and anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus.

Yes, those final, school-free days of December were sublime!

This is similar to the situation we find ourselves in with our dog, Virgil. He of course looks forward to the opportunity to eat a cookie with Santa. At the same time, the fine hound just graduated from "Leave It," a SEAL-level canine-training course wherein the four-pawed pupils undertake a rigorous curriculum to master the leash-off art of not pouncing on a hunk of chicken left on a floor. "Leave it!" we cry — and the hound obeyeth with discretion and grace.

Virgil is now officially on winter break before school starts again, and my wife Eileen and I are poring over academic catalogs trying to determine which classes he'll sign up for in January. Frankly, the pup might be regarded by some pet owners as "over-educated." "Leave It," after all, is the fifth degree he's obtained in his short and precocious time as a member of the Koster family. We also have framed diplomas on the stairway hall commemorating earlier successful matriculations in "Obedience I," "Obedience II," "Beyond Basics," "Out and About," and "Canine Good Citizen Prep."

By now, most of the choices for his continued education are post-graduate level, most of them either seminars or independent study projects. Here's what we're looking at:

1. Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics (MIT) — We've noticed Virgil seems fascinated by the birds stupid enough to swoop near him. This course could ease him into an understanding of avian capabilites through analysis of asymptotic expansions, Farfield behavior, finite wing theory and Trefftz-plane analysis.

2. Emerging Tick-Borne Diseases with Special Emphasis on Anaplasmosis (Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine) — Virgil seems to have inherited my tendency to hypochondriac paranoia; a complete comprehension of dog-likely illness might sooth anxiety.

3. Advanced Dropped Treats (Our Living Room) — The harvest and consumption of found caloric items associated with Taco Bell or Bobby Flay's Bar Americain home-delivery menu.

4. Canines and Strategic WW II Military Applications (U.S. Naval War College) — History and analysis of Hitler's German Shepherd Blondi and Churchill's Bulldog Dodo with scrutiny on how each dog influenced their masters' manuevers in the Battle of Britain.

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